IT Multi-sourcing

Why Do We Rely On Our Gut Feeling

Why is it that even as our ability to objectively evaluate vendor bids for outsourcing has improved, we rely as much if not more on our gut feelings than we do on hard, objective data? 

How To “Follow Your Gut”

AUTHORED BY GUY WOLF, TRANSFORMATION EXECUTIVE @ GUIDEIT

 Guy Wolf, Transformation Executive @ GuideIT

Guy Wolf, Transformation Executive @ GuideIT

Early in my career, a manager told me how he made important decisions.  “I always follow my gut.  In fact, I’ve put on so much weight in this job, that my gut sticks out and I literally have to follow it wherever I go!”  Kidding aside, he did stand out among leaders as being able to cut through the fog of data – some missing, some conflicting, and some just plain wrong – to guide his team along a path that was not always the obvious conclusion. 

In leading one company through an outsourcing decision, we arrived at a point where the investigation had been completed.  Two organizations were deemed qualified, capable and willing to work with us to take on a large service obligation to support the client company.  This would have meant significant savings and access to resources for the client and significant revenue and favorable marketing publicity for the service provider.  After negotiating the contracts, a key leader at the customer told us his gut was telling him not to do this deal.  What happened next made the difference in maintaining a cohesive team that would continue to work with both vendors in other ongoing relationships. 

There are at least two paths leaders follow when making this “gut calls.”  One I would call the “trust me” path.  It’s fast.  It gets to the “right” decision very often, and it avoids the hard work of forging a consensus among people with different preferences of outcomes.  When done well, it can lead to a sense of awe and glory for the leader.  “Brilliant, if a bit abrasive,” others may say of this leader.

But we ignore our sixth sense at our peril.  “Gut Feel” or “Intuition” is the stuff we know, even though we don’t know how we know it.  Or in psychology terms:  "rapid cognition or condensed reasoning that takes advantage of the brain's built-in shortcuts." (Psychology Today, 21-Aug-13 https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200704/gut-almighty It is no less valid than other types of formal analysis. But because it is hard to demonstrate, it is frequently kept hidden.

The other path, and the one this leader chose, was to engage an impartial advisor to help document the pros and cons of multiple courses of action – some of it in spreadsheets, some in narrative.  And he brought together the people who spent so much time and effort in the selection process to weigh in on the topic.  It was an investment of several hours, and under a tight deadline.  But allowing the entire team to engage in bringing these other factors to light meant arriving at the decision that preserved the outstanding working relationships they had built together within the client organization, as well as with the finalist vendors who continue to support this client in other ways. 

We would like to hear from you how you use your “gut feelings” in your decision making.

Why Do IT Outsourcing Contract Negotiations Take Longer Than Expected?

AUTHORED BY GUY WOLF, TRANSFORMATION EXECUTIVE @ GUIDEIT

 Guy Wolf, Transformation Executive @ GuideIT

Guy Wolf, Transformation Executive @ GuideIT

“We made the decision six weeks ago to go with the preferred vendor.  Why is it taking so long to finalize the contract with them?” a CIO asked us recently. 

Why, indeed?  We had performed the due diligence one would expect on a deal of this size, including the data center visit, the customer site visits and reference calls, and much more, yet after 7 weeks of late night meetings, we were still apart on the final contract and losing valuable time and leadership focus – not to mention the good will between the parties.  And yet we still could not nail down an agreement. 

Want to make this process go smoother for you when you are at that point? Here are some areas that will help you avoid the gap between decision and execution:

1.       Match the contract to the proposal.  A couple ways to go here: either start the Vendor’s paper or the Customer’s.  If using the vendors “boilerplate” it may be a time saver, or a time sink.  If the boilerplate contract is much different from the proposal that is being delivered, then there is needless wasted time in trying to “shoe-horn” something that doesn’t fit.   If the Customer has a standard sourcing contract (less common, but not unusual these days), it may save significant time finalizing the legal and security details.

2.       Minimize (hard to eliminate) late-breaking requirements.  In spite of your best efforts to research all the requirements and include them in the RFP, and validate them during due diligence, there is often a new requirement that comes up during negotiations that had not been provided to the vendor before.  Will there be a requirement to integrate IT Service Management tools?  A new set of security requirements that did not get entered into the RFP?  A higher limit of liability or consequential damages clause?  It’s possible to overcome some of this by getting people to commit to their requirements earlier in the process, but doubtful that will be 100% successful, as people get more focused on those things that they believe are imminent and likely. 

3.       Focus on the big gaps.  Not all issues are created equal, and if there’s going to be an agreement, there are going to be some issues that are harder and more important to agree to than small ones.  Avoid the trap of claiming to make progress by knocking out the small issues versus resolving the ones that are true show stoppers. 

