How to Properly Assess Your IT Outsourcing Partner

By Mike Alley  |  Posted 2011-01-24

How to Properly Assess Your IT Outsourcing Partner

Companies that have already gotten their feet wet outsourcing IT services are leaps ahead of their competitors who are just now putting a toe in the water. Outsourcing extends the reach of enterprise computing environments, changes the scope of available IT services and empowers internal IT staff to focus on more strategic tasks.

So, how do you know whether or not the IT outsourcing partner with whom you've tested the waters is the one who can help you fully leverage outsourcing to work in your favor on an ongoing basis? Have you chosen the right outsourcing partner or do you need a new one?

As evolved as technology outsourcing has become, getting the most for your outsourcing dollar really comes down to knowing that you have the right outsourcing partner and the right service-level agreement (SLA) to meet your business objectives, delivered at the right price. If you don't have these things, it's time to change providers. To help you assess your outsourcing partner, consider the following four tips:

Tip No. 1: Make sure your expectations are met

Take a look at your current contract and compare your expectations with what is being delivered. Are the services really meeting the end results you were trying to achieve by outsourcing the service? Many companies find themselves dissatisfied with the service they are getting but choose to just live with it. When you find yourself in this position, you need to meet with your provider and determine if it can adapt and deliver the service you really need. If not, find an IT outsourcing partner that can.

Remember, there are many outsourcing services available to you: managed services, IT contract management, application management and software as a service (SAAS) to name a few. This is not a canned product but a customizable deliverable that should be based on your company's specific needs.

Tip No. 2: Ensure your services are delivered around best practices

How do you compare the services being delivered against the services defined in your contract?  High-quality outsourcing partners deliver their services through IT service management (ITSM) tools that connect agreed upon SLAs to actual service delivery. If you find that your current provider is not meeting its SLAs, it is time to dig in and uncover the underlying problem. Processes and communication are the foundation for outsourcing success. If you feel this foundation is missing from your current provider, it may be time to reevaluate who is performing your services.

Survey Your Team

Tip No. 3: Survey your team

Your own internal team often knows how well the relationship with your IT outsourcing partner is or is not working. Get them to provide honest, critical feedback to help determine whether you're working with the right partner or whether you need a new one.

Tip No. 4: Check your return on investment 

One of the main reasons for using IT outsourcing in the first place is to reduce costs and get a clear return on your investment. Is your current IT outsourcing partner enabling your team to invest time in projects that provide clear value-and support revenue-for your organization? If not, you have another reason to reconsider the relationship.

If you determine that it's time to move to a new outsourcing partner, don't make the critical mistake of signing an outsourcing contract and thinking, "OK, I'm done." In reality, a service provider has to be managed just like employees do. With outsourcing, you are only going to get out of the relationship what you put into it. So, if you are not communicating with your provider or if you are not informing that provider about changes within your company's business units, don't expect your partner to be able to make recommendations to help you incorporate the change into your outsourced services. Communication is key to a solid, long-term outsourcing relationship.

If you find that you do need to make a partner change, be prepared to work with both your current partner and your new partner for a defined transition period. Of course, the length of time for such a transition varies depending on the complexity of the tasks being outsourced but expect between 30 and 60 days.

Mike Alley is Director of Outsourcing for Logicalis. He can be reached at

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