It's a busy afternoon, and the installation of a software upgrade isn't going well for Grafton Associates, in Kansas City, Mo. Richard Carroll, CEO of the $10-million temporary-help agency, calls in his computer specialist, who reinstalls the software while the staff watches. A few minutes later, the program is working fine. It's a normal scene in corporate America--except that Grafton's computer specialist is 1,198 miles away, in New York City.

Carroll chose the outsourcing solution--he pays $75 an hour for a few hours' help each month--because he didn't need a full-time MIS manager. But the arrangement didn't start efficiently. When he had to telephone or e-mail the consultant describing the problems, Carroll explains, "He had to imagine what was going on."

Finally, Carroll invested in a dedicated modem line and modems for his two locations. Now the consultant dials Grafton's modem, logs into the company's Apple network, and watches while a Grafton employee reenacts the problem. If the problem isn't urgent, the consultant waits until the workday ends and modems in to fix it. When the staff arrives in the morning, the problem has been solved. Says Carroll, "We're free to do our core business--finding temporary employees, not fixing glitches."