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Issue Date: March 2008

Get the most out before locking yourself in

1 March 2008

Lucky Khumalo, CEO: M-IT, an EOH company, explains that while outsourcing your service desk has become an extremely attractive option, there are certain questions you need to ask your provider to ensure you enjoy the full benefits.
Lucky Khumalo, CEO: M-IT
Lucky Khumalo, CEO: M-IT
While IT probably is not the core business of your company, it enables your business. This makes it imperative that it is reliable and efficient, and that any problems resulting from it can be solved as a matter of urgency. This is the first thing you need to determine from potential outsourcers – ask how they will make this possible. Rule number one when it comes to outsourcing then is do your research. Ensure that you do a complete background check of your possible provider, contacting its clients and finding out how much of a priority they are when it comes to crunch time.
One of the main reasons you are probably considering outsourcing your service desk is that it will allow your company to focus on its core functions. If you are a large financial firm for example, you need to focus on financial matters. That being said, to keep your company delivering its core functions, ask about its systems and processes. It must have systems and processes that are top of the range and super-efficient. This will ensure that you not only benefit from your provider’s economies of scale but, additionally, maximise your productivity and build competitive advantage.
On the subject of economies of scale, however, what most outsourcers will not tell you is that 'saving money' should not be your main motivating factor when it comes to deciding to outsource. The first year of outsourcing can in fact prove more expensive for your company as this is when systems and process are going to be put in place; the most costly phase. Economies of scale will only develop later in the process. Ask when you can expect to see these. This means that while outsourcing your service desk has very real benefits, reducing your support costs is not a benefit you should automatically assume.
What you should rather focus on is your systems’ availability. Service desk standards and areas of service are built on ITIL standards (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) – a set of concepts and methodologies for managing information technology infrastructure, development and operations. By being proactive, and using the ITIL change management area of service for example, your overall availability of systems increases. If availability increases, so too does your productivity. By implementing these standards you can thus dramatically increase productivity across the company. Ask to see your provider’s plan – how will it increase your systems’ availability.
Outsourcing is about forming a partnership. It is not about getting someone else to 'fix' your IT problems. It is rather about working with an experienced partner to get the most value out of your solutions and systems. Find out your service provider’s view on this. Just how involved will its team be? How often can you expect to see senior management? How proactive are they going to be after the deal is signed and sealed?
Perhaps the most important thing you need to know though is that outsourcing is not about buying a remedy, it is about managing this process according to ITIL principles
Putting a service desk in place is a process. It is a very complicated and intricate service to put in place, and not just something you can 'switch on'. Your outsourcer cannot 'source' a remedy for your company’s challenges. You need to remember that service desks are not about the tools they use, but rather about the people and the processes involved. Most of your outsourcer’s spend in this regard is going to be used on training staff as to the process and discipline. Ask about its training; how it develops its staff.
When it comes to outsourcing your service desk then, it is all about finding the right partner – a provider who will enable your business by increasing the availability of your systems. To find the right provider may take time, but will prove its worth well into the future. Ask the right questions and keep asking them until you are satisfied with the answers you receive. That way, by the time you get to the fine print you will know full well what you are signing.

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