4.       Know your objectives and positions and engage as partners, rather than adversaries.  You’re going to spend a lot of time together and require an open, trusting relationship.  It’s a good idea to start that way, and share with one another what the showstoppers truly are.  This will help you avoid negotiating as if it’s a competitive sport, and both partners will wind up with a deal they can benefit from.

Not an exhaustive list, but organizations (vendors and customers) who employ these techniques reach win-win agreements – or decide not to engage – sooner, and in a more positive relationship. We would like to hear what has worked (or not worked) for you.

Integrity - An Internal Compass

AUTHORED BY MARK JOHNSON, VICE PRESIDENT, MANAGED SERVICES @ GUIDEIT

 Mark Johnson, Vice President, Managed Services @ GuideIT

Mark Johnson, Vice President, Managed Services @ GuideIT

Not long ago the call went out for a volunteer to write the next installment of our series of GuideIT Values blog entries.  With the topic being “integrity” I quickly said “I’ll take that one”, thinking to myself “hey that’s an easy one to knock out.”  Well, as it turns out, not so much.

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As I put fingers to keys I started with the predictable list of “challenges to integrity” but soon had to ask myself, how do you write about integrity in a way that doesn’t come across as either sanctimonious or overly simplistic?  And further, how do you translate a critical foundation of character into mere words?

At GuideIT our Founders adopted this approach in an attempt to express what integrity means to us:  “We will hold each other to unquestionable standards of honesty and ethics, in words and actions, and operate with transparency.”

Helpful, but still what does that mean?  If integrity in business meant simply being honest, it’s not a terribly high bar to clear, though isn’t it sad how some don’t?  No, too often we’re faced with opportunities to “pass or fail” an integrity test in far less visible ways, or ways in which there’s not necessarily a clear cut “right” answer.  That’s where the “unquestionable” part comes in.  The standard is clear, the measure remains harder to quantify.  But let’s face it – we all know it when we see it.  So do our fellow team members, and so do our customers.

Can you teach integrity?  I’d say yes and no.  Without question you can use day to day opportunities (and challenges) in business to guide your team members towards what it means to operate in the center of the ethical playing field, whether leading by example yourself, or providing specific guidance about your expectations for ethical behavior as situations arise.  So yes, you can absolutely teach integrity, but only to a point.

No matter how hard you work to establish an environment conducive to both earning and maintaining trust, inherently there is still an element of character that has to come from within, one that if missing will never consistently meet the expectation to operate with “unquestionable standards of honesty.”  To me, that internal compass is called having a conscience, emboldened with the courage to choose the harder right, rather than the easier wrong, even when the decision or the results may not be popular.  There are lots of people who know the right thing to do; at GuideIT we look for the ones actually willing to do it, and hold everyone, including our leaders, to that same standard.

At GuideIT our motto is “Do Technology Right.”  As I reflected on what I initially thought was a simple marketing slogan, my “ah-ha moment” was when I realized it also provides a straight forward approach to operating with integrity.  “Do Technology Right”, absolutely.  But how about, simply do what’s right.

I guess it wasn’t all that hard after all.

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How Do You Build A Team That Works?

AUTHORED BY DEANA EILAND, VICE PRESIDENT OF DELIVERY @ GUIDEIT

Teamwork...

 Deana Eiland, Vice President of Delivery @ GuideIT

Deana Eiland, Vice President of Delivery @ GuideIT

Teams are a fundamental part of our work and personal lives.  But, creating a team is not the same as creating a team that works.  Just as joining a team is not the same as performing as a team member.  Very simply, teams do not work without teamwork. Active, collaborative teamwork towards a common goal makes all the difference.

How do you build a team that works?

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  • Be Aware of How You Work – Know your strengths and weaknesses, hold yourself accountable, course-correct and modify your approach if needed to ensure you are leading from a position of strength.
  • Get to Know the Rest of the Team – Invest the time to know your team’s individual strengths and weaknesses, how they are wired and what motivates them to excel beyond what is expected.
  • Clearly Define Roles & Responsibilities – Each of your team member’s responsibilities should be interconnected and dependent on one another.  Unique strengths and differences can convert into a powerful united force when aligned properly.
  • Be Proactive with Feedback  - Feedback is a two-way street and is key to staying on track and course correcting when needed. 
  • Acknowledge and Reward – People love recognition and appreciate respect.  Take the time to give your team the accolades they have earned and deserve.
  • Always Celebrate Success! – In today’s fast-paced world, people often don’t take the time to take a step back and truly appreciate what it took to cross the finish line.  Don’t ignore it.  Your team’s accomplishment was likely with some sacrifice by team members.  Celebrating their success and overall impact of the achievement is critical.

