Riding Out the Storm | Article

earth in a stormThere are many reasons for a company to choose outsourcing, but usually not included among them are averting natural disasters. Well, it is now safe to add it to the list.

Unisys’ service center in Eagan, Minnesota is equipped to the hilt with IT (information technology) security. And while businesses shut down last year when a tornado ravaged Eagan and the outlying area, Unisys’ service center weathered the storm without a glitch. The clients that use Unisys’ system never missed a beat, while other business not so heavily equipped, including the electric company, woke up to disorder. If only the electric company had Unisys’ back up capabilities. Eight days after the storm 2,000 residents still sat in the dark, which is actually a far better tally then the 50,000 electric company customers that initially lost their power.

“When there is an emergency situation, we have the added benefit of numerous resources at our disposal to help us quickly resolve problems,” says David Rovinsky, “We have dual phone and power services, which are all backed up by six diesel generators. And we also have numerous experts on hand that can resolve almost any problem. Whereas the clients, before they made the switch to Unisys and were running their systems themselves, had only one security person. And when that individual is out for any reason, the client is very vulnerable.”

Numerous Offerings

The service center in Eagan serves the individual needs of its clients, Rovinsky says. Some use the center for end-to-end IT solutions while others prefer to selectively outsource and dabble in a single function or two. The services offered at the center include networks, applications, desktop, help desk, midrange outsourcing and other functions.

The center also provides mainframe operations. Unisys is vendor independent; meaning that it outsources numerous mainframes, including its own line of Unisys’ mainframes, he says. But they are also able to implement and/or operate IBM and an assortment of others.

“We are mainly geared by what is currently in house with the client,” Rovinsky says. “They usually want to remain with their current mainframes and whatever they have we can adapt to. We have the proper infrastructure at our various service centers and the skill set — the people, methodology and resources — that can respond to various mainframe requirements.”

Clients have the option of moving their mainframe to one of the service centers or the IT company can work onsite from the client’s current place of business, he says. The bulk of Unisys’ clients prefer to move the mainframe to one of Unisys’ service centers, so that it is completely out of their hands.

“But there are also a handful of clients that need to be able to walk down the hall and touch their hardware,” he says. “Or they don’t want to transition their employees and hardware into a service centers, so we accommodate them as well and run it on their site.”

Planting the Seed

Rovinsky says that Unisys has a transition methodology called “seeding the transition.” The first step in the seeding process is to duplicate or replicate the client’s current hardware in its service center. Unisys then moves the client’s hardware via train, plane, or truck to the service center. The third step is to reinstall the hardware into the service center. This system is used to prevent any break in service.

“Our clients see results immediately,” he says. “If we transition them into a larger mainframe, a more robust network, or some other enhancement, the client’s users will see, immediately, a faster response time, a faster turnaround, and better problem resolution. If the client is only handing over their operations to us then they won’t even notice there has been a change. They can leave for work on Friday evening and when they sign on (to their computers) Monday morning it will be business as usual. The transition is that smooth.”

A transition such as this will often reduce the client’s IT costs, he says. “There have been very few deals where we have not reduced a customer’s cost of operation. And then they can use those cost reductions to enhance their budgets or spend it elsewhere for other needed improvements.”

Large to small mainframe operations can be transitioned. He says that they have transitioned large multiple mainframe accounts like United Healthcare and Subaru and smaller companies that have one small to midsize mainframe.

No matter the size, planning is essential to any successful transition, he continues. “We have a world class methodology for transition,” he says. “We have had somewhere around forty clients over the last couple years and we have also consolidated over 100 Unisys’ internal sites into a service center. So we have done it over and over again.”

Rovinsky sees mainframe outsourcing as a growing area. It is rare though to see only the mainframe get outsourced without the surrounding peripherals or the input and output devices like the disk, tape and network. Clients often view the mainframe and its peripherals as a commodity that can be easily run by IT experts.

“Why not have experts remove that problem from their hands so the company can focus on their core business and not have to worry about the upkeep of this commodity,” he says, “whether it be in healthcare, automotive or any other industry.”

Lessons From the Outsourcing Primer:

  • Service centers are often equipped with diesel generators and other security measures that reduce the chances of costly downtime.
  • Many companies that have in-house IT operations are vulnerable to outages because of limited support and resources.
  • “Seeding the transition” means that the outsourcer replicates its client’s in-house operations at a service center and then transitions the client to the service center, so there is no down time.
  • Outsourcing the mainframe gives the client more time to spend on its core functions instead of the mundane task of operating the system.
  • Companies often view the mainframe and its peripherals as a commodity that can easily be outsourced.

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