IT Outsourcing: Why Maintaining Control of Your Processes & ITSM Software is Critical

It always starts the same way: a company decides that it is going to completely or selectively source infrastructure, platform, application or all of the above to one or more external service providers: a very sound choice for a company that wants to direct more focus to business core competencies while leaving specific, non-strategic technology management to external experts.  The courting phase occurs.  Promises are insinuated. A potential partner is chosen.  The due diligence phase begins. More promises are made.  Sourcing partners claim or have substantiated (through ISO 20000 certification or otherwise) that they have sound ITSM practices automated through sophisticated workflow which you can utilize in your organization.  The thought of this is extremely attractive.  The company does not have to spend time, effort or money on crafting its own processes or automating its own workflow – the sourcing provider already has this nailed – why not take advantage of this!

A vendor is ultimately chosen, the sourcing engagement starts and that’s where this happy story starts to unravel.  Here are 5 things to consider as your go down this path:

  1. You will learn very quickly that though “meta” processes, such as Request, Incident, Problem, Change and Release and Deployment all have the same high level activities, the specifics of these processes will be different from organization to organization.  Assignments, approval paths, notification rules, escalation procedures, deployment processes and service levels will vary.  So the notion that a process is a process is not a wise assumption.
  2. These are YOUR processes – not your sourcing providers.  You need to have governance over your processes!!!  As an IT organization you own the responsibility of quality of service for business services.  You are the broker of this with any service providers you contract with.  If you abdicate that responsibility to your provider, you’ve handed full control over the quality of service delivery to that provider, and though you may not always be happy with the results, there is really nothing you can do about it.
  3. If you choose to outsource the IT Service Management technology (the technology that houses information on incidents, problems changes, releases and their associated workflow – along with configuration items, services, knowledge, etc), you have lost control of data that is critical to IT decision support for your enterprise.  The quality and and integrity of the data is in the hands of your outsourcer.  If you are using this data to measure your outsourcer you may and don’t have direct control, you may always wonder if service levels are being manipulated to the advantage of the vendor.
  4. In case where you are doing selective outsourcing with multiple vendors in the mix (an infrastructure service vendor, an application service vendor, etc), each vendor may have its own version of ITSM processes (remember the “meta” activities are the same, but every entity is going to apply them differently – dealing with multiple outsourcers will definitely highlight this reality).
  5. In the case where you are doing selective outsourcing with multiple vendors in the mix, each outsourcing provider will have its own Service Management solution, meaning that you have to consolidate data across multiple providers to get a big picture view of what is going on in YOUR environment.

The bottom line is, although it may appear attractive to eliminate the work associated with defining, managing and governing processes and their enabling technology by relegating it to an outsourcing provider, the control and visibility that you lose in the process leaves you in a very compromising position – one that is difficult to recover from once you start down the path.

For best results:

  • Define, manage and govern your own processes
  • Agree up front with your vendor that they will harmonize their process methodology with yours
  • Appropriate and manage your own Service Management automation solution and agree up from with your outsourcing providers that they will use your technology (perhaps with integration to theirs) to manage tickets, workflow, knowledge, CIs, etc. regarding your services

by: Valerie Arraj