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The Outsourcing Continuum, Part IX: Implementation

By Mike Scheuerman

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Once you have decided to outsource your infrastructure support and have done your due diligence selecting a service provider, it is time to implement the plan. There are several steps that you will go through with your vendor to ensure that you get what you expected when you signed the outsourcing contract.

1. Establish and implement standards
2. Consult on technology usage
3. Design a system to support business initiatives
4. Procure equipment to support the design
5. Implement a new infrastructure

Establish the base

The establishment of solid foundation is critical to future growth. Your service provider will work with you to implement the basic security, system maintenance and help desk support that you will need to support the implementation of systems that contribute to business growth and value.

During this period, standards will be put in place. Things like disparate operating system versions (e.g. Windows98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista) will be whittled down to one easily maintainable version. Multiple versions of office productivity software (word processors, spreadsheets, email readers, etc.) will likewise be pared down to a common application set. Security measures such as firewalls, anti-virus, and anti-spam software will be configured, tested and installed.

Monitoring software will be installed to watch the critical components of the hardware and software. Alert levels will be established to determine if something is going awry, it can be fixed before it causes a failure. Computers that are unable to run the chosen operating system and applications will be replaced.

A new helpdesk system for reporting problems will be established and employees will be trained on how to use that system. This system will enable your service provider to begin to build up a knowledge base of the kinds of problems that occur most often. With that information, the vendor’s technical personnel will be able to identify the root causes of those recurring problems and fix them. That will lead to a more stable working environment for all employees and allow them to be more productive.

Technology usage

While the base infrastructure is being revamped to stabilize it, you should expect to spend a significant amount of time with your service provider partner determining what exactly you want your technology to deliver. This will allow them to design a future infrastructure that will support the initiatives that are a part of your business strategy.

It also provides you with a view of which initiatives are easy to implement, which are dependent on other applications or hardware and which are going to require significant investment.

During this stage of the outsourcing cycle, you will be presented with multiple options for implementing any particular business initiative. Your service provider will be able to explain the pros and cons of each of these options so you can make a rational decision on which would best meet your business goals.

Design and Procure

Once you have decided which initiatives are most important to your business. Your service provider in conjunction with your internal staff will set about building the detail design for the systems that will be needed to implement those initiatives.

It is critical that your internal staff be a part of the design team. Only your staff knows in detail what kind of work needs to be accomplished to successfully implement any new business initiative.

During this stage the service provider can be of great assistance in recommending technology solutions, but they can’t know your business as well as you do, so don’t expect them to design a system that will work just right for you if you don’t give them guidance. Your partner will probably be able to procure the right equipment and services more cost-effectively that you can, so let them do that, but negotiate a budget with them and expect them to meet it.

New System Implementation

Once you have designed and procured a new system, it is time to implement. A set of steps similar to the original base establishment begins. Any new equipment that is needed will be put into place; employees will be trained on the new business processes and software; the helpdesk will begin building up a knowledgebase on the new systems and applications. Because you established a solid base to work with during your initial implementation phase, you won’t have to worry about breaking the business processes you have in place already.

Summary

As you may have surmised by now, all of this takes a significant amount of time and effort. You should allow at least 3 months before you can expect things to get better. In most cases, it will take 6 months to a year before you will begin to see real improvements in productivity.

When you started on your journey to outsourcing, you had expectations that you would never have to worry about your technology infrastructure again. Now that it is real, you will find that for the most part those expectations have been met. You now think/worry more about how you can use the application of the technology to provide your business with competitive advantage. You worry more about whether your business processes are the most efficient, and how they can take on more growth.

These are the things that you should worry about. Leave the technology worries to those who are experts in technology. Your worries should be about how to grow your business and use the technology to enable and enhance that growth.