The information technology (IT) department at Geon, a compound company, has consolidated many of its help desk functions under the roof of a sole outsourcer ? Compaq ? over the last three years. Currently Geon is reviewing the bids of several vendors to reduce the number of outsourcers on the desk to only one, in the hopes of further simplifying the help desk function, says Kris Brunk, manager of desktop technology.
“Today I have three different groups supporting me on the help desk, which has proven to be difficult to manage for the amount of work that we are doing here,” Brunk says.
The Geon Company, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of the top producers of vinyl resin and the world’s largest merchant producer of vinyl compounds. It has more than 1,800 employees and operates 13 manufacturing plants worldwide. Geon’s IT department works directly with the company’s businesses and provides its technical needs. The department consists of 35 Geon employees and 17 outsourced employees who all work onsite.
Three years ago Brunk and the rest of the IT department’s staff decide to outsource some of its functions following some dramatic changes at Geon. One of the changes was the implementation of a help desk, and the company thought it would be easier to control the skills and the people of the desk if it were outsourced.
Compaq proved to be the right fit for most of the work. The hiring of Compaq was Geon’s first strategic move into outsourcing. At the time, Geon had a long ongoing relationship with Compaq because traditionally the company’s systems have run on Compaq equipment. Currently, three years into a five year contract, Compaq handles the operation and manufacturing systems helpdesk, which is about half of the help desk operation, while a mixture of vendors fill in the other half.
Consolidating All The Pieces
Geon is now looking for a provider to take on even more help desk responsibility. The compound company wants a single integrator to handle the gamut of what Geon supports. The only thing that won’t be included on the new proposal is the service piece that supports its mainframe hardware. The reasons they want all of the desk functions under one outsourcing umbrella are simple. First, Geon wants an IT partner in the helpdesk and end user support arena that will help them be the best at providing that service. And second, it wants to simplify the management of its help desk and improve overall support.
“I will be able to spend less time administrating if I have one group to manage through, instead of several groups,” she says. “But we are also hoping to gain economies of scale. Our hope is that if one supplier provides us with several services we will be able to negotiate a better price.”
Currently Geon is reviewing several bids for the new proposal that include Compaq. Geon will make a decision in August and begin implementation in September.
“When we decided to go out for this proposal we chose companies that we had past relationships with because they knew quite a bit about us and we knew quite a bit about them,” she says. “We did it that way in the hopes that the implementation period would be shorter and less painful because the companies are familiar with our standards and our culture.”
Because Compaq has a good relationship with Geon, the IT company is in a good position to win the bid even though Brunk says there are no favorites at this point.
“Compaq has been very flexible in the services that they are providing us and they manage their group very well,” Brunk says. “Geon looks for the extras in an outsourcing relationship, not above and beyond the existing contract, but the hidden benefits that are not necessarily written into the contract and Compaq has brought a lot of those to the table.”
Geon’s Outsourcing Future
Currently Geon is not looking to outsource any functions beyond the help desk. It plans to keep the rest of its IT operations in house. Brunk says that Geon has done several studies on the cost effectiveness of outsourcing. And so far Geon hasn’t been able to find an outsourcing provider that can run its IT department in a more cost-effective manner than it is being run today.
“For the level of service that our department provides and the cost that it takes to run this department it couldn’t be outsourced and continue to provide that same level of service at the same cost,” she says.
But overall Brunk thinks that outsourcing is a good route to take. She suggests that outsourcing clients understand the services that they are going to receive and make a precise decision on what they want to accomplish by outsourcing.
“When we outsourced our help desk we wanted to control our costs and provide better service in a consistent manner,” she says. “I think that a lot of people step into outsourcing and their only objective is to reduce costs. They don’t take into account the service that they are going to get. And I think that they are making a huge mistake as a company.”
Lessons From The Outsourcing Primer:
- Consolidating a company’s functions under a single integrator can make an outsourcing arrangement easier to manage.
- Using one vendor can potentially improve service because there is one point of contact to work through.
- Using vendors that a company has worked with in the past may reduce implementation time because the companies are familiar with each other’s culture and standards.
- Companies shouldn’t look at cost as the driving factor behind outsourcing, but instead look at the service.