by Uwe B. Meding » Get the PDF

Many companies want to (re)focus on their core business to stay competitive, and enjoy continued success. Outsourcing IT tasks and/or IT infrastructure requires the right partner. In particular, long term projects are a great target for outsourcing. Trust and reliability are keys.

Outsourcing is not just of interest not just to big companies. Small and medium sized companies, that have limited IT capacity in-house, can profit from external service offerings: You are buying specialized IT knowledge and you can count on having an up-to-date IT environment without effort.

Typically, you can outsource entire projects, some components like storage or the entire IT infrastructure or IT management.

Communication plays an important role when working with an outsourcing service partner: Clear milestones and goals are required to recognize problems and delays such that they can be managed appropriately. Users and service provider must understand each others expectations, otherwise misunderstandings and disappointments are liable to happen.

Goals: The service provider needs to understand your goals. They may already be serving customers in the same or similar niche as yours. Try and compare how competent they are. The service providers web site usually has information about reference customers and projects. Another good quality indicator is how long the service provider has been in the market.

Outsourcing agreements: The outsourcing agreement must be detailed and spell out exactly what services at what cost will be provided. Don’t forget that your needs can, and probably will change as the projects are realized. The service level agreements (SLA) need to implement a change request rule such that it is flexible enough and can be modified easily. Developing a good outsourcing agreement requires both technical and business personnel.

Duration and termination: Remember to spell out sensible termination terms: moving to another provider should be possible without much problem in the designated time frame. 6 to 12 weeks in customary, however if your projects are larger you may need more time. Also, ensure the agreement has a passage that governs the level of support expected from the service provider during the transition period.

Certifications: The prospective service provider should have appropriate qualifications and certifications showing that they are using up-to-date technologies. However, certifications alone are not a guarantee for reliability or good service. They are only an indication of technical competence.

Service offerings: The service offerings of the prospective outsourcing partner must match your needs and goals. Develop a detailed project plan and define the particular areas you need help with.

Security: Outsourcing tasks to an external service provider must include security from the start. Encryption and clearly defined access policies to the network and data is paramount.

Measurable performance: The services of a prospective service partner must be measurable. Well defined processes ensure that your performance goals are met. Partnerships often fail because of unclear expectations.

Support and location are important: If you are outsourcing important parts of your company’s business processes, you need to ensure a high level of support from the service provider. How is support managed? How can we reach a service provider? A solid service level agreement typically defines all the details.

Plan for the long term: Obviously you are not tied to a particular service provider. Nonetheless, it makes sense to plan for a long term relationship. It takes valuable time until a customer and service provider work seamlessly together. Changing service providers costs a lot of time.

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