As the world economy continues to show signs of growth, especially here in the United States, companies large and small are preparing for more robust business by analyzing internal strengths and weaknesses and looking for ways to truly maximize services. From service desk to deck side to server support, having a cohesive desktop management strategy -including image management and application management- becomes more and more difficult, as companies continue to scale up. This is the time to prioritize your IT spending and look at how you can work with a partner to manage these services effectively.
However, in-house IT departments are expressing a dissatisfaction with outsourcing as of late, disillusioned with the process, their partners and the potential for success. They feel nervous releasing control of their internally-built service structure to an outside partner. In addition, company executives may see cost effectiveness with reporting, while employees are experiencing ineffectiveness with performing their jobs – a classic case of the watermelon effect.
The Watermelon Effect Defined
You hear companies talk about the watermelon effect when the service relationship scorecard looks green on the surface, indicating a good level of cost efficiency to executives, but if you dig down under the surface, employees who are closer to how the relationship is working day-to-day are seeing red, indicating trouble.
All sourcing partnerships have reporting, dashboard or service level agreements (SLAs) that are meant to keep the entire relationship in good standing. But if the wrong indicators are measured, the partnership may appear to be meeting business objectives when it’s not. Here are a few things to consider with your sourcing reporting structure:
- Is your SLA negotiated with sales, purchasing and lawyers or with end users?
- Is your SLA measuring results based on value-driven goals?
- Is your SLA based on shared success, future flexibility and possible innovation?
From a broader outsourcing perspective, you want to embed your service partner into your IT department, and demand a communication cadence with a flexible, reliable, consistent governing structure, and alleviate the watermelon effect.
Effective Outsourcing Strategy
Typically, companies use outsourcing partners to first control the cost of operating their service desks, as well as reducing call volumes, minimizing the time it takes to resolve customer calls and ultimately improving the end-user experience. A good outsourcing fit for any company would be one that:
- Focus on the needs of both the IT department and the end users
- Empowers internal IT employees to take their career to the next level, while still keeping them connected with the technology they built
- Effectively manages change in both the company and service environment by starting a conversation before change happens, rather that afterwards
Communication is Key to Release Management
A large part of the company-outsourcing relationship lies in effective release management. How do you engage the outsourcing service as a partner in the change management process? Any change goes through an approval first, then it’s released and implemented. It’s important to make sure all of the stakeholders are a part of this process.
Before a change takes place, make sure there’s a chance to test a change. Make sure that if you’re outsourcing an infrastructure service like network monitoring or if you’re going to take a server down or you’re replacing software, the people who are monitoring your servers know this change is coming, so they can prepare for it. Not only that, engage your service desk personnel for their input on a software replacement before it happens, because they know how that software is interacted by users and what users are asking when they’re calling. The business need that is being addressed always has an impact on the end user.
Getting all these different perspectives can really bring your teams together early on, strengthening the entire process:
- They’ll be part of the test
- They’ll be part of the QA
- They’ll be part of the release
- They’ll be part of a coordinated, unified effort
If the only time you’re talking to a service partner is when you’re getting a monthly report, you’re missing all of those middle conversations that can prepare a complete response. No one will be prepared to say what really happened on that ticket or what was done to improve the outcome. No one will be able to say how that ticket was resolved, resulting in an inaccurate circumstance of “everything is fine.” Being able to connect these dots through a consistent communication cadence is really important.
In addition, the ability of executives to look at return on investment in hard dollars with relation to implementing this technology and how it reduces the ticket account by a certain amount or how it shaves such-and such off the handle time or how making the server more reliable effects uptime is also important. As an outsource service provider, translate this to customers so they not only see the results of their business decisions and how it relates to technology, it also gives them better information from the front lines when they’re ready to make those business decisions.
Self-Service Knowledge Management
Interestingly, the industry sometimes sees knowledge management as a panacea for IT woes. Even though self-service may not take the place of a governing structure when companies and outsourcing services are embedded in each other’s processes, there are benefits to self-service. As long as the information articles:
- go through a documented approval process
- stay fresh
- are updated with application changes
- are relevant to current services
You are still able to drive continual service improvement.
One of the benefits to self-service is that end users can help formulate a mature service catalog in a more concise and thought-driven manner, addressing more detail when it comes to helping callers with something that is “broken,” for instance. From a service desk perspective, they may respond, What do you mean by broken? What did you try to do? Did you get an error message? Did you try to do it a different way? Has this work before? By formulating the information through a series of questions that are intelligent and based on how a person answered previously, you can drive them to a knowledge article that’s very specific to their situation, creating operational efficiency and less trouble shooting that can be tied into self-service.
When it comes to defying the watermelon effect, chose an outsourcing service partner that has a proven track record executing a complete SLA, implementing a flexible, reliable and consistent communication cadence, building out knowledge articles where they may not exist and focusing on continuous service improvement.