“We developed a foundation of trust which is not always evident in outsourcing relationships.”
Lee Di Berardino, Chief Information Officer, Corporate & Business, Information Technology Branch, Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
Definition: Both parties worked together to architect and/or manage IT infrastructure. The provider must operate the infrastructure efficiently and seamlessly. The IT relationship had to increase the buyer’s flexibility and scalability and provide better support to its business functions.
The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy in Australia does just what its name says: it is a government agency that administers policy and delivers programs across the country associated with communications. Its purview includes digital television, the national broadband network and cyber safety.
The government agency had an outsourced IT infrastructure contract that was approaching the end of its contracted term. As the outsourcing contract was due to expire, the Department considered bringing the function back in house. But Lee Di Berardino, Chief Information Officer, Corporate & Business, Information Technology Branch for the Department, felt outsourcing was still the answer.
“As the newly appointed CIO, I felt an outsourced model suited us best,” he says. Di Berardino says outsourcing IT gave the Department the following benefits:
- Access to resources the Department would have had difficulty attracting due to its size and difficulty retaining due to limited internal career progression opportunities.
- Access to specific skill sets on an as-needed basis since the Department did not have sufficient work to occupy such skill staff full time.
- Learn from a service provider that provided similar services to other government departments and had experience in this environment.
Government rules require a rigorous Request for Tender. Di Berardino reports there were a number of responses. The ASG Group won the bid.
Two providers worked together during the transition
ASG demonstrated its expertise and commitment immediately. Its team had just six weeks to transition from the previous provider; there was little opportunity for delays.
That meant its team had to work swiftly and calmly.
Historically there have been instances when the outgoing provider was significantly unhelpful during a transition. That was not the case here. Di Berardino says both providers “worked collaboratively to ensure the transition went as smoothly as possible.”
Two other considerations helped the situation. The Department hired an independent transition manager to oversee the project. And Canberra, where the many of the government departments are located, is a small city (320,000 people.) “It is inevitable that these companies had to work collaboratively to maintain their reputations,” observes the CIO.
ASG actually completed the transition a few days early. This allowed both providers to be on site together to work out the final kinks.
The first challenge: a DDoS attack!
Then, the Department repeatedly faced those dreaded denial of service attacks against its infrastructure. According to the CIO, ASG’s staff went above and beyond to both resist these attacks and keep the IT infrastructure operational. Working together in crisis mode forged a strong working relationship.
The two have created a technology road map that delivers new technology and capability in an evolving IT landscape. They work closely “to maintain a reliable and resilient IT service,” according to the CIO.
ASG is “constantly” looking at ways to improve the IT solutions. (They are currently in the fourth year of their relationship.) Di Berardino says that has led to:
- Systems upgrades
- An improved desktop experience
- Better video conferencing capabilities
- Tougher resilience to potential failure and malicious attacks
- Better overall customer service
It helps that the Department has been realistic with ASG about it budgetary challenges and user tolerance levels.
The Department is “pushing ahead” with the ability to conduct video conferencing with citizens and teleworking for more of its staff as a priority within the requirements of its security guidelines.
Why this relationship is successful
Di Berardino reports there is “a strong commitment” from both parties to be successful to their mutual benefit. He says there is a close alignment in the size, practices and culture of both participants.
In addition, both the buyer and the provider “have a deep understanding of each other’s business and goals,” he observes. The CIO says this knowledge, in addition to a transparent approach to business, “has developed a foundation of trust” which he says “is not always evident in outsourcing arrangements.”
The CIO says both parties clearly pay attention to both the contract and their contractual service levels. But the real focus is on the relationship. “We take a collaborative approach and share the responsibility for all outcomes. This allows for the delivery of what matters most,” says Di Berardino.
That sounds like the requisite programming for a successful IT infrastructure relationship.
Questions: Have you ever considered bringing a process back in house? Why? How easy or difficult was it to do?