Small financial institutions typically struggle with their IT infrastructure. It does not do what they want it to do, but they cannot justify hiring more people to improve the situation. Although they could not survive without it, it is not their core area of expertise. The answer: outsource it. I have been working with the executive team at a $150-million asset bank that has one computer that houses their host system and more than 20 servers running all of the ancillary service offerings. There are several strategic initiatives that are languishing because the small IT staff does nothing but keep the servers running. The staff is frustrated because they cannot do what needs to be done to implement such initiatives. They built their technology infrastructure over several years without any regard to the maintenance load that it entailed. The rest of the financial institution is focused on building product and value whereas IT is focused on keeping the lights on. The IT staff realizes it has a problem when one of the servers crashes and it takes a week to get back online. What's needed is a solid, stable, secure foundation on which to grow the financial institution to the next level, but the IT staff is too busy getting things back to "normal." It does not have the time or expertise to architect a new foundation. The bank should outsource pieces of the business process, like IT support, to experts. There are several service providers that have the experienced staff to solve problems quickly and provide that solid, stable, secure foundation. These firms can help protect your valuable information assets from theft and hackers, and can help you build and test a disaster recovery plan. A single IT person cannot do that, no matter how smart or hard working he or she is. The IT person will welcome the help and work on getting the right partner in place. He or she can turn over all of those daily crisis projects on somebody else and focus on getting the truly business-value enhancing projects done. Once you are convinced to consider outsourcing, there are some essential elements of an outsourcing process that you should look at.

Choosing a partner - and not just a vendor - is key to successful outsourcing. View potential partners with how well they mesh with the organization, and consider the following questions:

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