By Mitesh Patel, Managing Director, Fifosys
Do you really need them or can the internal teams deliver the work?
From either outsourcing elements of the support function to a managed IT services provider or potentially employing an in-house IT Director (at great expense!). In order to get the right service, it is essential for organizations to delve deeper into their core processes and begin to understand what is being delivered. Begin with a solutions assessment. Consider the current state of your IT systems. Identify areas for redevelopment then do a service assessment to ascertain what levels of service are required.
What skill level are you buying in?
In any organization fewer than 250 employees – it is hard to justify employing a full-time experienced IT Director with skills to manage procurement, assess technology innovation and drive forward IT strategy in line with business needs. SME’s need to work closely with individuals of expertise to inform technology direction based on clear business objectives. IT strategy should be a core component of corporate strategy – not a last-minute consideration. It should be based upon clear business targets and assessed upon clear performance measurement and reporting.
How long is the contract?
Having a figure and duration of time in mind prior to any agreement will allow you to budget accordingly. Bear in mind the contractor will have their own expectations.
Is the contractor working independently or as part of the team?
This will depend on the environment with which the contractor is arriving too. Are they coming in to fill in a position vacated by previous personnel or is this a new role? Is there an existing toolset waiting for them or will they be expected to develop a system with processes from scratch?
What tools will the contractor need to deliver the job?
In addition to the level of standard you expect of the contractor, the contractor may have a clear idea of the toolset they will require to meet the demands expected of them. The clearer the contractors’ understanding is of work previously done within your existing setup as well as your expectations, the better the recommendations they can put forward prior to any work being undertaken.
Is the contractor required to fit into an existing structured team?
Unless the contractor possesses undoubted exemplary skills – it can be a tall order to bring in someone new to an existing management team when they neither know (a) how the business works, (b) nor the teams within the business whom they are expected to manage. In addition, the people within those teams will be familiar and accustomed to the company, therefore, may be better suited to making critical judgment calls. Depending on the agreed duration of the contract, have you factored in the initial outlay for the ‘bedding-in’ period when the contractor familiarizes themselves with your organization’s infrastructure?
What knowledge will the contractor take away once the project is complete?
In relation to accountability, the managed service provider will likely have a higher degree of responsibility to ensure that the knowledge is retained and documented within its standard business processes. With regards to the contractor, you will be reliant on enforcing this responsibility.
What documentation is required during, and post-project?
To ensure the work done can be picked up by somebody else and supported in an ongoing manner, documentation needs to be a key consideration such as project plans, configuration information, run books, normal documentation projects like RAID logs, lessons learned, outstanding issues etc.
What happens if the contractor leaves midway through the project?
There is no guarantee at the end of the contract period that all the objectives will be met, or the contractor will not leave midway through the project. There is often very little in the way of loyalty to contracting, so it is essential to reduce the risk you are exposed to. A key consideration here is ensuring all the work is documented as point 8 above so that if the worst happens, all the knowledge doesn’t leave with the contractor. Also, the resource needs to be correctly managed throughout the lifecycle to ensure there are no surprises and you can plan accordingly.
There is a limited risk with a managed service provider as they will have a wider pool of resource who can be brought in with very limited notice and impact on cost.
How to build a strong working relationship with the contractor?
There is no substitute for time and one great indicator to a strong relationship than consistency over time. Consistency in open communication, consistency in the understanding of expectations from both sides and accountability in the delivery of all expectations. Human error is a growing but preventable issue with all the automation possibilities nowadays. Therefore, all manner of mistakes or misunderstandings can be forgiven so long as one has the courage to admit their own and take ownership of them.
About the Author
Mitesh founded Fifosys, an IT Support Company in London, in 2001 following completion of a master’s in computer science. He has a reputation for straight talking, delivering focused and effective directives to his clients. Mitesh has an in-depth understanding of both operational and transformational IT projects and leads the business strategy at Fifosys. He also acts as a mentor, guiding junior aspirants commencing their business career.