Fuelled by the dearth of ICT skills in the South African market, outsourcing continues to gain momentum. A maturing industry, it has a number of best practices, like Service and Operating Level agreements (SLAs & OLAs), that provide companies with some assurance that outsource service providers will meet agreed objectives.
A more important question for many companies,however, is whether the outsourcer can be trusted at a more intrinsic level to keep the best interests of the company in mind, delivering real business
Says Jaroslav Cerny, Managing Director of RDB Consulting, a company that offers professional database and operating system support, consulting, project management, solutions architecture and more: “Trust is an important component of any outsourcing agreement but its one that can only be built over time. There are, however, a few practical considerations that will assist companies to choose an outsourcing partner that can and will deliver a solution that adds value to the organisation.
“Chief among these are an assessment of the experience and expertise of the outsourcing company and resources it allocates to the project; the company’s track record; the commitment of its management in terms of participating in, and overseeing the project; the effort the company makes to understand your business and processes; and its ability to introduce constant improvement.”
Established more than a decade ago, RDB Consulting’s client base includes organisations in the telecommunications, banking, healthcare and manufacturing sectors. Says Cerny: “Dealing at the foundation level of technology systems, we are intimately aware of the cost of failure to ourcustomers.
This is something ‘younger’ outsource companies fail to comprehend. Consider, for instance, the failure of a database at a telecommunications service provider that must collect and store streams of data from numerous systems in order to deliver the reports necessary to bill their millions of clients.
“Many new or ‘young’ companies offer consulting services without the breadth of skills necessary to identify, plan for and deal with possible challenges – be it in the architecture of the solution, integration with other systems, impact on workflow or processes, or the management of a project.
It is thus important to ensure the outsourcer you select has some credibility. A history of proven successes will assure you that it can deliver what it says it can.”
Another vital factor is to ensure the involvement of the outsourcer’s key
management in your project. Says Cerny: “Many firms will put resources
onsite but fail to provide the guidance needed. RDB Consulting’s philosophy is that management, which in our case also represents some of the most highly technically skilled and experienced resources in the company, needs to be involved in overseeing and managing each customer site.
This has beenof tremendous value to our customers as we are able to troubleshoot and resolve irregularities before they occur. In fact, our success is based on the fact that we provide a better, more informed and reliable service than an in-house ICT team can.”
RDB Consulting’s services provide businesses with access to expert technical resources whether full time, part time, co-managed or via remote administration. Says Cerny: “Our outsourced solutions can reduce in-house costs by almost a third. With an in-house staff, companies must deal with constantly upskilling their personnel, salaries, bonuses and all the other costs of employment.
In addition, where skills are in short supply, staff churn can become a headache. RDB Consulting brings better skilled scarce resources to the table – resources that are highly experienced and stimulated by working on a number of different projects.”
Service and Operating level agreements (SLAs and OLAs) cannot be forgotten. “These are the single most important keys to assessing the outsourcer’s daily performance and ensuring it meets your requirements – albeit through a binding agreement,” says Cerny. “SLAs ensure the appropriate response while OLAs ensure daily tasks, such as backups, are done. Although this seems a basic function, should the outsourcer be lax in taking care of the smaller details, the consequences could be disastrous.”
A final consideration is whether the outsourcer complies with best practices such as documenting its progress. “Should a key resource within the outsource company leave or should the outsourcer fail to fulfill the agreement and need to be replaced, the organisation may be left on the back foot without any means to ensure continuity,” explains Cerny.
“‘Blueprint’s advice, approaches and best practices should thus lie at the heart of any outsourced service.”
In the end, it is the organisation’s responsibility to retain control of its
systems and processes, especially if they are instrumental in achieving the company’s goals and overall business strategy. Concludes Cerny: “While a good outsourcing company can assist you to optimise performance and outputs, employing best practices will minimize your risk. A ‘trusted’ business partner knows this, understands your strategy and will create long term advantage for your company.”