Japan International Cooperation Agency and Accenture
“The start of the project was plagued with challenges, such as system down and a major earthquake. Accenture’s ability to confront these challenges head-on, then embark on a journey of improvement and innovation through JICA’s unique SLA approach, has resulted in the outstanding outsourcing service we have today.”
Office of Information System
Japan International Cooperation Agency
Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is an international development assistance agency under the jurisdiction of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The organization was formed in 1974 to promote international cooperation and strengthen the global economy by supporting the socio-economic development, reconstruction and stability of developing countries. This support can come in the form of technical assistance, loans, grants, research and international emergency relief, as well as human and infrastructure development; executed by thousands of dedicated employees and staff located in 92 different countries. The goal is creating synergy and providing support while enabling the partner countries to become self-reliant.
With more than 5,000 IT users, JICA needed to outsource its IT management and help desk support services to enable the organization could focus its own internal resources on fulfilling the agency’s lofty mission. As the scope of its business grew and user needs became more specialized, the complexity of its IT systems dramatically increased. Mounting security and compliance requirements added to the agency’s growing IT challenge. JICA needed a partner who could keep pace with the changes.
“When our former contract expired, we posted a public tender bid, based on our new requirements. We were looking for a skilled and highly motivated IT partner with ; one who did not wait for orders, but a partner who would provide reliable IT support and services, as well as proactively look for ways to add value,” explained Hiroyuki Egashira, Director, Japan International Cooperation Agency. “It is difficult to find other public organizations in Japan that are as internationally diverse or work with such a wide variety of businesses as we do. For this reason, our business demands are greater. We needed a partner with the expertise and resources to meet these demands.”
Ultimately, Accenture won the competitive bid process, which evaluates bids from both technical and price point of view to determine the chosen service provider.
“It was obvious from their proposal that Accenture had the expertise we needed, understood the essential problems with our existing IT environment, and had a plan for resolving those issues,” Mr.Egashira explained.
Through the contract, Accenture would provide IT workplace support for 5,000 users, a bilingual IT help desk for issue resolution, managed hosting of IT assets, and overseas site support for employees in temporary locations in countries where limited local technology expertise was available.
The project scope was challenging on its own—even if everything went smoothly. But it didn’t, at first.
A Rugged Start Cemented the Partnership
The partnership between JICA and Accenture was put to the test within the first week of taking over the account. Complex factors such as inadequate handover period and insufficient preparation led to a system crash immediately after the transition. To compound the challenge, just six days after the changeover, a nine-magnitude mega-earthquake shook Japan, producing a tsunami that ravaged the Japanese coast. Transportation came to a standstill, leaving millions of commuters stranded.
“Our organization lead support activities to restore calm, including setting up temporary lodging facilities and coordinating efforts with overseas relief teams. However, we had no business continuity plan in place,” Mr.Egashira said. “Accenture provided a large number of laptops and quickly assigned licenses for our staff to connect external network so they could work remotely, so operations weren’t delayed.”
Immediately following the disaster, Accenture proposed establishing a backup data center, so JICA was prepared in case of another earthquake or unforeseen event. This proposal was the first of many enhancements that have resulted from this award-winning partnership.
The secret to its success? Open, honest communication and a unique SLA structure that goes beyond the basics.
A Unique SLA Structure Promotes Excellence and Rewards Innovation
“With most long-term outsourcing contracts, the speed of technology outpaces the vision of the original objectives, so those objectives quickly become obsolete,” Mr.Egashira explained. “We wanted to create a platform that rewarded innovation and excellence. We expected Accenture to clearly understand our expectations and find new ways to continually add value. To this end, we jointly created an innovative SLA system that we believe is unprecedented in the industry.”
This unique, “value-added” point system includes 40 SLA indicators; with eight of these measured quantitatively, 32 evaluated subjectively. Points are added when the quality and performance provided by Accenture personnel exceed JICA’s expectations and deducted if they fall short. These points are accumulated and counted by a neutral Accenture “SLA inspector” who creates quarterly metric reports for analysis and discussion.
“Unlike many other outsourcing arrangements, our goal is not simply decreasing man-hours through efficiencies. We want Accenture’s staff to use those decreased man-hours to create value, to spend time proactively identifying ways we can do things better,” Mr.Egashira said. “All Accenture project members, including offshore staff, are motivated to think of new ideas to improve quality and performance in each of their tasks, regardless of their specific roles.”
This SLA approach, the focus on value, and the strong partnership between JICA and Accenture have resulted in numerous notable achievements, many of which extend beyond the scope of the original contract. In just three years, Accenture has used the man-hours saved through efficiency to propose numerous innovative ideas and has completed 65 value-add projects.
A Partnership That Continually Adds Value
One notable extra was the introduction of the “IT Concierge,” a service originally established to provide IT research services, proposals and advice to queries from JICA’s IT Systems office.
“The Accenture IT Concierge team provided such high-quality service that the number of users enlisting their help steadily increased, giving them a big-picture view of the JICA’s IT operations,” Mr.Egashira said. “They analyzed this information to make recommendations for our long-term IT strategy and played a key role in helping us shape our IT renewal plan. Their insight helped us understand what our optimum IT environment should look like and enabled them to draw up accurate procurement specifications for the new environment quickly.”
When temporary workspace was needed due to a temporary increase in employees, Accenture’s IT Concierge and Helpdesk worked together to engage contractors to set up the office and prepare the LAN and electrical layout. Again, this work was done using the man-hours gained from efficiency gains.
In January 2014, JICA wanted to reorganize its fileserver and documents. The Accenture team worked with JICA to identify how to detect unneeded files and developed a tool to do this automatically.
The team also traveled to several JICA offices in South East Asia to resolve issues, provide insight on security protection and offer workshops to the sometimes technologically limited local staff. These visits consistently earned high marks in satisfaction surveys. More importantly, they helped JICA’s remote staff do their own jobs more efficiently, which benefits the people they serve.
These projects represent only a portion of this partnership’s achievements to date, with the promise of many more to come.
“By involving Accenture in the planning and design of developmental projects and encouraging IT operations to proactively seek out better ways of doing things, we have been able to significantly decrease our costs and increase our productivity,” Mr.Egashira said. “We believe many outsourcing partnerships worldwide face the same challenges our organization previously faced. We hope that the approach taken by JICA and Accenture and the results of our unique SLA system will serve as a reference to others. Our approach, and engaging the right partner with Accenture, has made all the difference for us.”