The Canadian Department of Justice has a lofty mission statement. Its goal is to “to ensure that Canada is a just and law-abiding society with an accessible, efficient and fair system of justice.” No where does it say the department has to fix a balking computer the same business day.
“Our business is not IT,” says Linda Holmes, director of Informatics Services at the Justice Department in Ottawa. “Outsourcing allowed us to realign our resources so we could focus on our core competencies. We didn’t want to worry about day-to-day technology operations support.”
Holmes says the Justice Department did not decide to outsource to save money. In fact, the costs of outsourcing are slightly higher. Instead, the Justice department had three goals. It wanted a supplier “to provide excellent service and figure out what we should do.” In addition, outsourcing IT allowed the department to reposition its staff to concentrate on more core concerns.
The Justice Department signed a three year contract with Compaq Canada in November 1998. There are two one-year renewal options. The contract covers desktop and client/server computing and includes help desk, desk side support, and in-house training. In addition, there’s a technology refresh clause that allows the Justice Department to lease desktop computers or servers if they need them.
The First Benefit: 24/7 Monitoring
The first benefit was 24/7 monitoring, which had never been possible before, according to Gordon Godfrey, manager, engineering, Informatics Services for the Justice Department. “Sometimes we didn’t realize we had a problem overnight until someone came in at 6 a.m.,” he says.
Asset management has also improved. The department wanted an asset management tool that became part of the outsourcing agreement. This tool tells both parties vital information about each computer.
This spring the department wanted to add new software to all its computers. For the first time they didn’t have to send a technician to each workstation to download the software. Compaq was able to add the software to every computer from a central location with just a few keystrokes.
Finally, the employees appreciated a competent help desk. The old help desk’s service levels were “inadequate,” according to Godfrey. “It was not that difficult to see an improvement,” he adds.
The Advantages of Leased Software
The Justice Department used its lease clause to upgrade all workstations that could not become Y2K compliant. Holmes says this was a big benefit because the department was able to solve a major problem “without having to spend capital we didn’t have.”
The department appreciates having access to Compaq’s professional resources. When they needed to design their exchange platform, they turned to their outsourcing provider for help.
Compaq also maintains the department’s email functions. The Ottawa headquarters is responsible for the Justice’s Department’s email from coast to coast. “We need stability and reliability when it comes to our email,” says Godfrey. Now it’s Compaq’s challenge to ensure the mail server is up and running.
Godfrey says the department experienced almost no resistance to outsourcing the IT functions. The major reason was that no employees were laid off. Instead, the department created new positions and provided the training necessary to allow these reassigned employees to be successful in their new careers. In addition, many of the people involved were free lance contractors who ended up going to work for Compaq.
Metrics provide structure to the relationship. The department penned very clear parameters. They studied published information from the Gartner Group on standard industry metrics and consulted with an outsourcing advisory firm to see if their metrics were realistic. “We faced a few challenges in coming up with our base numbers,” says Godfrey. The contract has progressive financial penalties if Compaq cannot perform.
Some of the key SLAs include:
- 95% of hardware calls have to have a response in 60 minutes or less during core business hours.
- 75% of all software problems have to be resolved in the same business day.
- 95% of mission critical calls must have a response within four hours.
To date, Holmes reports Compaq has surpassed every metric. Currently, Compaq monitors the metrics and prepares a monthly report for the department. Many of the reports include suggestions from Compaq on how to improve the operation.
Godfrey says anyone who is considering outsourcing should take the time to do it right. “Do your homework,” he advises. He says the biggest issue on both sides of the table is defining scope. “What exactly is ‘new install,’ ‘move,’ ‘add’ or ‘change?'” he asks rhetorically..
The Value of an Outside Facilitator
He also recommends employing an outside facilitator. This consultant adds objectivity to the negotiation mix. Their facilitator “kept us moving along and helped us address the right issues at the right time,” he reports.”
Finally, Holmes says the department works hard to make their outsourcing relationship a true partnership. An outsourcing relationship should never be adversarial, she says.
Outsourcing is no longer on trial at the Justice Department. Godfrey says the department’s satisfaction is high. The help desk, for example, receives a 4.5 out of 5 consistently in user surveys, he reports.
Lessons from the Outsourcing Primer:
- Make outsourcing a working partnership. Avoid adversarial relationships.
- Use an outside facilitator to so you can remain objective.
- Define scope clearly to prevent misunderstandings.
- Research the base numbers for your service level agreements before your negotiations. Then, use them to continually monitor performance.
- Outsourcing can provide tools and services that are too costly to do in-house. In this case, outsourcing gave the Justice Department access to 24/7 monitoring and a useful asset management tool.
- Take the time to specify how change will be made in the computing environment and any costs associated with technology changes over the life of the contract.