"The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime." 

-Babe Ruth

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Individual Accountability, Part of A Whole

AUTHORED BY JOHN LYON, CHIEF OF FINANCE @ GUIDEIT

 John Lyon, Chief of Finance @ GuideIT

John Lyon, Chief of Finance @ GuideIT

The reality of organizational life is never black and white.  More often than not, accountability is muddled and people are not fully aware of the direct connection between their efforts and results.  We tend to keep ourselves from being productive simply by not holding ourselves accountable for our actions.  It is of utmost importance to first hold yourself accountable for your own obligations, commitments, and actions before participating in a team environment. 

Accountability is about improvement.  Improve oneself, and the team will respectively improve. Tom Price nails it when he said, "One person's embarrassment is another person's accountability."  We are all in a leadership role, as all team members are responsible for contributing to the success of the organization.  As leaders, without accountability, an organization would cease to exist.  You not only betray yourself by not owning up to your responsibilities, but your team as well.

The major leagues would never send a player on the field who has consistently missed mandatory practices, for obvious reasons; such an action would diminish the collective hard work of the other team members, and scores would decline rapidly.  The same goes for any type of team. There must be rules and adherence. A pattern toward advancing success.  And that pattern begins with the individual.  

It is up to me and no one else to make sure I am doing what I know I should be doing. When someone has to hold me accountable, because I failed to do what I should have done, I have a serious conversation with myself. My belief is that no one should have to hold me accountable for my actions, responsibilities and goals. While I appreciate others helping me get better, I am the one that must hold myself to a high standard.

I am convinced if you want to advance your life personally or professionally, you must hold yourself accountable for your actions, responsibilities, and goals.  Think about it. Commitment is a choice and a decision that should be made responsibly. Why should it be someone else’s job to make sure you are doing the things that you know you should be doing?


Encouraging Maximum Potential

AUTHORED BY TIM MORRIS, VICE PRESIDENT, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT @ GUIDEIT

Maximizing the greatest potential of an organization calls for an environment that fosters courage and encourages educated risks. Fostering and maintaining such an environment takes special care and attention.  However, an organization who's environment appreciates, nourishes, and respects courageous attempts will surely reap some truly amazing benefits:

 Tim Morris, Vice President, Business Development @ GuideIT

Tim Morris, Vice President, Business Development @ GuideIT

  • distinctive separation from industry growth expectations and standards
  • more empowered team members
  • the best possible services and/or solutions not only suggested, but actually delivered to and realized by clients.

I recall an incident from my childhood when my father told me we were going to “paint the house”.  I was not quite six years of age at the time.  We lived in a small pier and beam house with asbestos shingles for siding.  I noticed, in the garage, paint my dad purchased. I decided to surprise my dad by helping out, and began painting the house myself.  I took the initiative to open the paint, and paint an entire side of the house.  Well, my father came out and saw me painting the siding, but his intentions were to only paint the trim instead of the entire side of the house.  However, I was not scolded nor punished for my actions, regardless of the misunderstanding and miscommunication. And regardless of the unintended outcome (clearly not a positive one), because of his gentle reaction, I was not discouraged.  That lesson taught me to always continue to try new things, and catapulted me at many times in my life into experiencing more than my peers.

Operating within existing guidelines and comfort zones is like playing in a sandbox; sustainable positive outcomes are predictable and a business can thrive and achieve consistent results within industry standards. But only with courage to be creative, and courage to take risks, is it possible to expand the sandbox and drive results that create milestones and surpass the industry standards. Indeed, each and every act of courage will not result in a positive outcome, but a leader's stoic reaction to failure is what continually fosters and enables courage in others. And it is through creativity, risk taking, and courage that opportunities open for major breakthrough changes.

Patients Demand Technology

AUTHORED BY WENDY DURRE, CUSTOMER EXECUTIVE @ GUIDEIT

 Wendy Durre, Customer Executive @ GuideIT

Wendy Durre, Customer Executive @ GuideIT

What would you think if you walked into a physician’s office and they actually wrote down your appointment in an old-fashioned paper appointment book? Recently my mother called me to say she left a physician’s office because of this very thing.  Although she is in her 70’s and not necessarily tech savvy, it made her uneasy and less confident in that practice.  Why???  If they were using antiquated business practices, how would that effect her patient care and the way they treated her medical issue? 

As a person who works in the technology field, I am accustomed to helping providers implement and optimize technology.  Today’s customer (patient) has a different set of expectations; even those of just 10 years ago.   You don’t have to grow-up using video games to understand that technology is an integral part of the medical field and patient experience.

