Out With the Old; In With the New | Article

old telephoneIn the early 1990s Pacific Bell decided to undergo a makeover. The staff at Pacific Bell determined that the particular suite of services the company was using for corporate support were going to be rewritten and put on another platform, says Cathie Kavanaugh, technical director within computer operations at Pacific Bell. The communications company wanted to retire the Legacy system they were using and begin the new millenium on an updated system and set of applications, and a system with no year-2000 issues.

The IT department developed a plan where they would begin to transition from the Legacy to a new system by the summer of 1998. But unless new people were brought in to run the Legacy operations that the company currently used, it would leave little time for the current staff to build a new and functional system. In June 1996 they made a decision.

“What we decided to do was outsource the portion of that particular function, the transitional system, to Unisys so we could take the employees that had the strong business knowledge of those systems and have them work on developing the new system,” Kavanaugh says.

Extending the Relationship

Unisys took over the task that year. The Unisys staff, which is about 15 employees, works on the Pacific Bell premises in California. Pacific Bell chose to stay onsite as opposed to moving the operations to one of Unisys’ national service centers.

“Prior to establishing the outsourcing contract with Unisys, Pacific Bell had limited experience with outsourcing the operations environment. And since it was something new we were not initially comfortable with managing it from a site that wasn’t on Pacific Bell’s premises, Kavanaugh says. However, as the contract matured and we had a strong, confident and solid relationship with Unisys, we would have actually considered it, but since this is a transitional outsource it wouldn’t make sense now.”

The fact that the outsourcing is a transitional arrangement means that the deal won’t last forever. In fact, the deal is almost near fruition. Once the new system is up in December, the Legacy is put to rest and the work is finished for Unisys. The length of the arrangement has lasted longer then expected though.

Some of the new applications (reporting and payroll) have been implemented and are up and running on the new system. But Pacific Bell missed its summer 1998 transition date, in which they hoped to be completely off the Legacy system. This extension created some challenges for Pacific Bell.

Working Through a Merger

One challenge involved the acquisition of Pacific Bell by SBC Communications. The communications giant that now operates in eight states purchased Pacific Bell in April 1997. Because of the merger there was additional work that had to be done on the Legacy system, which was supported by Unisys, to standardize the applications between SBC and Pacific Bell, and consolidate the data centers.

“At the outset of June 96 no one could have anticipated the type of work in actual development and changes that would be needed on the Legacy side,” Kavanaugh says. “We assumed that it would be status quo until it was shut down. But there was a lot more activity due to the merger related activities and Unisys stepped up to doing more work.”

Kavanaugh says that she is pleased with the way Unisys has responded to Pacific Bell’s needs over the years and also at how low maintenance the arrangement is. The Unisys employees that are associated with the outsourcing contract report to one person that works for Unisys. That person is the single point of contact for those people and manages that side of the relationship.

“It is seamless to me,” she says. “It’s almost like an autonomous group that we don’t have to worry about. Everything funnels through the outsourcing manager.”

Kavanaugh has been personally involved with the outsourcing group for two and a half years and says she has found the Unisys’ outsourcing group extremely professional.

“They are so very flexible, and they have high standards and high ethics,” she says. “Since they have been running our operation, the service — the number of outages and the number of minutes of downtime associated with those outages — has significantly decreased. So it has been a mutually successful relationship. And when our relationship ends in a couple months it means that the arrangement has been a success. We certainly won’t miss the old (Legacy) system very much, but we will miss our partnership with Unisys.”

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