Outsourcing your IT? Look at process before people, tools and price

While outsourcing IT operations it is important to recognise that the people and tools you bring in to help are only as good as the processes they work with

Outsourcing IT processes

Why do processes matter so much? Because while good quality IT service management tools will ensure a provider broadly aligns with ITIL, these tools only manage a small percentage of the end-to-end process. They don’t guide the engineer through the manual steps or tasks performed in other systems

It’s widely acknowledged that the quality of an IT operations service is intrinsically linked to the people, processes and tools used.

However, when it comes to selecting an outsourced IT provider many organisations focus the vast majority of their efforts on evaluating providers’ people, tools and price; with processes a mere afterthought.

The evaluation of processes is often brief, and can be no more than confirming alignment with ITIL and the presence of various ISO certifications.

Yet the way in which a provider’s processes are documented, governed and most importantly followed by stakeholders fundamentally underpins the quality, and on-going consistency, of the service they provide.

The service delivery people at your chosen IT provider will change often, especially service desk members: ensuring your provider has great processes and a clear way to get their teams to follow them is the most important factor in getting the service you desire.

A new recruit can take an estimated 1-2 years to reach the productivity level of an existing employee.

>See also: The real cost of outsourcing IT

Improving processes around knowledge transfer can dramatically reduce this, keeping the business running more effectively. This is even truer for complex service designs, as service requirements are much more likely to deviate from a providers’ ‘standard’ operating process.

Process is about the personal touch

Why do processes matter so much? Because while good quality IT service management tools will ensure a provider broadly aligns with ITIL, these tools only manage a small percentage of the end-to-end process. They don’t guide the engineer through the manual steps or tasks performed in other systems.

For example, what happens if you want to follow a specific asset management process when hardware is replaced; or a specific post incident review process?

These kinds of processes will rarely be configured in the provider’s service management tool. Instead, they often rely upon staff ‘remembering’ how to do it, or following a work instruction that’s stored ‘somewhere’.

When you then factor in a modest amount of provider staff churn or process updates, it’s no surprise services often fail to meet expectations.

When engaging with an outsourcing partner, it is crucial to take processes into account as a key metric that’s at least as important as the people and tools on offer.

>See also: In-house vs. outsourced IT: what makes the most business sense

A good relationship with any potential IT service provider should begin with the provider’s standard operating processes being shared early in the service design phase. Furthermore, these processes should then be updated during the service transition.

Good process means better transparency

One approach to outsourcing success is for customers to map their processes in advance of selecting an IT provider.

This approach has the advantage of making sure there is clarity about the scope of tasks that should be delivered, explaining how they integrate with wider processes, and retaining IP/control should the customer need to improve service or change partner.

A second approach is to have a more collaborative relationship, bringing together the best processes from both inside and outside.

In order to trust your service provider under this approach, every process step should have a visible input, output, resource (human and system), work instructions, business controls and an assigned process owner.

Having this transparency creates a much higher level of trust as, when done correctly, data such as the exact cost per minute for the assigned resource should be available.

Then, once the service is live, any proposed changes should be flagged automatically to customer stakeholders for approval.

>See also: The top five things to consider when outsourcing

Beyond that, service users need to be supported through processes step by step, helping them to understand their interaction with the process (e.g. logging an incident).

There are a number of ways to facilitate this, storyboards being a great example, but the important thing is that users and stakeholders have total clarity over the process and therefore feel comfortable with it.

Regardless of which approach is taken, there is no doubt of the centrality of good process to building a strong IT service provider relationship.

So next time you’re thinking about outsourcing, remember that the people and tools you bring in to help are only as good as the processes they work with.

 

Sourced by Jeremy Humphrey, technology practice director at Roc

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