Desktop Support Outsourcing on the Rebound

September, 2017

Although the outsourcing of desktop support by IT organizations rose at the beginning of the economic recovery, it dropped significantly last year. This year, we’re seeing a slight rebound. However, given the strong economic experience of desktop support outsourcing, it is surprising that the rate of outsourcing still remains well below recent historical levels.

As shown in Figure 2 from our full study, Desktop Support Outsourcing Trends and Customer Experience, only 21% of organizations outsourced at least some of their desktop support work in 2017, which is slightly better than the 17% from 2016, but significantly down from its recovery-period rate of 38% in 2013.

DesktopOutsourcing fig 2 - Desktop Support Outsourcing on the Rebound

Our research shows there is a strong cost and service advantage to outsourcing the desktop support function. This wasn’t always the case. In the past, research showed that service levels were low. Part of the reason this number may have dropped is that companies with poor service experience brought the work back in-house, leaving only those with a satisfactory experience. Technology is further complicating the desktop support outsourcing decision. Virtual desktops and software as a service are making the desktop support function easier, as updates and upgrades can be done remotely, making it is easier to update desktops. However, this technology also makes it easier for desktop support providers to offer better services.

“Another issue to consider,” said David Wagner, vice president for research at Irvine, Calif.-based Computer Economics, “is that desktop support, along with help desk support, is where many new IT professionals ‘cut their teeth.’ By choosing to outsource this function it makes it harder for new staff to gain new skills and learn about the business processes that IT supports. Saving some money on desktop support may not be worth the loss of knowledge and the internal customer goodwill that comes from a well-run internal desktop support operation.”

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.

This Research Byte is based on our report on this subject, Desktop Support Outsourcing Trends and Customer Experience. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website (click for pricing).