My CIO friend was looking glum, really glum if you know what I mean; and he is not the type who normally gets harried by issues, always cheerful, and willing to help others. He goes around telling people about thinking positive and choosing your attitude. It was surprising to see this side of his demeanour. So I asked him about the root cause of his worries.
He has always been a proponent of outsourcing over his illustrious career spanning more than two decades, more like a trendsetter than a follower. In that he had worked with outsourcing companies large and small, local and global, structuring large deals that were acknowledged and appreciated by the companies he worked for as well as the vendors. When someone needed advice on managing tricky situations or contracts, he was the person they approached.
Building on an existing contract that did well, he had extended the scope of services and support for a longer tenure. Considering that the outsourcing vendor had been working with him for a long time it was seen as a natural and logical extension. There was merit and value in the deal for both sides. It was like a no-brainer deal. Going into execution he did not foresee any challenges barring the initial teething troubles when any new service is commissioned.
A disruptive extension?
The slip between the lip and the proverbial cup or intent to execution started going awry very quickly. Process review and tool deployment planned, the timelines slid with consistency that was expected of improvements. Existing services that had been working well for many years also started deteriorating. Monthly review meetings attended by increasing levels of management made the right noises but delivery failed to align to commitments. Whatever happened to ITIL led SLA and global best practice?
I was surprised to hear of his misery considering that the relationship with the vendor preceded his arrival into the company and that successful outsourcing was child play for my CIO friend. Large deals have a way of coming to life on their own; they do not always follow a predictable pattern, instead they find their own lowest common denominator in which they settle down before improvements begin. He acknowledged this hypothesis and queried how should he respond to adverse business impact or disruptions to critical business processes?
This was discussed in the review meetings and the team said they were committed to making amends. Reality being different, he was exasperated with selective and partial information sharing. It is not the way relationships are built and sustained. What causes this gap? I do not believe for a moment that there is mal intent present; but how to bring the train back on track? Was it about transition from courtship to marriage predicament where partners take the relationship for granted? The nuptial agreement spelt out everything, but … Not wanting to proffer advice to the wise, I sought his game plan.
Forget the SLA, the contract, that can come back later; it is people who make things happen. For the situation to change, the people have to be brought back to the table with a rigour to the review that sticks accountability to senior leaders and individuals. Review and monitor everyone by the day on the plan and change people if they are unable to run with the required speed. Keep the pressure up until they deliver or want out of the relationship. It is critical and important to keep the end objective in mind, and that is linked to business expectations and improvements.
I wished him luck and promised to connect back in a few weeks again.