Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's All About Outcomes, Right?

Did you notice the great article by Rob Preston in InformationWeek?  Entitled Down To Business: Outsourcing's Next Big Thing, the article makes the case that "lowest-cost services and status quo providers are a dime a dozen."

Outcome-based outsourcing isn't more widespread, the article says, because most vendors and customers aren't prepared to manage them. All outcomes, whether judged on business results, product quality, or timeliness, must be quantifiable.

I noticed this article right on the heels of an email from a former colleague who has been working with many enterprise clients that are struggling with their outsourcing arrangements.  Andrew asks, "why relationships with outsourcing suppliers don't seem to reach the same level of trust and mutuality as is found in say manufacturing?  Both are commercial, both can be vital to an organisation's success and perception in the market place, both are driven by a profit motive, but one seems to be more valued than the other."

The common rub here is striking (at least to me).  It's knowing what outcome/result is expected.  When a company contracts for manufactured product, there is rarely a debate about whether or not the recieved outcome is what was expected.  There's a tangible product to touch, and feel, and weigh.

But for contracted services - payroll, network connectivity, accounts receivable processing, or applications management (for a few examples), the business value of the relationship is often left ambiguous.  This isn't intentional, of course, but it is a reality.

Experienced companies that have endured a first wave of outsourcing are coming to understand that they are getting what they're paying for.  Indeed, as Mr. Preston observes through the InformationWeek survey cited in his article, 20% of the IT pros working with Indian outsourcers cited the "ability to tie project costs to business goals" as a key benefit that would prompt them to work with an outsourcer again.

I, for one, am tired of this elusive topic.  It's time for the service provider industry to step forward and take responsibility for outcomes.  That said, it's also time for the client side of these relationships to quit managing the "how" and focus on the "what". 

The most powerful statement in the article, in my view, was this: "Outsourcing managers fear losing status and control if they're no longer managing people and projects; and support from top management may be lacking, especially if the benefits of structuring outsourcing contracts around outcomes aren't obvious."

Bingo.  It's "politics."  Personal and organizational influence models.

So, how does this really change?  I have some ideas ... that I am eager to put into practice.  But ... what do you think? 

Friday, August 28, 2009


Well ... my (work-related) thoughts were formerly posted on a blog called Consider the Source (which I thought was a clever title for a site discussing trends in (out)sourcing). A few colleagues from that company suggested that I create a new blog to share my new ventures. This is it.

As my (work) life revolves around the business model of contracted services (note the prelude here ... moving away from the term "outsourcing"), I thought that the title of "Sourcing Realities" would be appropriate. Now, I'm no research wonk so please don't expect any heavy findings revealed here. Rather, I will be sharing observations and opinions derived from my workplace activities. I am about to start a new job.

My employer is a major industry player - a provider of managed services to corporations and governments around the world. I am excited about this position for a range of reasons, mostly framed by the criteria I used to select from the opportunities available to me:

1. Must have leadership committed to winning
2. Must be progressive in nature, with specific resources allocated for taking advantage of emerging technologies
3. Must be receptive to listening to the market - clients, employees, intermediaries, competitors - and willing to act fast 
4. Must need me ... and want me ... to drive change
5. Must have the highest ethics, and a proven record of integrity-based business models
6. Should give me a diverse set of challenges, allowing me to solve problems and create new avenues for growth

I am thrilled with my selection ... and eager to get started. I will be championing the new era of Managed Services … focused on bringing technology-enabled business value to clients in ways that are predictable and resilient. If you care to hear more ... please visit often. I'll try to post some interesting and thought-provoking observations.

Source on!