IT Outsourcing: The Two-Headed Beast

A recent article on IT Outsourcing Category Management over on Efficient Purchasing did a great job of capturing the nuances of the category in that the drivers will be dependent on whether it’s a first or subsequent sourcing event and so will Procurement’s role. In the outsourcing scenario, the number one driver is access to competence. Cost reduction and flexibility take a back-seat with Procurement, whose role is to facilitate the process, that is led by IT, and ensure a competitive environment. In a subsequent event, cost reduction becomes the number one driver and innovation, completely absent in the first phase, jumps into the back-seat. Procurement jumps into the driver’s seat, leading the effort to find qualified suppliers that can reduce costs and increase value.

However, the two events are not completely different. In both scenarios, Procurement must master stakeholder management, do its homework properly, understand risks and the nature of likely disruptions, accurately model cost, and get a grip on the value a supplier could bring to the table. The last part is key, since while 67% of IT leaders rely on outsourcers to turn ideas into new and improved processes, as per a Warwick Business School study, only 33% measure the impact of innovation delivered by service providers, which is key component of delivered value. Plus, as per an IDG Outsourcing Survey, IT Outsourcing has only led to cost reduction and flexible staffing in one third of engagements!

And contracts are a major headache for the unprepared. In addition to detailed descriptions of the services, service levels, and service management process, that need to be provided, a significant number of commercial terms and legal terms generally need to be provided as well. Plus, contract templates should be included in the bidding event as this will let potential providers know what is expected of them. As a result, many projects have to be planned six to twelve months in advance as it often takes four to eight months just to stipulate the scope of services and SLAs, which needs to not only define the services, but the transition plan and an exit plan should the contract not be renewed.