Recently a study was performed where 97% of the patients surveyed approved of their physician using technology (including desktop and mobile devices) in the exam room.  And, 58% felt that it positively impacts their overall experience, especially when used to educate and explain.  What I find ironic is that technology abounds and always has in the healthcare world; however we often hear that physicians/clinicians etc., are reluctant to adopt new technology despite the fact that their patients welcome it.  

While change is never comfortable, it is definitely necessary.  I predict physicians who choose not to adopt this new tech-savvy avenue will see a dramatic decline in the number of patients they see in their practice.   But, as long as technology doesn’t take away from the interpersonal communication they have with their patients, it will be an asset.  Not only will it improve their physician/patient experience, but their business practices as well.

Now what to do with all of that data?

Make it a great day!


The Touchy-Feely Side of IT

AUTHORED BY WENDY DURRE, CUSTOMER EXECUTIVE @ Guideit

 Wendy Durre, Customer Executive @ GuideIT

Wendy Durre, Customer Executive @ GuideIT

What do you think when you hear the “touchy-feely” side of IT?  Am I referring to a new, softer keyboard, something that works completely in Emoji’s?  Try again!  Believe it or not, TECHNOLOGY impacts our life not only in a practical way, but in an emotional way. 

What I’m saying is **YOU** have an impact on others and the world as an IT professional. If you have a career in IT, whether it be a Service Desk Agent, Project Manager, Developer, Marketer, or Executive Leader, you have experienced the touchy-feely side of IT...and you may not even realize it.

Have you ever thought about how your work impacts others? And how do you feel about your work?  According to a recent study, only 39% of employees believe that the meaningfulness (contribution of their job to society as a whole) of their job is important to overall job satisfaction.  61% are passionate about their work, and 71% say they frequently put all their effort into their work. The takeaway here is that employees who find their work meaningful and fulfilling are more likely to be engaged and do their work well.

Here’s an example.  Does your work assist in the creation of IT jobs or increase employment opportunities in the IT space? Your impact may look something like this: You hire a candidate. That candidate has a family.  That family lives in a home purchased through a realtor who helped them find the best location close to work.  That candidate also works with a team within the company.  That team services the needs of their customer.  That team works on maintaining the new EMR application adopted by a medical practice treating and assessing ER patients.  We are definitely beyond keyboard, servers, and code. 

By digging deeper and evaluating what our job is, we are able to understand that not only are we maintaining systems, we are impacting lives.  Every day as a result of your work, you impact hundreds of people.   It may seem like your job is a small part of a big process, but to those on the receiving end of your efforts, it is huge! 

I challenge you this week to see the scope of your impact on others through your job. I’d love to hear how it changes the way you see yourself in your company and community. So please leave your comments below and make it a great day!

Servant Leadership…How to Build Trust in The Midst of Turmoil

AUTHORED BY Ron hill, Vice president, sales @ GUIDEIT

 Ron Hill, VP of Sales 

Ron Hill, VP of Sales 

It was a sunny winter day and I had just started as the Client Executive at one of the largest accounts in the company. Little did I know, clouds were about to roll in. The CIO walked into my office and sat down with a big sigh. She communicated that they were ending our agreement and moving to a different service provider. We had 12 months. It required immediate action by our company, implications in the market would ensue, and an environment of uncertainty was born for our team of more than 700 people providing service support.  

This was no time to defend or accept defeat. We had to act. Our account leadership team readied the organization for the work ahead and imminent loss. We formally announced the situation to the organization. There were tears and some were even distraught. Our leadership team had not faced this situation before. The next 12 months looked daunting.

Regardless, it was time to lead. We created a “save” strategy and stepped into action beginning with daily team meetings. We invested time prioritizing and sharing action items and implications about information systems, project management, and the business process services. It was our job to operate with excellence, despite the past. It was our job to honorably communicate knowledge to the incoming service provider. One of the outcomes of our work was a weekly email outlining past week accomplishments and expectations for the next week. The email often included a blend of personal stories and team success. We even came up with a catchy brand for the email…Truth of the Matter. It turned out to be a key vehicle that kept our teams bonded and informed. Our leadership team used it as a vehicle to help maintain trust with the team. 

During our work, we also began to rebuild trust with the customer as we continued to support them in all phases of their operation. Because of our leadership team’s commitment to service, transparency, and integrity, the delivery team was inspired in achieving many great milestones during those 12 months. We were instrumental in helping our customer achieve multiple business awards including a US News and World Report top ranking. We also found ways to achieve goals that established new trends in their industry. Before we knew it, the year had come and gone and we were still there. 

