IT Sourcing (Information Technology Sourcing)

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IT Sourcing is the process of choosing or procuring information technology resources from a party outside of the organization. Traditionally organizations would outsource their mundane IT activities as a single contract with a single partner which was done mostly as a cost optimization solution - lowest bid would generally get the contract. With a fast changing global economy and evolving business objectives it has become essential for CIOs and IT Managers to create a strategic sourcing plan where the relationship with the vendor would be one of collaboration; ensuring their capability to respond to the organization's changing business needs in order to deliver value. [1]

Relationship Between IT Strategy and IT Sourcing
IT Strategic planning drives the IT Sourcing process. IT Strategy lays out the objectives i.e. what to make while IT Sourcing determines the procurement of resources to make "what we must and buy what we can."

Priority Objectives for IT Sourcing Strategy[2]
In a digital world, the focus of IT is shifting from backend operations to driving business growth. To support this change, new sourcing strategies are urgently needed. These should have three priority objectives:

  • Adopt a more liquid workforce: Constant change is a way of life today. Businesses need their workforce to be change ready. As things stand, a skills gap is preventing some companies from evolving as fast as they need to. Technology change is outpacing the ability of the labor market to provide the digital skills that will drive new strategies. To plug that gap, IT organizations need to introduce entirely new roles that do not exist today. For example, “platform directors” will help define and build the software platforms needed to propel business strategy, and “intelligence architects” will teach intelligent applications to interpret data, apply logic and make decisions. Automation and crowdsourcing are bringing more liquidity into the workforce, but both have an impact on retained human workers. Automation radically changes in-demand skillsets, with machines starting to handle many routine tasks previously carried out by people. Crowdsourcing is another essential component of the liquid workforce. Although it is not expected to replace traditional IT delivery provided through outsourcing or in-house resources, it will fill digital gaps in organizations and enable near instant scalability (for rolling out global changes to applications or enabling testing on multiple devices against the clock).
  • Migrate to as-a-service commercial models: For the last decade or so, companies have looked to cloud computing to bring flexibility to their technology infrastructures. Now crowdsourcing and intelligent automation are bringing a similar level of variability to IT sourcing. These new approaches mean traditional FTE-based commercial models will soon become obsolete. IT organizations will need new everything-as-a-service commercial models that measure the value of work done rather than the labor required to do the work. Through outcome-driven agreements, we will see providers and companies partnering together to drive innovation and achieve targeted results (rather than clients specifying upfront the mix of materials/headcount/skills they require). Companies that move now to adopt outcome-driven models will no longer be limited to what can be achieved with their current labor pool. This will place them ahead of the curve in realizing IT sourcing flexibility, and therefore business flexibility.
  • Implement the right mix of local and global sourcing: Shorter cycle times and increased interaction with the business point to the need for a new workforce dynamic. Businesses will increasingly seek to bring in platform directors and intelligence architects for key projects. And when they do, they will expect proximity. It is a big change from the approaches that have become embedded in companies after 10 to 15 years of global sourcing. The key from now on? A more balanced mix of local and global resources, with certain technology skills located in close physical proximity to the business leads.

Steps to Strategic IT Sourcing[3]
The sourcing of IT systems and services is a major undertaking with enormous implications for the entire organisation. The wrong decisions during the sourcing process can lay the foundations for a contract burdened by service delivery issues and cost escalation. A more strategic approach to sourcing helps organisations avoid common pitfalls and delivers a fit-for-purpose contract that is a success for the client and supplier alike. Ultimately the most successful IT contracts are those where the expectations are clear between customer and supplier and both parties have agreed a contract which addresses the customer needs and enables the supplier to deliver the services at a profit. Getting to that point requires the following nine steps to be executed well.

