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IT service desk outsourcing - Key questions to ask your provider

Posted by Calvin Bradshaw on 19 Mar 2015, 12:00:00

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IT-outsourcing-checklist-blogDeciding to outsource an IT function such as your service desk can deliver some significant benefits to your organisation.  That said, the choice of partner is critical.  So what are some of the things you need to consider?

OK, confession time.  I have made some bad decisions.  I think everyone has at some time in their lives/careers!  I remember when I was starting out in IT management, and made a (particularly) bad recommendation (in fact it ended up as a purchase). Why?  I had done the research, the checks, and then made the best decision with the information at hand at the time. But the issue was, I took everything the supplier said on face value, and also, didn't know some of the right questions to ask.

With hindsight, it was easy to look back and say "I wish I had asked them that during the selection process".

Maybe that is why I love checklists.  Sure, you can ignore the 90% of things on the checklist that you already know or have done, but there is that one, or maybe a few, things that you will pick up that will mean the difference between a good decision, and a nightmare engagement.

If, like me, you are also 'checklist' person, I can save you the pain of reading my ramblings below by just downloading the IT outsourcing checklist!  

Still here?  OK, here is my version of some of the important areas to check into before pushing the 'Go' button on service desk outsourcing.

They are;

  1. The Service Levels
  2. The Company
  3. The Toolset
  4. The Teamwork
  5. The Contract

1. The Service Levels

Obviously first up, you need to check if the proposed service level measures (SLM's) you are signing up for are going to meet your business needs.   Also, are they actually in the service level agreements (SLA) and the contract documentation?  What is the remedy process and penalties for non-compliance?

Is this service desk responsive to the end users, and is it going to 'Wow' them when they call? (hopefully that’s a wow in a good way!).  A starting point would be and offering high call-answer rates. Depending on your industry, 95% of calls answered in less than 30 seconds would be considered acceptable, 90% the minimum. 

Does the provider measure, report on, and pass the service levels for other, similar accounts? One way to do this is to request copies from other company monthly reports, particularly historical and trend performance.  This will be a way to validate the service level compliance claims.

2. The Company

Request an organisation chart of the team that will provide support, with names. What is the role of each person? What is the escalation plan?   Ideally, this should be part of the overall engagement plan. 

Is service desk outsourcing a core business line for the provider?   What relevant outsourcing experience does the management team have, who are they, and are they on the organisation chart and in the escalation path? 

Is the company financially viable, and if so what credentials or current government certifications do they have?  One way to check this is to ask if they are on a government procurement panel.  This will mean the provider has passed at least basic financial checks.

3. The Toolset

One important area of questioning is around what IT Service management toolset will be used to support the services.  If it is one of the big providers like ServiceNow, Cherwell Service Management or BNC Remedy then you have a good starting point.   If not, check where it is on the Gartner Magic Quadrant for ITSM toolsets.

When you outsource, one of the common concerns is that you many lose some visibility of the work that is being done.   With the right tools, and the right configuration, this does not have to be the case -- always insist on complete transparency of services work.  One way to get this is to have full visibility of all ticket notes and details.  Sure it may be uncomfortable for an outsourcer to have their work notes make available to your management, but it is your data, your IP, your users.  What is there to hide? 

In terms of reporting, be particularly diligent about the reports that you will be given.  Does it cater for everything you need to report to your business on the viability and performance of the service desk?  If not, discuss what you need.  Some providers charge for ad-hoc (potentially more detailed) reports that the business may need from time to time.

4. The Teamwork

Are you outsourcing everything, or just the service desk?  If you have some teams remaining, then visibility across all teams is critical.  You need to ask if the providers ITSM tool allows you to create resolver groups for your own teams.  

That is a big plus -- with all the ticketing, and workload, and interaction in one place this simplifies getting a view of the overall IT service being provided, including workload, and Service Level compliance.

5. The Contract

Of course you will get your legal team to check the contract. 

Beyond that, there are some other factors you need to be confident on.  'Are all services provided in-house' is an important question to ask this as some outsourcing companies may subcontract work. This may pose a risk if there are not back to back security and confidentiality agreements in place. 

Also, are any services offshored?  Again, depending on your propensity for risk, your expected costs, and your end-user profiling, you may wish to check the security, confidentiality, and service agreements of offshore providers. 

And, although this might sound pretty darn obvious, ensure you thoroughly understand the pricing model, particularly any variation metrics. What additional costs could be involved that are ‘out of scope’?   Get the provider to show you an expected total contract cost per month.  

So that’s it.  My (personal) 'things you should consider' list for outsourcing your service desk.  There are lots more, I am sure, and you may need to add or modify these considerations to your own scenario and business needs.




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Topics: IT Outsourcing

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