Chief Digital Technology Officer & SVP
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Pondering Several IT Outsourcing Realities
I recently read the article "A Good Offense Is a Good Defense" by Susan Cramm at CIO Magazine's Web site. I found it a good read, full of good advice. In addition, it reminded me that even now, in 2006, we still have IT departments (sometimes even CIOs) that are not receptive to outsourcing.
For example, I recently had a conversation with a colleague who works in the technology sector. He debated with me the "we are taking jobs away from Americans" argument. I was a bit taken back since the two of us just recently discussed the difficulty in finding skilled IT talent to fill first-level/second-level positions.
Gartner published a study focusing on the number of IT graduates decreasing significantly in the U.S. over the last four years. Currently in America, there are only 9% of students graduating in an IT/science-based subject. Let's compare that to Vietnam where 85% of the students graduate in IT/science-based subjects.
The truth is that if you are a business deploying large IT projects or maintaining existing applications, outsourced solutions are a must. What business today can maintain all the specialized technology resources in house needed to manage intensive complex projects?
In Cramm's article, she advises CIOs to "love (outsourcing projects) to death," whether they are handed down as mandates from above or self-initiated projects. I whole-heartedly agree and would remind today's CIOs that good loving begins by carefully determining what can and cannot be outsourced within an IT department. Consider the level of client interaction required and areas where it is minimal to none are likely the very best outsourcing candidates.
Once outsourcing opportunities are identified, outsourcing partners must be selected. I firmly believe that with the measurement, monitoring and communication tools available today, it is very hard to have an unsuccessful outsourcing project. Most problems occur in the selection process. IT leaders are not taking enough time to ask the right questions and ensure their interests will be looked after at all times. To make sure a potential provider is the right provider, CIOs and IT teams should be asking these kinds of vendor-challenging, quantifiable questions:
- Will my team be 100% dedicated?
- What is your turnover rate?
- Who is responsible if turnover impacts my timeline?
- Are you certified: CMM, CMMi, TMM, BS7799, ISO 9001, SAS70, ITIL?
- Who accredited you in these certifications?
- What data do I have access to during my project?
- Will your company work on small projects or only on large engagements?
Be wary if a vendor gives you access only to executive summary dashboards and does not give you access to the tools utilized to track the issues and errors. If that's the case, here is another frank question to ask the potential vendor: Why all the secrets?
In outsourcing, you are opening up your business and operations to a provider, which requires trust, dependability and an equal back-and-forth relationship. Keep looking until you find a vendor ready for the kind of deep, open relationship IT outsourcing success requires.