Outsourcing is big business. Today you can outsource anything from payroll to marketing to HR to legal. And right there in the thick of things is Information Technology (IT) outsourcing. IT is often a prime candidate for outsourcing, whether you are talking about a specific function \u2013 such as a help desk \u2013 or the whole shebang.\nIn the 20 years I\u2019ve been a business technologist, I\u2019ve seen a lot when it comes to IT outsourcing. I\u2019ve used outsourcing vendors to deliver internal projects, trained someone offshore to take over my job, and provided IT outsourcing services to my own clientele. And through it all, I\u2019ve observed this: there are four major ways to royally screw it all up. Here\u2019s a free guide on how to do IT outsourcing \u2013 the WRONG way.\n1. Focus on the numbers, not the strategic planCrunch the numbers, but go no further if you want to ensure a real IT outsource mess. Assume the decision is purely budget-driven. All you should focus on is the financial savings you can show by hiring outsource personnel to do the same job for less.\nThe alternative (and the way to avoid a royal mess) is to examine whether IT outsourcing aligns with your long-term strategic plans, goals, and objectives. You might want to consider the factors suggested by the Outsourcing Institute. For example, will IT outsourcing:\n\nallow your company to focus on its core competencies\naccess skillsets not employed internally\nfree existing employees to work on strategic projects\ncompensate for a shortage of personnel\nreduce time-to-market\nmitigate risk factors\n\nAs you can see, there\u2019s a lot more at stake here than just dollars and cents.\n2. Ignore all risks instead of mitigating themThe second way to royally screw up IT outsourcing is to stick your fingers in your ears and say \u201cI am not listening to you\u201d when someone tries to raise concerns. Tell yourself that only pessimists who are afraid of change worry about things like loss of confidentiality, increased information security needs, loss of in-house expertise, potentially problematic quality of service, inconsistent performance, or squirrelly contractual language that might come back to bite you.\nOf course, if you get to thinking that those concerns may represent valid risks, then it\u2019s time to take some action. For example, you\u2019ll need to vet a mutually beneficial contract (and that can take some serious engagement at the negotiation table), manage expectations, and streamline communications. And that\u2019s just the beginning of the job. As the relationship unfolds, you\u2019ll want to develop methods to measure the effectiveness of the services you receive and drive continuous improvement.\nIt\u2019s certainly easier to put on pair of rose-colored glasses but, in the end, you\u2019ll be glad you took a good, hard look at reality.\n3. Look at your vendor invoice, not at your TCOLet\u2019s go back to money for a moment. To guarantee a bad experience with IT outsourcing, be sure that you only use obvious cost factors \u2013 like the invoice your IT vendor sends you \u2013 in your number crunching. Refuse to take into effect the total cost of ownership (TCO), since lots of those items don\u2019t come from your budget, anyway.\nOn the flip side, if you want to do IT outsourcing right, you\u2019ll have a lot more line items on your financial spreadsheet, such as costs for:\n\ninternal project management\nparallel system administration\nlong-term system integration\nnew hardware and software (i.e., due to legacy equipment or incompatibilities)\n\n4. Tell people to shut up instead of speak upAnd the last way to royally screw up IT outsourcing? Tell people to pipe down when they gripe and complain about the change. Ignore the fact that they probably feel threatened, and penalize them when their productivity and engagement drops.\nOr, you can actually manage the change for your people. Encourage them to speak up and express their concerns. Engage in dialogue where you explain the reasons for IT outsourcing and let them know how this is a benefit \u2013 for everyone involved. In short, keep their motivation high.\nThere you have it: four ways to royally screw up IT outsourcing \u2026 or (even better) how to avoid a screw up. Outsourcing is here to stay: isn\u2019t it worth the effort to do it right?