Interim or Potential Process Definition and Deployment – Part 3

Interim or Potential Process Definition and Deployment – Part 3

The variety of outsourcing types, scopes and outsourcing service providers dictate a concomitant variety of transitions. The variety of Transitions manifests itself from transitions completed within weeks, to those spanning several years. In addition, the activities which are executed during a transition will vary widely from engagement to engagement.

There are a myriad of factors which impact the Transition Phase of the Outsourcing lifecycle.

By way of review, refer to one of our previous posts, “The Outsourcing Lifecycle does not begin with the Service Provider”.

In addition, your primary reason for choosing Outsourcing as a solution to an issue, as summarized in another of our posts, “The Four Horsemen of Outsourcing”,  will have a major impact on Transition.

In the Transition – Part 2 post, we considered processes and activities which, to one extent or another, will, or at least should, occur in all transitions.

There are a number of other processes and activities which must be addressed in conjunction with the commencement of transition. Many of these are logistical, and will be required for a seamless service transfer to the service provider. In addition, there are some processes which may or may not be required for all outsourcing engagements, even if some of the processes and activities will be of limited duration. For example, as the service provider begins to assume responsibility for service provision, there may be existing contracts between the client and another service provider, and the outsourcing service provider might deem it most efficient or economical to allow the contracts to expire. Deskside support services would be a potential example of this. Even if the outsourcing service provider has those capabilities in-house, it may make more sense to continue with the arrangement until the contract expires. An obvious reason for the decision would be that the interim could be spent monitoring the existing services, with an eye to transitioning the particular services in-house once the contract does expire. It reduces the risk associated with the entire outsourcing transition by spacing those services later, once the initial transition is complete or well under way.

Among these processes, will be project management; service handover coordination and approvals; readiness assessments and Supplier Management.

Project Management

Depending on the scope and duration of the engagement, a Project Management Office (PMO) will typically be established. This is the element which ensures that planned activities and deadlines are coordinated and managed. The PMO and the Steering Committee are the primary governance constructs, not just for Transition and Transformation, but also throughout the lifecycle of the entire engagement. This idea will be expanded upon in my next Transition post, “Managing Risk”.  

Communications Management 

Although everybody would agree that communications management is a critical success factor in any complex project, few are aware of the rigor and discipline involved in ensuring its success. Managing the communications is not something that can be handled casually, and must be a formal mutually agreed-upon effort for both the service provider and the client. More time will be devoted to this subject in my last post on Transition, Part 6, “Communications“.

Service Handover Coordination and Approvals 

As with the communications management, coordination and agreement must be obtained for the processes and procedures which will be followed to manage the handover of service components from the client to the service provider. It is paramount that all stakeholder from both the client and the service provider are absolutely sure at all stages of the transition precisely who is accountable for every aspect of the services. If this facet of the engagement does not go well, then attitudes that are established can be most difficult to undo, and risk for both parties is increased.

So far, we have been considering Transition for full outsourcing engagements in which all elements of IT are transferred from the client to the service provider. As was discussed in Sections 1 and 2, though, many outsourcing engagements involve only partial transfers. Boutique outsourcing providers, for example, tend to focus on a narrower subset of services. A prime example of such an arrangement would be the transferring of the Service Desk functions to a service provider. In such instances there may well be more than two parties involved in the Transition, and coordinating the handover of services and service components becomes more complex. As the client and major stakeholder in these arrangements, be certain that the Project Plan for transition clearly identifies all stakeholder groups involved, and continue to monitor the progress of this project plan to ensure that all contingencies have been addressed.

From an ITIL perspective, the processes and activities addressed by this would be discussed under Release Management. A large percentage of project failures can be attributed to those points where there is interface between service components or between service providers. Inasmuch as these will be occurring for the first time between the client and the outsourcing service provider, we cannot overstate the importance of both parties being in absolute agreement about the precise details of handovers from one to the other. In general, the focus of this will be on such things as timing and preparation. More specifically, both sides must agree on the criteria by which it can be demonstrated that the handover will be accomplished with minimum risk of service disruption. In the past, I have found that the most effective and efficient method of accomplishing this objective is through the development, agreement and execution of a Handover checklist. The checklist will delineate very specifically all  of the critical factors to be considered prior to the handover. Each line-item in the checklist will be discussed, and a representative from each party will acknowledge task completion. As with most situations, once accountability is assigned and acknowledged, the risk of failure is substantially reduced.

Readiness Assessments (Security, Property, Environment, Cultural) 

Mature service providers will already have begun assessments, usually immediately following a letter of intent. The assessments provide a “Current State” picture of many aspects of the client’s organization, infrastructure, processes and capabilities, and are the foundation upon which the Transition and Transformation stages will be planned and executed. In general, we can categorize the assessments into two major groupings, process-type assessments and readiness assessments. More detail on the process-type assessments is provided In Part 5, Assessments, of these Posts on Transition.

The focus of the readiness assessments tends to be, in some respects, more abstract than the process-type assessments. The outsourcing service provider will use the output from these assessments to help with planning the general approach to Transition which will be most effective. For security, property and environmental readiness assessments, there are existing factors which will, to a great extent, govern the scope of the service provider’s transition efforts. These factors can be legal, regulatory or industry-specific, necessitating to one extent or another, customized efforts and activities to ensure that the laws and regulations maintain required compliance.

Assessing cultural readiness is quite different than the other readiness assessments. In a typical outsourcing engagement, the analysis involves members of the client management chain, and the decision to engage an outsourcer will be confined to upper management. The first thing the rank and file of the client organization hear is usually an announcement that an outsourcing solution has been chose, Understandably, there will be confusion and uncertainty throughout the client organization. Some people will have concerns about their professional futures, while others wonder about the nature of their roles within the new framework.  These attitudes will have major impacts on the outsourcing service provider, and will dictate much in terms of the nature of the Transition phase. Training, for example will have many dependencies on the client organization. The exact type and scope of cultural change efforts will also be heavily dependent of the output of these assessments. Assuredly, all levels of the client organization will wish to be involved in both the assessment and the activities which are planned as a result of the assessment.

Supplier Management

In the context of an outsourcing engagement, the goal of the Supplier Management process is to manage suppliers and the service they supply to ensure that they provide seamless services and value for the money expended.

The decision to maintain a relationship with specific suppliers can originate either with the outsourcing client or with the outsourcing service provider. In the case of the client, the reason could be a level of comfort with the supplier, or the result of an analysis which indicates that it makes more economic sense to stay with a specific supplier, allowing for a narrower (and cheaper) outsourcing agreement. For an outsourcing service provider, the decision could hinge on the flexibility afforded by deferring supplier management activities until later when the environment has been stabilized.

In either of these cases, the primary issue will be to blend the supplier services or goods into the new environment seamlessly. Of course there will have to be processes and procedures put in place to ensure the on-going effective service, as well as for dispute resolution.

 

Conclusion

As I mentioned near the beginning of this, these processes are fluid, and will be dependent on the scope of the engagement and the type of outsourcing service provider. What I have attempted to do was simply provoke some thought in the areas discussed, and provide some initial guidance where it might be needed.

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