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Combating the Modern Outsourcing of IT

03/14/2012 by: The SunView Team

Mix the hum of CPU fans, and the crisp, cool air of a server room, and you'll find almost any member of IT (at least any that have been in the business for at least a decade), right at home. There just seems to be something about the tinnitus-inducing pitch of electronics whirling and whizzing that soothes a geek's soul. Not to mention, it was a walled off place that other members of the business could see, but never access.

The server room was, by all accounts, a magical place that kept the business alive, a central nervous system that was valued and protected like no other resource. During this time, the heyday of the IT department if you will, nothing was more important than having skilled personnel that knew how to keep all that working. Essentially, a team of experts that understood things that no one else could, they were treated with equal parts of respect and fear. Something happened to change all that, and while there were a number of items working in unison, the big catalyst was "The Cloud."

In a way, "The Cloud" has become its own magical place, offering the promise of tools that enhance productivity, improve efficiency, and reduce cost. Of course, while all those things are possible, it has really become a backdoor, or in some instances even a front door, for outsourcing almost all IT functions within an organization.

While not inherently bad, this type movement, or shift really, to bypass the controls put in place by IT, as well as other departments within the organization (read Finance) has consequences that may not be realized until it is too late. How did we get here though, and is there anything that can be done to reverse the course?

So let's start at the beginning and take a look at what happened to drive the IT department's customers to pursue new roads and avenues. The best way to do this is to think of IT as a border crossing. Unfortunately, it's the only border crossing, and there are no available alternatives. Given that there are a variety of reasons to cross, such as the delivery of goods and services mixed in with individuals that are just looking to vacation, there should be some sort of order, or process, for getting through. Ultimately though, these things do not exist, and thus a single border crossing creates a bottleneck. Not to mention determining which reasons are more important than the other is almost impossible.

So, in terms of IT, while whole departments might be looking for a solution that improves productivity and efficiency, they tend to have to wait in the same line as an individual that wants to install the latest version of instant messenger. Right or wrong, most teams aren't willing to wait. After all, they have the same demands the business imposes on IT, and thus will create solutions for themselves, something that the cloud has made a lot easier - at a cost though, mainly in control and visibility - two concerns that are most commonly associated with rushed attempts at outsourcing.

Now, with the realization that your IT functions may already be following this fate (even if they are not right now, it is very likely they soon will be), you can still take steps to proactively address individuals, as well as departments that have stepped outside of established controls. To help get you started, we've included five of the most important steps you should be taking right now. In addition, with each step we've added a suggestion related to how your ITSM tool could help play a role as well. If you aren't sure if your tool has these features, don't forget to take a look at our ITSM Solution Getting Started Guide. It has 50 Key questions you should ask your ITSM solution, or any new one you may be looking at.

50 Questions for Building ITSM Requirements

Talk to Your Users (Customers)

Regular meetings with department leadership can help you determine what functions they have already moved to the cloud, and which areas they may currently be looking at. This is a time for you to ask questions, understand what problems various teams are trying to solve and or cope with. At this stage, it really is all about discovery, and less about chastising or outing a team that has gone outside established guidelines. Also, depending on the size of your organization, talking to your users could be a major initiative in and of itself. So, in those instances, be sure to start small. When it comes to ITSM Software, consider promoting the services you offer to the business with a Service Catalog.

Meet / Recommit with Finance and Other Leadership

There is an old saying that goes something to the effect of, "There is power in the purse strings." Essentially, Finance, as well as leadership within your organization, at least those that tend to control spending, are the most effective partners you can have. Since they have a vested interest in controlling costs, as well as ensuring the security of data, they will need to be included in any process (re)design. A good strategy to promote your value, is to make sure your ITSM has options to automatically generate and distribute reports to leaders. Be sure to highlight that going their own route means they will be responsible for all that on their own, and making sense of large amounts of data is something IT does best.

Design an Approval Process
By now you should have an understanding of what your users (customers) are trying to do, as well as have a commitment from decision makers within the organization. These two pieces will allow you define and map a submission/request process, as well as identify how that should be approved, and by whom. Thinking of your ITSM tool, make sure it is conducive to improving the management of your overall Portfolio of services (Portfolio Management).

Empower Decision Makers
As mentioned in the post above, the real goal is to remove the bottleneck so decisions can be made much more quickly. That means you are going to have to shift some decision making down, or at least out, to other individuals. Of course, that's not to say everything will have rubber stamp approval. Guidelines and regular review of what has been purchased, as well as thresholds based on impact to the organization, will still need to exist. Start right now though, and begin indentifying individuals that can serve as surrogates, or liaisons, for teams looking to implement a solution. Remember, "The Cloud" makes it easy for users to simply take a credit card and sign up for what they feel like is the best solution. However, keeping track of which services have been purchased, and making sure they add value to the business, are things IT can, and should focus on. With regards to your ITSM tool, make sure you can take critical decisions to the necessary decision makers. This means automating approval processes to streamline the process and improve organizational visibility

Evaluate Your ITSM Solution
As we have added with each of the previous steps, there are parts of your ITSM solution that are an essential part of any organizational change. Ultimately, an organization can have the best plans laid out, but then lack a real way to implement and control the changes. Simply relying on email here won't do. At a bare minimum, you will need an IT Service Management solution that supports items such as an automated approval processes, and/or a full-featured Service Catalog.

Image: Flickr | miteyheroes