Shared values: the key to finding the right outsourcing provider
IT has long been one of the most commonly outsourced business functions. More often than not, people choose to outsource their IT because they simply don’t have the resources in-house and the time and effort spent keeping it there is being syphoned away from core business processes.
Choosing a third-party provider to take over this responsibility is a difficult task with a number of factors to consider. One of the most important considerations, in my view, is whether a cultural match exists between a business and its outsourcing provider. Is there an alignment of values and expectations?
In Deloitte’s 2014 ‘and beyond’ Global Outsourcing and Insourcing Survey, respondents from 140 companies in nearly 30 different countries ranked issues they were facing with their outsourcing providers. While poor service quality scored highly, I found it interesting that only 19% of those surveyed viewed ‘incompatible culture’ as an issue. Yet issues such as lack of responsiveness (34%), ineffective issue resolution (33%) communication barriers (30%) and poor quality of relationship (30%) were all considerable problems.
My question is, aren’t all of these issues inextricably connected to the culture and values of the provider? The best relationships in life and in business are built between like-minded people and organisations. In this situation, people tend to share the same kinds of expectations of themselves and of others. It’s when your values, your expectations of standards and behaviours, clash that the quality of a relationship starts to break down.
Arguably every aspect of a business and how it operates is driven by values. At UKFast we have five: supportive, professional, passionate, dynamic and innovative. We hire based on these values and we expect our support and technical teams to embody them. As a result, an issue such as ineffective issue resolution would not sit well with us, or indeed, any provider who shared that same core value.
Choosing a provider to outsource your IT infrastructure to is a huge responsibility. You have to look at each organisation and ask yourself: “Do I trust these people to act as an extension of my business?” Is that how they are positioning themselves or are they simply providing a service?
How you behave and the levels you’re prepared to go to define you as an organisation. You can always find cheap options but when it comes to something as important as outsourcing, mismatched values can cost you much more in reputation down the line.
When it comes to IT outsourcing, we live in a hardware-driven world and invariably hardware will fail from time to time. The question is, do you have a provider on hand who will answer your call straight away and help you immediately or do you save a few pounds and potentially forgo that level of service and support?
It’s evident from the Deloitte survey that poor service quality ranks very highly when it comes to companies’ disputes with outsourcing providers, despite these providers achieving service levels (48% of respondents). Having an SLA is important, but it should be used as a level below which a company will not fall, not a limit they rarely exceed.
Ultimately, when it comes to choosing any provider, shared values are always a must. Without this common ground you run the risk of mismatched expectations when it comes to things like support, communication and level of service. Value for money is important, but you are far more likely to achieve this outcome when you choose a provider based on values. So, which values do you want for your money?
About the Author
Lawrence Jones MBE is the CEO of internet hosting firm UKFast, which he founded in Manchester in 1999. Prior to that he founded and ran a corporate entertainment business, the Music Design Company (MDC), which he sold to Granada in 1997. UKFast provides colocation, cloud and managed hosting services to thousands of clients including Sainsbury’s, British Cycling and the NHS. In 2015, Lawrence was awarded an MBE from the Queen for his contribution to the digital industry.