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The question of whether to turn over the desktop support function to a service provider is a critical and surprisingly complicated one. Our research shows there is a moderate cost-and-service advantage to outsourcing desktop support, but other factors, including giving up control, can lead to problems. That may be one reason why today only 22% of IT organizations are outsourcing at least some of their desktop support function, making this one of the least popular functions to outsource in our annual IT Outsourcing Statistics study.
As shown in Figure 2 from our full study, Desktop Support Outsourcing Trends and Customer Experience, only 22% of organizations outsourced at least some of their desktop support work in 2018, which is a slight uptick from 21% in 2017, but significantly down from its recovery-period rate of 33% in 2015.
Our full report also shows that the customer experience with desktop support outsourcing service levels is improving. We now give desktop support outsourcing a moderate service-success rating, and the number of companies reporting a positive service experience is growing.
There are likely several reasons why the majority of organizations are keeping desktop support in-house, even though outsourcing service levels are improving. First, desktop support outsourcing is often an economic decision, and we usually see more outsourcing as a cost-cutting measure when the economy is poor. It also is possible that those who were having a negative experience simply abandoned desktop support outsourcing, leaving behind only those organizations with a successful experience.
Another factor in favor of keeping desktop support in-house is the fact that it, along with help desk support, is a major point of contact between the business and the IT organization. Handing over that function denies a significant point of contact where IT can gain the support of the business and better understand its needs and processes.
Despite these reasons to not outsource desktop support, the solid success-and-cost ratings make it worth looking into this practice. More organizations are trying to focus on “mission-critical” functions, and while PCs and laptops are major business tools, they are not generally perceived as a focus for innovation or competitive differentiation. Therefore, PC support should be high on the list for outsourcing opportunities.
“Given the decent service and cost success and the fact that desktop support is a commodity, outsourcing this function seems like a no-brainer,” said David Wagner, vice president for research at Irvine, Calif.-based Computer Economics, “IT leaders have bigger fish to fry. We expect outsourcing to continue to rise as long as the experience remains positive.”
Desktop support technicians today commonly support local networks, phone systems, and printers, as well as IP networks that carry both voice and data to the desktop, and in some cases mobile devices. The relationships that desktop support technicians form with users also can be instrumental in improving user satisfaction, and the presence of desktop support technicians in the field improves communications between users and the headquarters of the IT organization.
To help IT executives understand their options, the full study examines adoption trends in desktop support outsourcing. We measure desktop support outsourcing activity through outsourcing frequency, outsourcing amount (level), overall volatility, the net growth trend, outsourcing cost experience, and outsourcing service experience. We also compare desktop support outsourcing frequency and level by organization size. Finally, the report examines the sectors that are most likely to outsource the desktop support function.
We define desktop support services as those addressing hardware and software issues mostly related to desktops and laptops. The services encompass what service providers refer to by the acronym IMAC (install, move, add, change). They also include software maintenance and support for standard PC operating systems and applications. Desktop support services sometimes include support for file and print devices and LAN infrastructure in general, as well as enterprise-level functions such as asset management. Desktop support services may involve both hands-on and remote components.