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In-house versus outsourcing: How to bring your IT home

Even after the most diligent BPO, sometimes the in-house versus outsourcing argument starts to lean toward bringing your IT back home. What should you do then?

Outsourcing is one of the best ways to get a new project off the ground quickly. When you outsource a project or a service, you can often get it up and running much faster than doing it yourself, and you don't need to evaluate whether you have the capabilities to run the project in-house. However, there may come a day when revisiting the argument of in-house versus outsourcing indicates that you have several good reasons to reintegrate an outsourced system into your own IT environment. Your job is to make sure this reintegration will have a positive impact on your existing IT environment.

Take the following situation, for example: Your business consists of offering different online courses for professionals. After a number of complaints from students on your Web portal, you decide to reintegrate the portal into your IT organization to improve the availability and performance of this crucial service. What should you do?

There are several key factors to consider to minimize the effect that the reintegration will have on your organization in the short and long term.

  1. Capacity: A good starting point is to evaluate if your organization can host a new service or application. Consider the following:

    • Do you have enough space in your data center for new servers?
    • Are the servers physical or virtual?
    • Can your backup strategy handle additional data?
    • Is your network secure enough for a Web application?
    • Do you have enough resources to manage, support and monitor a new service?
  2. Documentation: To facilitate your capacity analysis, ensure that the outsourcer provides significant information and documentation on the hosted service/project. Documentation is not a strong point in many IT environments but, if possible, invest in complete sustainment documentation and training material for the new service.

    • To prevent the possibility of reinventing the wheel and to improve your proactive approach toward possible future incidents, you should request that the outsourcer produce all the problem management documentation and documented workarounds for issues it has faced while hosting the service.
    • You will also need to ensure that the new documentation is now your intellectual property and that it's maintained throughout the implementation of the project/service lifecycle.
  3. Expertise: Does your IT staff have sufficient expertise to support, manage and monitor this new project or service? If not, elaborate and budget a training plan to ensure that you are taking complete ownership of this new project/service. Include any relevant certification program in your training plan to motivate your staff and affect your business perception by potential customers.

  4. Transition: Once your pre-implementation analysis is complete, outline a transitioning strategy. Prevent a failed implementation by maintaining a good relationship with your provider. Consider the following:

    • Outline a rollback strategy. The worst-case scenario could imply that you are prepared to leave everything as is with the provider until you find a solution to a thorny issue.
    • Make sure your contract with your outsourcer covers a rollback strategy.
    • Plan a transition period with the provider that allows you to easily communicate with it in case you experience any post-implementation issues.
    • As a customer, you probably already have a service-level agreement with your provider. Since you will now be the service provider, it will be important for you and the service/project owner to review this agreement and internalize it. You might want to make sure that you now offer the same or better level of service to your business than before. Again, this can only have a positive impact on the perception that your business has on your IT organization.

Bringing an outsourced service or project back into your organization is not risk-free and will require good analysis and planning. By evaluating your IT organization capacity, documenting the new resources and preparing a good transition plan, you will integrate this change into your business. Ensuring that you have good in-house expertise and redefining the service-level agreement will maintain or accentuate the positive perception of your IT organization. In the end, you may well find that there are only positive aspects to this reintegration, but, as always, you'll need to do your homework first.

Danielle and Nelson Ruest are IT experts focused on virtualization, continuous service availability and infrastructure optimization. They have written multiple books, including Virtualization: A Beginner's Guide for McGraw-Hill Osborne, and MCTS Self-Paced Training Kit (Exam 70-652): Configuring Windows Server Virtualization with Hyper-V for Microsoft Press. Contact them at [email protected] or [email protected].

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