by Beth Bacheldor

You and Your Outsourcer: Take a Relationship Survey

Oct 29, 2009
IT Leadership

Like in any good relationship, outsourcers and clients need to assess just how healthy things really are.

It’s unfortunate, but many companies think once the outsourcing deal is signed, the work is done. Ah, but only if it were. In fact, the perfect parallel to this faulty logic is to think that once the wedding day has wrapped, the work is done (okay all ye who have married, you can stop snickering). Truth is, the work has only just begun.

But one of the most difficult challenges companies face is that of managing their outsourcing relationships.  First, there’s the transition. If you’re turning over the keys to your data center, it is going to take some time for employees to move on (hopefully, for their sakes, to other, more pressing tasks within your organization). The outsourcing folk will need to be briefed and updated and groomed to your liking. Once that’s done, you’ll need to determine how outsourcing that function impacts all your other business processes.  Someone else is running your data center, so what do your application developers need to differently?

And there’s more. You’ll need to set up a service-level agreement and establish ways to determine whether or not your outsourcer is meeting those levels. You’ll need to continually evaluate the services levels and the agreement. Then, of course, you’ll need to regularly check in on just how healthy the outsourcing relationship you’ve signed up for really is to your overall business. There’s lots of ways to do this, but do do it. If you’d like some guidance, why not take a relationship survey? Er, a what?

Just recently, the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) introduced a diagnostic tool that’s designed to help companies measure the health of their outsourcing relationships. Called the Value Health Check Survey (VHCS), the tool walks companies through a survey asking them to prioritize statements in five areas that are vital to optimizing business value in outsourcing: financial performance, service quality, capabilities, risk and compliance, and governance.

Then, the tool compiles the results in order to show companies the key drivers and trends that are influencing the value they are deriving from outsourcing, and also how their relationships compare to their peer groups. In a news release, IAOP chairman Michael Corbett likened the VHCS to a regular medical checkup, and it shouldn’t take much longer than a doctor’s visit. The survey is designed to take about an hour (really, is an hour asking too much? It is your relationship we’re talking about here). The results can be available in several weeks, according to the IAOP. The survey is being offered as a new service to IAOP members as a benefit or with discounts, depending on membership level, and is also available for purchase to non-members.

So, what all do you do to invest in and improve the health—and business value—of your outsourcing relationship?