John A. Fiore, executive vice president and CIO of State Street Corp., Boston Line of Business: Investment management and asset servicing Bio: Recently promoted to executive vice president and CIO of State Street; previously principal and CIO of State Street Global Advisers Day to Day: Sets the overall direction for technology, ensures the IT organisation delivers technology-based solutions that different businesses of State Street need, runs the systems environment Challenges: Extending State Street's industry leadership in providing leading-edge technology to serve the needs of institutional investors worldwide CIO: What is outtasking? Fiore: Outtasking is a modified form of outsourcing. It's when you assign responsibility for the performance of a particular function, the management of a particular technology or the delivery of a particular service to an outside organisation. Outtasking is done on a smaller scale than outsourcing, using multiple firms to perform specific tasks instead of having one large organisation take over.
CIO: Why would a company outtask?
Fiore: Mainly to allow employees to spend their time on those things deemed most valuable to the organisation while putting them on a more strategic mission. Outtasking won't necessarily reduce costs. Its intent is to offload from your staff those things that are not core to the business and that other companies do better so that your people can spend their time on value-added activities.
CIO: How do you decide what to offload?
Fiore: You choose those activities that don't define what you're about. Some are easy: HR, finance, sales, administrative tasks. The hard part is outtasking something that requires a particular depth of knowledge of the business or a technology that is important to the organisation. But even then, it may be worth doing because your chances of success may be higher than if you did it in-house.
CIO: What's driving the notion of outtasking? Fiore: Technology is changing very rapidly, and there's a shortage of IT resources. The truth is, no organisation can afford to do everything that it would like to do with technology, and if it could, it couldn't act fast enough.
Ultimately, you want what-ever resources you can get to be focused where they are going to add the most value to the organisation.
CIO: What are the benefits?
Fiore: You can be very selective, engaging only those firms with very deep expertise in that area. And because you're not putting all your eggs in one basket, you can move things around, without disrupting the whole outtasking environment.
CIO: And the pitfalls?
Fiore: Sometimes you don't get service levels you want. Or you run the risk of not having any knowledge base if you abruptly terminate the relationship and need to manage [the outtasked function] yourself. There could also be the perception that the service is too costly. The pendulum keeps swinging back and forth: We can do it better and cheaper if we do it ourselves; then again, we can do it better and cheaper if we pay someone else to do it.
CIO: Is there an ideal outtasking model? Fiore: Think of the outtasking firm as part of the staff who function as though they are employees. They need to be prepared to staff up and down based on how much the organisation is willing to fund the project at any point in time.
Don't forget, the intent is not to have [the relationship] become a battle over fixed price or a guaranteed level of work for a certain period of time; it's managing the workload by working with the vendors as though they're part of the IT organisation.
CIO: Are there ways to ensure success?
Fiore: You should define service levels so that you can effectively manage and measure performance for the money [outtaskers] charge you. But the hardest issue won't necessarily be about staffing; it will be about the quality of the service that can be delivered, the timeliness and the reliability of it.
- Elaine M. Cummings
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