How to keep your users happy through a supplier transition


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30-Sep-2019 09:12:26

In my last piece, I talked about Problem Management and how it is often confused with Major Incident management. In fact, while the two are linked, they are very different beasts. However strong your Problem Management, you must be ready for business critical incidents.

When moving from an in-house provisioned ICT service to an outsource model, organisations may overlook the impact of the supplier transition on service level performance.

At an operational level blurred lines of accountability or responsibility may become an excuse for SLA breaches and falling levels of end user satisfaction. While SLAs can no longer be guaranteed, what can be guaranteed is that nobody wants to be in a position of having to make excuses.

The transition period is a time when the supplier will certainly not want to take on the responsibility for current SLAs; indeed they would not have sufficient control to do so. Organisations often retain the responsibility of delivering agreed service levels to their end users (their customers) until the contractually agreed service commencement date. While the supplier will work with the organisation to manage risks and ensure that disruption is minimised, organisations should be proactive in guiding this relationship.

Being proactive means being equipped with the necessary management information. Hence a key area where organisations can make a difference with relatively minor effort is measurement and reporting. Thought should be given to whether the business as usual (BAU) SLA reporting and KPI measurement is sufficient to manage a period where the ICT organisation is anything but BAU.

This does not mean devising new SLAs but simply reviewing the granularity of management information, reporting frequency, and end user satisfaction. A relatively simple approach will help detect issues, uncover trends, and provide evidence-based information from which to drive corrective engagement, either internally or in collaboration with the supplier.

Begin by completing a data mining exercise on your ICT support data. Then select a sample of your users from across the organisation (users who represent the highest contact with IT) and perform a number of face-to-face user interviews. Use the analysis of the collected data to create a holistic view of performance via a structured series of quantifiable observations, conclusions and statements that will elicit the necessary understanding of the ICT service today.

For a six month transition, aim to run this exercise at least three times; immediately prior to transition, after 3 months and again just prior to the suppliers contractual service commencement date. At a time when your in-house resources are likely to be stretched, you may choose to take an independent view. This offers the extra benefit of being accepted as credible and impartial by all parties.

A basic benchmarking exercise will create a baseline of the ICT services today and the user perception of the service. This will help inform the "as is" state prior to the supplier beginning transition. Not only can this be used as a reference point during transition to improve control, it will be invaluable for gauging the supplier success at improving services over the contract period. By adopting this approach you are communicating your unwavering focus on service to the end user at a time when it is all too easy to fall into a cycle of excuses.

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Pete Canavan
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