An IT outsource in a pickle…

Bored with his smartphone’s ringtone, the Badger spent a few minutes exploring alternatives only to decide not to change for the time being! Scrolling through alternatives had thus simply been a waste of a precious commodity, namely time. Just as the Badger refocused on doing something useful, an acquaintance called. They wanted to chat informally with, as they put it, a veteran IT professional with wisdom and no axe to grind,about an IT outsourcing contract experiencing some difficulty. The Badger listened carefully to the pickle they described.

Problems started shortly after the contract was signed. Negotiations were apparently difficult due to the strong personalities and egos of the responsible business and commercial leads on both sides. Pressure to get to signature had been intense because both sides had been under enormous pressure from their executive levels. The service provider needed signature to underpin its quarterly results, and the client needed it to meet a much-publicised strategic priority. Now, some months after signature, the service provider and client business leads are perpetually arguing about what’s covered by Transition and what’s covered by Transformation, and payments. The terms and scope of Transition and Transformation are confused because they have been used interchangeably and inconsistently in the contract. The two parties are arguing about the contract wording they negotiated, and distrust and confusion reigns between client and provider staff at the delivery level. What a pickle!

The Badger simply said that if the parties at executive level want the outsource to succeed with a sustainable, long-term, mutually beneficial relationship then they needed to intervene and agree a course of action that deals with a) intransigent personalities on both sides, b) changes to contract wording, and c) the removal of any ambiguity about what constitutes Transition and Transformation. The caller sighed and simply said ‘Obvious isn’t it, but sometimes you need an outsider to tell you the obvious’.

Following the call, the Badger deliberated on the fact that he’d encountered similar scenarios more than 20 years ago when outsourcing, in one form or another, was on the rise across the IT industry. Has nothing been learnt since, especially with regard to the distinction between Transition and Transformation? Well, the process, practice, and professionalism of outsourcing has, of course, improved significantly over the last 20 years, but there’ll always be occasional problems because people are the weakest link. Egos, personal ambitions and motives, and pressure within organisations to achieve hard deadlines, can always adversely influence behaviours and lead to the erosion of professional rigour and discipline. Today there’s also another factor in play. A generation of highly experienced IT practitioners is retiring from the industry. There’s thus a heightened risk that the younger generation will make the same mistakes commonplace 20 years ago. But that’s just life…


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