Will it ever be possible to innovate in outsourcing deployments?
I only ask, because you would think, in fact, that outsourcing deployments would be the perfect way in which to deliver small but effective areas of innovation.
Yet the very nature of outsourcing, both for organisations and service providers, is proving to be its own worst enemy.
The ITSM piece tends to be part of a much larger bid, often consolidating data centres, teams, resources and now typically with the sensitive matter of off-shoring work too.
Can it work?
If an organisation is completely happy for all their services to be run in a shared instance with many other customers and a standard delivery model for your processes and resources, they are laughing.
There is no bespoke configuration to do, minimal to no requirements for knowledge transfer –merely hand over the details required, maybe have some training and perhaps some process focus and away they go, literally!
No debates about 99.999% up time of the service desk, or arguments about how to connect active directory servers to the hosted systems to abide with security requirements.
It just all works, and everyone is a winner.
And the flip side?
Complex projects involving multiple countries, heightened security implications in certain sectors, and dare I say it, almost a reluctance to “let go”.
There is nothing more sensitive (and in a small way a little soul destroying) knowing that you are working in an implementation where some, but not all of the people you need to interact with to do that transformation work will be losing their jobs.
Why the struggle?
Very simply, I think it comes to difference of expectations.
Often implementation teams are not involved in the bid process or if they are, it is often at the very end when it may well be far too late to point out potential issues.
Expectations are set by the sales and solution teams before the whole thing is thrown over the fence to be implemented by multiple groups, as part of a large project team.
Then the silo-mentality kicks in and suddenly you go from all-in-together to “Your bit of the solution needs to do this, why doesn’t it?”
Trying to innovate
How can you try and stop the inevitable from happening?
Because ITSM touches a lot of IT User groups, it is worth the ITSM Solution Architect having a broad view of everything that has been promised in the Service Management piece, but also make sure you cast an eye over Service/Help Desk and Asset Management schedules.
They may have their own teams, their own process writers and so on, but determining what YOUR tool (as it will often be called!) can actually do to achieve THEIR goals is vital.
ITSM Tool Expectation
Shared Platform Reality
|Thou shalt enable retained staff and outsourced support staff to have access to, create, update, delete asset records in accordance to processes||Well…. We’re writing the processes, so I agree with that but the way the platform is set up, you can’t have people updating assets if they are not working for us!|
|The service desk is all seeing, all knowing and shall have control of every ticket in the whole wide world, for ever||That’s fine, but in our set up we have given them the LEAST amount of rights in the system of all the IT users, so really they will log and flog.|
OK perhaps I have painted an extreme, but how would you begin to introduce more skill in Level 1 resolution if the way the service provided platforms are built lends itself to that kind of segregation.
All too often the best intentions to ensure that solutions are well documented, that the design process is followed with no short cuts, and that everything is re-usable for subsequent implementations.
In reality, time squeezes in, corners get cut, and rather than being able to standardise documentation for re-use, and that all important knowledge sharing aspect gets pushed to one side.
Who is willing to stand up and be counted?
Perhaps this is the hardest thing of all, when the pressure is on to get something implemented, and hopefully working better than what was there before.
I wrote some time ago about the Fantasy ITSM team and stressed the need for a strong, knowledgeable, but pragmatic project manager who could act as the glue between the silos.
But let me just throw someone else into the mix (rather than under the bus).
Sometimes the project team need a good business manager to bat for them, especially against the slow death crawl of scope creep.
The kiss of death for any troubling project is someone in the business line who is not prepared to say “NO”.
And it is sadly a rare thing to find someone who actually has the balls to look for ways to circumvent the more destructive forces one can find on projects and actually say: “NO, this is the wrong way.”
Why is no-one willing to do that?
The cold hard facts of the IT industry are that organisations are constantly striving for more, with far less.
The whole raison-d’être for outsourcing is to benefit from the economies of scale.
And it takes brave people to then stand up and say – we need longer to do this better.
But the reasons WHY are because expectations have been set and there is largely a lack of control around HOW an almost “hybrid” solution can work.
Those people who are likely to be retained in the organisation will be looking for leverage to make sure things stay that way.
Knowledge is power, so why would they try and make things more efficient?
And all the while, the name of the game is to implement a solution, adhering to standards, but acquiescing to customer requirements, trying to add value but without rocking any other boats.
A sad by-product of restructuring within service providers themselves means that in-house skill are taken out of the equation, and often contractors brought in.
They have developed those niche skills that make it comparatively easier for them to be dropped in, for a shorter period of time, and at a lovely high rate.
While it is maybe more prevalent in the area of Project Management, I have come across ITIL Masters/Experts who maybe spend more time telling you how much more they know than you, rather than looking to apply those skills to what an organisation needs.
For service providers to start adding that value always boasted about in bids, and drawing on the expertise they claim to have, they need to stop shedding skin, and looking to improve the skills within.
Regardless of whether the Service Desk and Platform/Application Support Staff are in Bangalore or Bognor – have they really got the skills for the job? Are they engaged and committed to improving and developing a career? Are they motivated?
Stop weakening your teams and look to play to their strengths.
Encourage, don’t stifle.
Innovate, don’t restrict.
It IS a challenge in this economic climate. Is any service provider willing to take it on?