More and more organizations are outsourcing their services. This is routine for facilities organizations, but may take some getting used to for IT organizations. However, they also have a lot to gain. There is a lot to say for outsourcing services during times of crisis: you lower your monthly costs and have greater freedom in only employing staff when you need them. Facilities organizations have a long history of outsourcing services, such as cleaning and catering, but outsourcing is also becoming more popular within the IT field. Unfortunately, this does not always improve efficiency, and can have a negative effect on services. In this article we will use two typical case studies to explain our perspective on how IT and facilities organizations handle outsourcing, and what this can mean for these fields.
An unnamed IT organization
A few years ago, I visited a successful Dutch multinational. They had always taken care of their own IT services, from the helpdesk and workspace management to system and network management. When the crisis hit, the company decided to outsource its entire IT department to a large IT service provider. It was essential that the costs be as low as possible. I noticed that outsourcing had a negative effect on their services. The service provider had moved the helpdesk to Suriname, for instance. It was a lot cheaper, but customers soon discovered that the quality of the service had deteriorated. The helpdesk staff was not familiar with the hardware and software used by the client, so they could not gauge the impact a malfunction would have. In addition, the client had not standardized its hardware or software, making it difficult for the service provider to manage its systems. The IT service supply and demand is the root of this problem. The IT department wants an affordable solution, but they should be focusing on the quality of service. If that was their main focus, they would not outsource the helpdesk to Suriname – a questionable decision at any rate. This is why the IT department should clearly formulate their goals and communicate them to the service provider. It is even more important that the business and the IT supplier continue to discuss and monitor the solution. This key element was missing in this case.
Endemol’s facilities department
Endemol, a Dutch producer of television shows, has a lot of experience in outsourcing services. Their facilities department runs its own service counter, while everything else is taken care of by external parties. The facilities department’s main task is managing the suppliers. The organizational structure worked, but the services still had room for improvement. They had trouble with the high staff turnover and did not like having to see new faces so often. These frequent changes affected the contact with the service desk. Moreover, Endemol and the suppliers’ expectations did not match, leading to dissatisfaction. When Endemol decided to relocate a number of years ago, they took the opportunity to make new agreements with its suppliers. To improve communication, external employees took up dedicated positions at Endemol, working under a permanent manager. The service desk also received a more central position in the new building – literally. In addition, the IT, Facilities and HR coordinators take part in a monthly production meeting to ensure that the supporting departments stay up to date on the customer’s expectations. Finally, they conduct a survey every year to gauge employee satisfaction.
IT can learn from Facilities
I could see that these changes were a success when I last visited Endemol. The employees were satisfied with the services, and the Facilities department could see an improvement in the collaboration between the suppliers and the rest of the organization. I think that the approach taken by Endemol’s Facilities department is a great example of how outsourcing should be tackled. The Facilities department is responsible for the quality of services provided by the supplier, and sets clear supplier requirements. The supplier is closely involved with the entire organization and there is an ongoing dialogue between the department and the customer. Supply and demand is a natural part of operations for Endemol and many other Facilities organizations: it is simply a part of a Facilities employee’s daily tasks. The IT world is only just discovering outsourcing, and still eyes suppliers suspiciously. This is why I advise IT organizations to learn from their colleagues in Facilities Management. Outsourcing services may be new to IT organizations, so why not take advantage of the years of experience Facilities organizations have?