For the past two weeks, I’ve wandered wide away from my usual orbits. I’ve been in one the Benelux countries (hint: it’s the one with the best beer) assisting in the preparations needed to help bring IT operations back in-house from a third-party provider based here. The company itself is solidly global with major data centers in Belgium, Singapore, and New Jersey.
Aside from a contrarian (and to me, very welcome) switch from outsourcing to a kind of insourcing, the trip was absolutely fascinating for me because of the purpose of the meetings we held. The primary focus was to understand how the vendor is handling things now, particularly with regard to its tools, processes, and procedures. Though –as is invariably the case when a change of hands and control occurs – the company plans to make some changes when it accepts the handoff from the vendor, it knows it needs to understand how things work right now, to keep them working when they have to take over and keep doing what the vendor is doing for them right now, and what they must do themselves starting on the cutover date and thereafter.
Of course, the two organizations will work in parallel for a while (a period called “shadowing”) where the vendor will take the lead up to the transition point, as the company mounts and operates parallel operations in the background. After transition, the tables turn, and the company takes the lead role, but the vendor keeps on operating in parallel to make sure they can resume control if the company’s operations fail or run into difficulties.
What’s been both fascinating and educational to observe , and even to participate in, has been the back-and-forth between vendor and company as the handoff comes ever closer to the cutover date. The kinds of questions that come up have primarily to do with soliciting enough detail to ensure smooth operation as the current controlling entity (the vendor) passes control over to the future one (the company). Natually, both sides are concerned that the transition go smoothly, and be successful, but both sides have slightly different aims: the vendor wants to accomplish the handover without having to do too much extra work, while the company wants everything and anything they can lay hands or eyes onto to shed as much light on day-to-day problems, issues, procedures, and resource requirements as they possibly can.
Given a situation that could have been tense and fraught with animosity, relations were professional and mostly unemotional. Sometimes, they were downright cordial. To the company’s surprise and delight they discovered that the vendor’s well-described and documented procedures were not only numerous and well named and identified, but also chock-full of useful details and helpful information. As the person tasked with making up any gaps in those materials, and in customizing them to fit the company environment as closely as possible, I heaved a sigh of relief as I recognized that my own workload had dropped from outright Herculean to merely difficult and challenging.
I look forward to encountering and subduing those challenges in the weeks and months ahead, and in reporting here on how things go. For the moment, suffice it to say that surprisingly stable Windows runtime environments, including some vast Citrix server farms, have helped to make the transition process not only conceivable and technically feasible, but also seem fairly doable to those responsible for making it happen—including me!