“People-First” Approach is Key to IT Managed Services Transition Success

Posted: 10/17/2018 - 08:51
Successful IT managed services (ITMS) transitions require an equal amount of due diligence and effort from the enterprise as well as the new service provider. Most of today’s market leading service providers bring tools, templates and processes that are very similar on paper and are table stakes for competing in the industry. The key differentiator is the quality, experience and adaptability of the people-based resources involved in the transition from both the enterprise and the service provider. The more both sides can work as a single team – with objectives and incentives aligned – the better the chances are of achieving an on-time and on-budget transition without negative impacts on the end-user experience.  
Ensuring the right talent on both sides of the transition from the start is critical in a managed services environment. On the service provider side, having qualified resources enables them to conduct thorough knowledge acquisition while adhering to the transition plan and maintaining clear and frequent communications with the client enterprise team. On the other hand, having the right internal talent is key for enterprises as they learn to adapt both technically and culturally to an outcome-based governance model, where the enterprise must manage service levels rather than specific tasks and resources. Here are five best practices to ensure the right people from both sides are set up for transition success. 
Interview the Service Provider Transition Team to Ensure the Right Resources 
Before an ITMS transition begins, the enterprise should invest due diligence in qualifying the key personnel that the service provider has proposed to lead and manage the transition. The quality of the transition project team should be part of the final service provider selection process. This helps ensure that service providers give proper attention to the caliber of the team being proposed and not just the proposal’s commercial elements and technical solution. Performing this interview and selection process up front helps avoid a sub-optimal start to the project. Don’t settle for a transition team that does not meet expectations. When a service provider knows that top talent is required to win the business, they will be more likely to bring their best personnel to the table. 
Set the Internal Transition Team Up for Success 
Similarly, enterprise IT teams should apply the same level of due diligence in selecting the internal transition project team lead and managers. Partnering the best internal resources with the service provider’s top talent is critical to the success of the transition. This includes assigning an internal team lead to clear organizational roadblocks and escalate issues early for timely resolution. Effectively coordinating stakeholders is a common challenge for any project, but ITMS transitions can be culturally sensitive and technically complex, so it is critical to have an experienced leader with a solid reputation.  The transition to managing outcomes, not the resources performing the work, can be difficult for the internal teams. Don’t rely on service providers to self-govern the transition project – assign your best internal resources to work collaboratively with them. 
Outline a Clear Change Management Plan 
An ITMS transition must be treated as an internal project and the enterprise must allocate resources from all teams, including business, technical, operational, financial, HR, communications, security and procurement personnel. Not assigning the right resources and the requisite time to accommodate the extra work load and deadlines impacts the ability of the service provider to move quickly and productively. There should be a clear demarcation of work to be performed by internal personnel, particularly IT resources, versus service provider personnel. Ambiguity and assumptions on either side will result in project delays and team friction. Change management resources should be embedded in the project team from the start. A lack of proper communication, or worse, no communication, can be detrimental to the project success and lead to resource flight risk.  
Know the Deal Before Work Begins 
To get the project off on the right foot, it is important that the delivery teams start with a common and clear understanding of the mechanics of the contract. If not, they will struggle to institutionalize the contract into daily operations. Similarly, internal project management teams should be fully aware of the contract terms and conditions to keep the project compliant with the intent of the deal and avoid potential value leakage. Verbal changes or handshakes that alter agreements should be avoided. It is critical, yet often overlooked, to document and update contracts with any changes that affect the steady state. Agreements that are not formalized via proper contract management protocols can lead to issues down the road. 
Find Time for Team Bonding 
Bonding and establishing a cultural fit between the service provider and enterprise IT teams are also critical success factors. Enterprise IT stakeholders that overlook the human element of the ITMS transition increase costs both in the short and long term. Giving both teams an opportunity to connect early in the project should be a priority, because asking people to work together before proper introductions and social interactions have been established is challenging. Address the “us versus them” mindset and set expectations on a collaborative effort. Off-site team meetings and proper onboarding of the service provider personnel should be one of the first orders of business. This includes scheduling time and budget for sending key stakeholders to the service provider delivery site to meet with the larger team and establish a healthy working relationship. Boosting team morale and establishing a collegial and collaborative approach to the project will go a long way in meeting the project outcomes on time and on budget. 
Don’t overlook people as a difference maker in a transformational ITMS transition. This includes securing top talent in your negotiations and also making resource changes early on if need be. Don’t settle for sub-par transition work for the sake of the go-live date; it sets the wrong precedent regarding what is acceptable and the project will be better served with the right resources in place. Having a “people-first” approach is critical to effective change management and ensures these often intense projects are set up for success. 

About The Author

Bilal Shahabuddin's picture

As a Senior Associate for business transformation and outsourcing advisory services firm Pace Harmon, Bilal Shahabuddin has established himself as a high-level value optimization and cost rationalization professional. His global experience supporting the strategy and execution of large scale, transformative IT and supply chain initiatives has covered the healthcare, finance, retail, transportation and logistics, consumer services, and manufacturing industries. Bilal is a graduate of Northwestern University and Kellogg School of Management.
Twitter: @PaceHarmon