Are you ready to deliver your newly signed IT contract?

As this new business year begins, I want to start with a post that sets the note for my study topic in the first quarter of 2014. It is the demand for continuity in every sense – after signing an IT contract – a topic often ignored: SERVICE TRANSITION.

Service Transition has nuances that go beyond what is prescribed in ITIL. Discussing and negotiating large IT contracts requires more effort than one actually thinks it should entail. This often leads to the result that people are singled out for 5-6 months to design and close the contract. On the IT buyers side, this is usually treated as a project with definite goals. The providers put together what is generally known as the pursuit team (with sales, technology experts and solution architects).

The solutioning and contracting process is an effort intensive task and involves the above teams sitting together for 5-6 months – meeting every day and having very detailed discussions on how to set up future operations. Depending on how such discussions go and the amount of value each side finds in the other, these teams either grow apart or get closer to one another. The presence of an advisory party helps to bring balance into the contract in both situations. I have been on all sides of this table – and it has been a 360 degree learning experience. It is amazing how your current viewpoint can affect the way you interpret a situation.

After the contract is signed, the IT buyer team is relieved on having completed the “contracting project”, and the Pursuit team celebrates having won the contract. What both teams often neglect to do is getting their individual organizations ready for the contract.

After seeing many initiatives go through the trough of despair after signing the contract, here is my thought-jogger list:

If you are buying IT services…

Have you thought of:
a) Does your team know the scope of services of the contract?
b) How should your team reorganize themselves to face the new provider – what are the touch points?
c) What are the new roles and responsibilities on your side of the contract? Have you designated a Service Transition Manager?
d) Who should perform the above roles? Are they equipped for these roles (skill & experience)? Are they enabled to perform these roles (time and authority)?

If you are the Provider

Have you thought of:
a) How do you transfer the knowledge gathered during the contract into the delivery organization?
b) How do you ramp up to get the people who you need on the ground asap?
c) How do you continue the relationship that you have just painstakingly built over the last months with new members entering the picture?
d) What should you set up to manage the contract that you have negotiated?
e) How can you transfer the good relationship and rapport that you have built up with your new client to the future delivery team?

Ideally you don’t want to bring in the Delivery organizations on both sides into play only after the contract is signed.

Such discussions and decisions should happen long before. There is great benefit in bringing these parts of the organization earlier into the picture as periphery teams. The core teams should involve the periphery teams gradually into the discussion in the later stages of the contract. This should go through the stages: BRIEF THEM ON SOLUTION, INVOLVE THEM IN THE DISCUSSION, INVOLVE IN DECISION MAKING. Both sides should perform a contract readiness check based on questions such as the above.

I will be spending the first quarter of 2014 exploring the multiple facets of this situation. Stay tuned.

photo credit: qwrrty via photopin cc

Why defining your Transformation collaboratively can be one of the best business decisions you could make

At the heart of your outsourcing contract is usually the desire to get a better service at a lower cost. However as this article on Outsourcing from Stephanie Overby rightly points out, “….the typical outsourcing contract contains a paragraph committing the parties to develop a plan for transformation — and that’s it”.

If you are in the midst of defining the goals of your transformation, you are likely to face the following questions:

  • Should I define the transformation in isolation, or do it along with the provider?
  • How do I reach the balance between being prescriptive (tell the provider what to do) and looking for a solution (ask him what to do)?

Transformation

Photo courtesy: Lego

I have achieved my best results by collaboratively defining Transformation. This is one of the unique advantages of an outsourcing dialog.

Be clear about what you want to achieve

  • You should be clear about the business goals of your program – state it clearly so that there is no ambiguity. Avoid buzz words.
  • But do not land into a “paralysis of analysis” – broadly define what you want to achieve and welcome ideas on how others have achieved the same or similar goals

Tap into the experience of your outsourcing provider

  • Ask your potential providers where they have helped other providers achieve similar goals.
  • Your questions should follow this line of thought: “what were these goals, how were they defined, how were they achieved?”
  • The answers to the above questions make sure that you stay in the “fact-domain”.
  • Do not fall into the trap of asking the provider how to achieve your goals – if you do this, you are forcing him to put on his “sales cap”.
  • Assume positive intent. Help your provider to show their technical and operational expertise.

Adapt your transformation approach in an iterative manner

  • Translate what you are hearing to your own situation
  • Questions that you need to ask yourself when you hear something interesting – does it fit? Why does it not fit? Is your situation similar? What are the parallels between your situation and what you have just heard?
  • It need not be applicable in its original form. However, can you adapt it or take pieces of what you are hearing to improve your own approach?
  • As you continue to do this – formulate your approach in greater detail and tune it based on the above inputs.
  • Take a reality check – what were the goals that you had initially defined for yourself and how these have adjusted over time after your dialog with your service provider. Are you satisfied with the changes you made?

Service providers who specialize in transformation do this as a living – and they get to see these situations everyday in varying circumstances and combinations.

Instead of forcing your provider to specify how to achieve your goals early in the game, you should tap into their experience. It is easy to forget this in the heat of the dialog.

How are you defining your transformational approach? Are you doing it collaboratively?

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