First steps in outsourcing crucial

Our Feature section this issue takes a look at some of the latest developments in the ever-changing world of outsourcing. As the complexities of IT infrastructures have continued to grow, the popularity of the offloading concept has grown right along with it.

While the process of handing off enterprise computing responsibilities to third-party service providers has been a part of the industry for decades, the variety of options available to companies looking to rid themselves of IT problems has become larger — and, unfortunately, more confusing.

If, for instance, a firm is thinking about handing off its storage responsibilities to someone else, decision makers are first presented with the time-consuming task of deciding which service provider to trust their valuable data with. No longer are there only a few possible choices in this department. Everyone from large, traditional outsourcees to new niche players are more than eager to take a bite out of the corporate bottom line in exchange for their services.

Once this process, which can often take weeks and months, is complete, the task of negotiating the right deal comes into sharp focus. Establishing the right service level agreement, replete with the proper provisions and out clauses that are going to hopefully guarantee a flawless process in the case of any discrepancy with the provider, is another intensive process that adds to the overhead of the IT handoff process.

Once everything is up and running, the task of managing the relationship with the service provider becomes a top priority. The best scenarios for the outsourcer involve a situation where the IT team is aware of everything that is going on in the outsourcing process, and is able to recognize any potential problem and ask the provider to get on it.

To ensure that such a solid and reassuring situation exists, firms often must appoint an employee to manage the relationship with the service provider. This can often involve extra salary outlays and yet another layer of complexity to the IT department’s inner workings.

Other decisions that have to be made centre around whether the responsibilities that have to be outsourced are best farmed out to foreign locales, such as India, or kept on home soil. With countries such as Russia looking to nose their way into the outsourcing game and take a slice of the economic pie being eaten up by more established destinations, the decision-making process has become that much more complex for today’s organizations.

Obstacles aside, the outsourcing route is proving to be, for many firms, a welcome option, one that has allowed them to rid themselves of costly training and maintenance costs that have multiplied considerably in recent years. The model has its place and its value, but must be approached sensibly if success is to be met with.

It quickly becomes apparent that diving into the outsourcing process is not an act to be taken lightly, and if the experience is going to be a positive and financially rewarding one for an enterprise, these crucial first steps down the outsourcing path are ones that have to be taken carefully. If they aren’t, the experience can easily turn into an IT quagmire.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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