The A-Team errrr B-Team!?

Outsourcing engagements need to be managed carefully and properly from the cradle to the grave. When selecting a vendor during an RFP process, you will more than likely be presented with the A-Team that will be working your account. More often than not, you will be given the companies B-Team or even C-Team. What this means is they will present you with top quality talent and resumes of the resources that "will" be working your account.

In one case an organization was presented with top tier CCIE talent to be working on the account. When the deal was signed however, they were being billed for CCIE talent but given junior level network administrators to work the account. In the end the vendor was kicked out of the company after there was numerous fraudulent activities found in addition to the bait and switch of the network engineers.

Another case, had an organization years into a contract start replacing good desktop techs with family members who needed jobs but had no technical skills. The customers suffered through declining service levels while techs were working their issues with no technical skills. The client never bothered to care or inspect the skill sets of the newly hired techs working the account. As a matter of fact, one of the criteria for any techs was that they have A+ certification, none of the family members were A+ certified.

The above two examples, are based on outsourcing agreements where there is some language in the contract on what resources will be on the account. However, Not all agreements talk about the specific resources. A large amount merely speak about the work that is to be completed and agreements on the quality and/or timeliness of this work. With these agreements you need to be extra careful to manage the outsource vendor.

In an example of an agreement which only speaks of the work to be done by the vendor for the client, the vendor disengaged a top flight systems engineer to replace him with a cheaper very junior quite incompetent administrator. The admin did not know how to configure or check on tape backups, did not know how to logon to a Barracuda firewall, did not know how to configure email on an iPad and did not know Microsoft Exchange. The organization suffered from the lowered service levels, but since no SLAs nor specifications on the qualifications of resources was included in the contract, the client got what they agreed to and paid for. The client also was a non-profit that qualified for donated software including Office 365 for free, but instead had to suffer for too long on a poorly set up Exchange 2003 without SSL security.

The above is to illustrate that when outsourcing a business function, close attention needs to be given to the actual resources (people) that will complete the work. Whenever possible, make sure the contract is written in a way that protects you from less than expected resources ruining your customers experiences.