Outsourcing without taking steps such as virtualizing and consolidating IT infrastructure can merely result in an internal mess being transferred to an outside provider, Discovery Communications CIO David Kline says at an outsourcing conference in New York. It is also important for a company to know its limitations, cost and structure when outsourcing. The mere mention of the term is guaranteed to cause emotional debate among IT workers.
NEW YORK-During a
keynote address at the Global Sourcing Forum and Expo here on Nov. 11,
Discovery Communications CIO David Kline
suggested that any companies wanting to outsource their IT assets would do well
to virtualize, streamline and otherwise render shipshape their organizations
before the transfer.
"If your mess is a mess, and you turn it over, it's still going to be a
mess," Kline told the assembled audience.
"You could do an offshore ... where your management staff is saying,
'It's over there. It's not my problem anymore.' And that's not true. IT's still
your mess. Get it as clean as you can get it," Kline said. "Know
yourself. Know your limitations. It is a huge proposition to do global
Virtualization and consolidation, apparently, are key to getting a company's
IT infrastructure "clean" for outsourcing.
When Kline joined Discovery, he was tasked with helping CEO
David Zaslav reduce work force and increase the company's IT efficiency. As
part of that, he said, "We had to 'rightsize,'" reducing IT employee
count from nearly 600 to around 200. Kline also restructured Discovery's global
IT network, the hubs of which in Asia and Europe
operated on a different infrastructure of standards than in the United
Part of Discovery's process in outsourcing involved determining who among of
the physical staff had to be located in a specific place because of a job, eventually
transferring some staff to other locations in order to save money. On a broader
level, the company also restructured its infrastructure organization on a
follow-the-sun model, with teams in Europe, Asia
and the United States
trading off in 8-hour periods throughout the day.
But even more vital, Discovery learned, is a combination of having effective
governance processes in place to manage the relationship with outsourcing
vendors, and understanding the costs and processes within a system.
"The real value that global sourcing brings is the competitive edge of
flexibility that lets enterprises toggle up and down and ride out these
unpredictable storms," Kline said, citing Amazon.com and Salesforce.com as
examples of enterprises that could emerge from the global recession in a
stronger position thanks to reshaped corporate infrastructures.
Companies considering whether to outsource their IT jobs will also need to
consider the security implications. In a Sept. 29 report commissioned by
VanDyke Software and conducted by Amplitude Research, 61
percent of 350 IT professionals surveyed reported an unauthorized intrusion in
their outsourced systems within the past two years. By comparison, about 35
percent of respondents working for companies that kept their infrastructure
in-house reported an intrusion.
Whatever a company's ultimate decision on whether to outsource its infrastructure,
the very mention of the
term outsourcing is all but guaranteed to cause an emotional debate among
U.S.-based IT workers.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.