Reflecting back, since that dark day when the CIO informed me that we were done, it was actually the beginning of more than a decade-long relationship. The team had accomplished an improbable feat. In the end, it was the focus of our leadership to come together with a single message and act with transparency…letting their guard down to build an environment of trust with the team and with the customer. This enabled all of us to focus on meeting the goals of the customer, together.

MutliSourcing…The Right IT Governance for Maximizing Business Outcomes

Authored by Jeff Smith, VP Business Development @ GuideIT

 Jeff Smith, VP Business Development

Jeff Smith, VP Business Development

A national healthcare provider was ready to move from multiple PBX systems to a VOIP-centric model for their communications…the transition, one piece of a broader multi-source IT strategy. Simple enough, right? Not exactly. This transition was a monster…500 locations and more than 1100 buildings. Additionally, the provider cares for patients, the majority of whom are in some form of acute need. Sure, any business requires clean execution in a project of this magnitude. But few businesses have the sole mission of caring for the acute health needs of their customers like healthcare providers do for their patients. 

Truly lots of moving parts in this story…a story representing one part of the bigger picture. A critical attribute of this provider’s success was ensuring the right IT Governance function encompassing their multi-source strategy. 

So what is the right governance? According to Gartner, governance is the decision framework and process by which enterprises make investment decisions and drive business value. Take that one step further applying IT and the definition is, “IT Governance (ITG) is the processes that ensure the effective and efficient use of IT in enabling an organization to achieve its goals. IT demand governance (ITDG—what IT should work on) is the process by which organizations ensure the effective evaluation, selection, prioritization, and funding of competing IT investments; oversee their implementation; and extract business benefits.”

Now consider “why” the right IT Governance is critical in a multi-sourcing environment. When multiple vendor partners serve in support of the broader business mission, the opportunity to optimize outcomes for the business is huge. And so is the risk. The opportunity is there because the organization can leverage the specialization of subject matter experts necessary in a highly complex IT environment driven by growing business demands. One partner specializes in apps, another in cloud infrastructure, another in mobility, and so on. They all bring optimal value in areas critical to support the business…thus the core value of multi-sourcing. 

Therein lies the risk too. Without the right governance model, no clear accountability exists to ensure open collaboration and visibility across specialists. Specialists will act in silos. And we all know how silos hurt business. Simply put, the “why” for the right governance is to optimize outcomes through maximizing specialization while minimizing the risk of “silo-creep”. The right governance closes the gap between what IT departments think the business requires and what the business thinks the IT department is able to deliver. Organizations need to have a better understanding of the value delivered by IT and the multiple vendor partners leveraged…some of whom are ushered in through business stakeholders. 

Because organizations are relying more and more on new technology, executive leadership must be more aware of critical IT risks and how they are being managed. Take for example our communications transition story from earlier…if there is a lack of clarity and transparency when making such a significant IT decision, the transition project may stall or fail, thereby putting the business at risk and, in this case, patients lives at risk. That has a crippling impact on the broader business and future considerations for the right new technologies to be leveraged. 

Conclusion: the right IT Governance is critical to optimizing business outcomes

MultiSourcing…A Critical Strategy for Aligning IT with the Business Mission

Authored by Chuck Lyles, CEO @ GuideIT

 Chuck Lyles, CEO

Chuck Lyles, CEO

A growing trend in IT Services is the implementation of strategies designed to migrate IT operations from a single provider to an environment leveraging multiple specialty companies. As the market matures, this trend can better enable CIO's in executing strategically, driving greater effectiveness and efficiency in operations. 

So what are the high level benefits and outcomes of multi-sourcing?

The right multi-sourcing strategy allows IT teams to dilute risk with partners who specialize in a particular discipline or technology.  Additionally, this type of strategy facilitates greater flexibility enabling the internal agility necessary for adapting to changing priorities…a consistent theme in supporting the broader business mission. Specialized firms are more responsive to customer needs, more motivated to consistently drive innovation, and better at implementing disruptive technologies that drive effectiveness through more automation.

What are some of the challenges and potential pitfalls?

Accountability. Yes multi-sourcing is a critical approach for leveraging IT in supporting the needs of the business. Yet to be truly strategic in this approach, leaders must require accountability. Fail to create an environment of accountability in execution, and the strategy isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Another challenge…Simplicity. A “multi” approach by definition, yet absent of sound strategy, has the potential to introduce complexity and silos into your environment. So what’ the answer for ensuring accountability and simplicity in your multi-sourcing approach? Clear purpose, aligned incentives, and shared values. Easy to say; tough to do. More on this in future posts.

What’s your perspective on multi-source strategies?