ITSM Outsourcing and Common Sense – Bedfellows or Poles Apart?

ITSM Outsourcing and Common Sense – Bedfellows or Poles Apart?

For me it was a constant source of bafflement in projects – why does the obvious seem so out of reach when we look at applying IT service management (ITSM) in an outsourced environment? Where is the common sense? After all, the premise (on paper at least) makes sense, does it not? A well-structured and controlled environment within which to deliver increased efficiency?

Yet we are still astounded when faced with an almost Lord of the Rings Mordor-like “One provider to rule them all” environment, everything just seems to collapse under the weight of the processes and procedures. Having seen many an outsourcing-contract opportunity with ITSM at its core, I think it’s time to look at some of the reasons why the collapsing happens. Why do we seem to overlook the need for common sense with outsourcing?

Can Outsourcing ITSM Ever Truly Succeed?

There are some compelling reasons why outsourcing ITSM ought to work. After all, there must have been a reason to want to move away from in-house services and internal ITSM activity. More often than not though, what it comes down to is cost, and reducing costs quite heavily. This is okay in itself, so long as it comes with a more than tacit understanding that it also comes as a “service with restrictions”.

Okay, maybe restrictions is the wrong word, but in order to turn around the kinds of cost savings required, there has to be complete acceptance by the client that it might mean operating in a shared environment, alongside other customers, with the need to embrace a standard model for ITSM processes and support.

Does this outsourcing utopia work? Sure, if you apply common sense, and if this is what your organization wants.

The Reality of Outsourcing

For the most part, companies know that they need ITSM processes and procedures, but modern IT has thrown up all kinds of complications that make the whole thing a veritable minefield: security of data; complex bids involving outsourcing of other elements tied up in one pretty (large) bow; and often laborious communications within a company, much less with other third parties with their hands in the cookie jar. What does that leave us with? All crumbs, and no biscuit!

Even models such as service integration and management (SIAM) actually just boil down to plain, good, old-fashioned common sense, and yet it can seem to add to the gathering snowball of complexity. A firm hand is needed to ensure that all the groups and companies touched by ITSM are all working for the bigger picture.

Is It Really that Simple?

Yes…and no.

Organizations are continuing to push for more services for less money – it’s the way of the world. So who on the outsourcing project team can stand up to get people to focus on the bigger picture, especially where multiple suppliers are involved, in the knowledge that it might take just a little longer, and more cash, to get a better result all around? And are they internal, external, or non-existent?

In my experience, consultants are still very much in control of how outsourcing projects succeed, or indeed fail. Maybe if we could just wave a magic wand and construct an all-seeing, all-knowing team to parachute into each and every deployment, we’d have a winning outsourcing formula that we could bottle and sell, and all go retire on the nearest Greek Island.

Instead though, we continue to flounder in the shallows, stubbing our sensitive toes on the rocks, and pointing fingers at the groups whose solutions don’t meet with our expectations.  It’s commonly due to good old-fashioned people issues, and often the absence of common sense.

Take a Step Back and Maybe Start at the Beginning (and Yes, I Know That This Cannot Always Be the Case)

In my opinion, the overall outsourcing project lead has to be independent – and be able to treat all the providers, if there are more than one, with a fair view. When new parties come into the mix, they need to be brought up to speed with the bigger picture and, more importantly, buy into it.

It’s probably fair to say that it’s the people who are key to traversing these challenges above all else. And outsourcing often removes the in-house skill, built up over years, but lacks the complacency that can sometimes set in with in-house IT operations. Then again, outsourcers can also have a high turnover of staff. But, playing devil’s advocate – it shouldn’t matter because, after all, the processes are being standardized, and you are paying for a service not people, right? But the contract terms and push for margins or cost savings can overrule the voices of common sense.

Sadly, there’s also often a lot of emotion tied up in the whole shebang. Processes that have been around since the dawn of ITSM, “It’s just the way we do things,” and “My tool is better than yours” to name but a few. And again we can point to the absence of common sense – we all have to work together to succeed whether we are in-house IT or an outsourced environment.

People and Common Sense

If you listen to some of the “great and the good” of the ITSM industry, the fundamentals of successful ITSM will always hover into view – that you need skilled and experienced people but also a generous dollop of common sense.

IT is constantly evolving and the way we manage diverse systems, teams, and the expectations around all of this constantly change too. We need a magic wand to create the uber-integrator who can bring all these often disparate sources of services together to be one cohesive solution – it’s a challenge that even Harry Potter would balk at, but surely it can be done? In my opinion, it can be done with that generous dollop of common sense!

Sadly, all these issues are fixed, and needs are met, with (sometimes bitter) experience. And the best integrators, managers, and technicians come to outsourcing projects with the experience of projects that have gone bad as well as those that have gone right. And hopefully with their common sense neurons intact.

So can common sense and outsourcing co-exist? Well, yes, I’d like to think so but only if the right people, often battle-scarred people, are involved. So make sure that common sense is a mandatory requirement for your outsourced project personnel by asking the right questions before they are hired/seconded.

Posted by Rebecca Beach

Rebecca Beach
Rebecca Beach

Affectionately known as the ‘Gobby Midget’ Rebecca is a well-known figure in the ITSM field. Currently working freelance as an ITSM Specialist Rebecca has held roles as ITSM Research Analyst for the ITSM Review, ITSM Tools Engineer at Capita, and Service Desk Analyst at Hanover Housing Association where she won the SDI IT Service Excellence Professional of the Year 2012.

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