How to outsource IT to the can-do partner

Read time 4 mins

Written February 2018

If you’re planning to work with third parties ‒ whether it’s an outsourcing, co-sourcing or out-tasking arrangement ‒ make sure you don’t choose a can’t-do passenger who will only give you yet more problems to solve.

While many CIOs recognise that they can benefit from using outsourced partners, not all are going about it in the right way. Engage the services of a provider who fails to understand your company culture ‒ or has no in-built structure to foster an understanding of what matters to your business and your people ‒ and you could end up with a can’t-do passenger instead of a can-do partner.

So here’s our quick guide to avoiding the potholes on the road to outsourcing heaven:

Always on ‒ not out of office

Availability should be your prime consideration. Look for 24/7/365 IT support, with real human beings always ready to offer their assistance. Compare service providers who shunt end users to an anonymous Call Centre’, against best practice IT partners who offer a designated team of named individuals you can get to know over time. These are the people who will learn the personality of your company and anticipate problems by building personal relationships with your team. When you’ve got an urgent IT issue, the people factor matters more than ever.

The omnichannel provider has arrived

Some providers limit their interaction to emails or phone calls. Look for evidence that your prospective partner ‘responds on all frequencies’, giving your users a choice of phone, email, chat, face-to-face, and web self-service. Channels are important, because it’s often far easier to show the support team a problem than describe it. (Not to mention the diverse channels people from different age groups prefer.) If they can’t deliver omnichannel for you, how can you expect them to deliver killer experiences for your customers?

It’s not your job to assign their specialists

Too much time in IT services is spent finding the right expert. Before you commit to a provider, make sure they have a support team with the right mix of technical expertise to match your company’s setup. But not only that. Check they’re doing their job properly by assigning the right person to the right job. If they fail to do that, your people will end up having to memorise which of their people has which specialism. And the reason why you’re outsourcing is to free them up from those concerns. Ask to see the provider’s response analytics. If you don’t see figures such as a minimum of 70% of issues resolved on first contact, you’re probably looking at the wrong partner.

Do they shift left?

Countless co-sourcing partners can fix issues – but fewer look beyond their sphere of control for more issues to fix. “Shifting left”, drawing support capability as close to the user as possible, is a key factor in a successfully evolving service environment. Look for partners who actively seek routes to optimise the delivery of services to your users, not those who merely follow a pre-agreed procedure.

Investing in your business

Call it tacit knowledge, shared understanding or organisational learning ‒ it may be intangible, but its effect on your IT services can be material. When an outsourced partner truly ‘gets’ your business, issues get solved a lot faster – especially when they swing in the best technologies to do it.

Look for a provider with the analytical depth to understand the business demands of your organisation, not just its array of hardware and software. The right structure, such as a designated team who can build deeper knowledge of your company over time, scores over a mass ‘Call Centre’, every time. Knowledge transfer is part of this business engagement process too. It makes sense to retain a certain level of skills in-house, so that when service agreements end, all the learnings and information doesn’t leave the building along with the outgoing provider.

Feeling cybersecure with your choice of partner

We’ve not said much about specific technical skills, but cyber security is top of every list of ‘things that keep executives awake’. Your own credibility will be at risk ‒ along with your business’s reputation and data bank ‒ if you don’t add this to your selection criteria.

While many providers will look at protecting data centres and servers, not all will address the role of the individual user as the front line of security. It only takes one ill-informed user to click on one unreliable link to bring a company’s IT services to its knees. The proliferation of cyber threats means that the right partner needs to have the skills to educate your users. Look for a partner who has the right security credentials, accreditations, and a strong awareness of regulations such as GDPR and industry best practice.

Does the partner take ownership?

Lastly, make sure your future partner will truly own your IT problems, taking the trouble to understand them in full, liaising with enterprise application providers like Oracle, Salesforce and SAP, without blaming someone else. When your external partner takes as much interest in solving your challenges as you do, congratulations! That’s the point where you know you’ve avoided the can’t-do passenger and hired a can-do provider.

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