In a meeting with my colleague recently we were discussing about some of the challenges faced by customers who bring in certain tools that are easy to use and are adopted multiple groups in the organization in a frenzy and before you know it there is no method to that madness.
Yes, I am talking about SharePoint.
It was developed primary as a tool to make it easy on IT teams to be able to put together websites (Intranet / Extranet / Internet) quickly as well as implement collaboration better with necessary plumbing pre-built. However, the ease of use drove the adoption. The subsequent releases added features like Document & Records Management, Social Media, Insights and even capability to integrate business data from other existing enterprise applications. The problem with such growth is that people use these tools in ways that they were not originally designed for. Once the product teams realize these new ways of using it, they will tweak the design or redesign the tool to fulfill such requirements. This cycle goes on and leads to the evolution of the product.
Any way, coming back to the challenges of adoption without a strategy and governance leads to chaos. As one of my good friends, a SharePoint Architect, puts it “SharePoint is like a Virus !!!” and it needs to be stopped. While we can argue if comparing it with virus is the right way to describe it, his intention is to say that the adoption rate in organizations is phenomenal. If not controlled, this will spin out of control and in no time will lead to people blaming SharePoint for all the problems. To be honest, this is the case pretty much across the board wherever it is adopted without proper strategy and governance.
To derive the maximum benefit out of the SharePoint implementation, one needs:
- A Good Strategy before you bring in SharePoint to ensure it serves the business purpose
- A proper Information Architecture to implement and configure it the right way,
- A good Application Life Cycle Management Process to ensure the applications are created and managed the right way and more importantly retired, once their purpose is served
- A good process to increase the adoption within the organization
- A good training process to ensure that the IT and End User community is trained to use the tool is used the way it ought to be used and
- Last but not least, a good Governance Process to keep it all in check
While the above points would be true for new adoptions, the same goes to organizations struggling with some of the problems as a result of unplanned adoption. They should take a step back and view at the problems they are facing. More often than not they are because they have not followed one or more things from the list above. While it could take a huge effort to clean up the mess that is already created, it is never too late to start adopting some best practices that would steer them in the right direction over a period of time.
A good resource to start with is provided by Microsoft as part of their Tech Net Resource Center. Good Luck with your efforts and do let me know if I can help in any way.
With the advent of cloud computing and wide adoption of outsourced and offshore service models, many organizations are relying on partners to provide managed services, more than ever. While this will help transfer capital expenditure to operational expenditure and allow organizations to focus on “Core Competencies”, the challenge remains on how efficient the service model is and how satisfied the customers are? These also increase the risks for organizations as the impact of failure is felt the most by the sourcing organizations compared to the managed service providers.
On the flip side, it is reasonable for the partner to expect incentives for not only delivering outstanding services but also continually improving them. In this context it becomes very relevant to establish a relationship that constantly measures the outcomes and provides an opportunity for both parties to share the risk. Such models will provide incentives to all stakeholders for defining a business service better, identifying outcomes that are objective and also operate the process of periodic review and improvement of the services.
Let’s briefly look at each of the aspects mentioned in the title of the post.
“Managed Support Service”:
The fundamental principle that drives this aspect of a service model is the fact that the customer is not micro-managing the personnel of the partner by assigning specific tasks, rather measure the quality of service delivered and drive towards continuous improvement. The the quality of service is to be defined in terms of specific outcomes.
In my opinion the outcomes should be defined in business terms. While it is possible to define the business outcomes, it will be very hard to get the partners agree to specific outcomes and the associated incentives/penalties for (non) performance in delivering these outcomes. However, from an IT perspective, it will be lot more easier to leverage on the commitments made to the business i.e. the service levels to ensure they run their operations uninterrupted.
When the customer and the partner agrees to a managed service, based on the agreed upon outcomes, then there should be an incentive/penalty model that would drive the overall engagement to continual improvement. Thus, the partner gets penalized for non-performance but gets incentives for better performance.
These elements will ensure that the business gets what they want for the money they spend, the customer IT organization will manage the quality of service rather than partner’s personnel and the partner gets the incentives to deliver on commitments and continuously improve as well. This would be a “win-win” proposition for all the parties involved, in my opinion.
All in all, as noted in this article titled “What matters most in Outsourcing: Outcomes vs.Tasks“, by the CIO magazine, while the outcomes based managed service is a holy grail, I personally have driven multiple contracts in this direction and even managed programs in this model. Given the direction we are all headed in terms of Cloud based services, I think this is a model that would work and should be used more often.