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Are We Happy Yet?

Are We Happy Yet?

Despite compliance with the most stringent service level agreements (SLAs) and hard-nosed key performance indicators, there often remains the nagging doubt that you're really not getting everything you really should - or at least wanted - out of the outsourcing relationship.

Even when an outsourcing project goes as planned, many CIOs still feel like they're not getting everything they paid for.

Everyone has an outsourcing horror story. And whether it is your own or that of the friend of a friend of a colleague, they make you wonder if the course of any outsourcing project runs smoothly. You would be right to wonder.

Opinion varies, but suggestions are that anywhere from 30 to 90 percent of outsourcing relationships are problematical. As far as the issues go, you have probably heard the war stories: constant downtime, unavailable help desks, soaring add-on costs and so on, ad nauseam.

But what happens when things seem to go as planned or, at least, as contracted? Are we happy then? The answer is still no.

Despite compliance with the most stringent service level agreements (SLAs) and hard-nosed key performance indicators, there often remains the nagging doubt that you're really not getting everything you really should - or at least wanted - out of the outsourcing relationship.

A PA Consulting survey last year revealed what it described as a paradox: "companies are satisfied with their outsourcing suppliers' performance, yet there is a feeling that outsourcing is failing to deliver anticipated business benefits".

Jim Longwood, a research director at Gartner, predicts that "50 percent of CXOs will feel that their outsourcing deal hasn't achieved the success/performance they feel it should, while 60 percent of CIOs are happy".

You can dispute the figures, but the fact that PA and Gartner can measure such "feelings" is a sign of things to come.

All of the industry analysts agree that outsourcing is broadening its range from the nuts and bolts of utility or infrastructure practice to more innovation or transformational activities. (The fact that this is where the suppliers' greatest profit margins lie might be purely coincidental. Suggest to most CIOs that utility deals are on the way out and you might understand otherwise.)

Presuming this shift is real, then the relationships, the outcomes and associated metrics to judge success or otherwise by necessity become increasingly intangible. How do you measure innovation? By the number of new products or processes implemented; the shifts in market share? How do you measure transformation? By the number of people replaced; new markets entered?

Welcome to the age of measuring the unmeasurable.

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