  • 1. Strategy - building the foundation for sourcing: To realize the true value of IT sourcing a robust strategy should be in place to enable consistent and structured decision-making. Decisions should be made on a proactive basis driven by the strategy and not on a reactionary basis, driven by immediate organisational pressures. An IT sourcing program, based on a clearly defined strategy and vision, can deliver significant business benefits to an organisation, including total cost of ownership (TCO) savings, service level enhancement, technology transformation, best-practice governance and business agility. To be a true success an outsource or managed service agreement has to improve the competitive advantage of the organisation as a whole; however this can only be achieved if the strategic business objectives of the organisation are identified and understood prior to initiating the sourcing process. The strategy should be based on a detailed analysis of the organisation’s existing environment, objectives, maturity and management capabilities. Has the organisation got the ability to implement and manage the strategic option that has been selected? The external market should also be considered – what are the market trends, what are the organisation’s peers doing? What are the suppliers’ capabilities and appetite to deliver against the IT sourcing strategy? The IT sourcing strategy should consider:
    • Technologies: How should different technologies be sourced? For example, should data network, voice and mobile services be bundled into a single deal or treated separately?
    • Operating model: What operating model(s) should you put in place? In-house, managed service or outsource? This needs to be linked to decisions around service demarcation which defines what the internal organisation is responsible for and what the supplier(s) are responsible for.
    • Suppliers: Should a single supplier or a multi-supplier IT sourcing strategy be pursued? If multi- supplier should there be a service integrator?
    • Geographies: How should different countries and regions be treated? Should services be considered globally, regionally or locally?
    • Commercial: What are the commercial objectives of the new deal?
    • Execution approach: Should the IT sourcing strategy be implemented in a phased manner or a big bang approach? How should contract transfer be handled? How should exit from existing suppliers be managed?
  • 2. Developing a project team: Running a successful sourcing process is time consuming, resource intensive and intellectually demanding. The following challenges are often experienced:
    • Achieving the timescales
    • Avoiding increased or unexpected program costs
    • Achieving confidence in the business case
    • Managing changing requirements or the conflict between requirements
    • Negotiating a mutually advantageous contract
    • Performing an objective assessment of potential suppliers’ suitability
    • Managing stakeholders and ensuring active, executive sponsorship.

Depending on the type and scale of the services being sourced additional team members may be required. The amount and type of resource required will also vary significantly during the sourcing process. For example, more legal and contract negotiation expertise will be required in the later stages of the process.

  • 3. Pre-contract due diligence: Pre-contract due diligence is the single most important preparatory activity that the organisation needs to undertake for any sourcing programme. The more information that can be collected, the more comprehensive will be the requirements definition and internal business case. If suppliers are being asked to manage and transform an IT environment, they need to know the detail of that environment. The following types of due diligence data should be collected:
    • Site list with some form of site categorisation
    • Services delivered at each site, including volumes (e.g. bandwidth, port counts etc.)
    • Asset database, including make/ model, age and net book value
    • Service management processes and operating manuals
    • Service level reports – performance against existing service levels
    • Current incident volumes
    • Traffic profiles
    • All existing third party contracts that cover the in-scope services
    • Total cost of ownership (TCO) model including all internal and external costs
    • Details of all current and planned projects
    • Project, change and IMAC volumes
    • Employee transfer numbers and details.
  • 4. Shortlisting suppliers for the RFP process: The traditional precursor to the RFP process, the Request for Information (RFI), is used to create a shortlist of recipients for the RFP and to provide the customer with strategic options for sourcing and network architecture. However, following the methodology advocated in this paper means that the sourcing strategy and IT architecture requirements are already defined and therefore the additional time and expense of an RFI process may not be required. All that remains is to agree the potential suppliers who will go through the RFP process. The process of identifying potential suppliers is straightforward but must be based on a mixture of industry analysis and first-hand experience of doing business with the candidates. Various sources of readily available industry analysis exist in the marketplace today. The relevance of any first-hand experience will vary depending on whether the customer has outsourced or procured a managed service before but all previous experience with a potential supplier is relevant. Example criteria that should be used to select potential suppliers for an RFP process are shown below:
    • Ability of suppliers to execute
    • Recent supplier successes in the market
    • Geographic alignment between the footprints of the customer and supplier
    • Existing relationships between the customer and the supplier
    • Strategic focus of the suppliers on the delivery of managed and/or outsourced IT services.
  • 5. Requirement definition and RFP document production: The objective of the Request for Proposal (RFP) process is to evaluate potential suppliers and enable a down-select decision to be made. As a general (and simple) rule, the more proactive and prescriptive the end-user organisation can be in articulating their requirements and objectives, the better the contract that will result. The customer should be clear as to what is required from a managed service or outsource contract, but should stop short of describing how it should be delivered. The ‘what’ is the realm of the customer, but the ‘how’ is the realm of the supplier. Requirements should be defined across the following areas in the RFP document:
    • Service demarcation and service scope
    • Technical architecture, vision and strategic objectives
    • Service delivery model, service management processes
    • Service level agreement
    • Governance model and forums
    • Commercial objectives, cost treatment and allocation, pricing model, asset treatment
    • Legal terms
    • Employee transfer
    • Risk and compliance.

The RFP document and the supporting documentation should be issued as a single pack to all suppliers simultaneously. When issued with the RFP document, the suppliers should receive clear instructions as to the expectations upon them, including timeline for responses and key contact details. It is important to allow the suppliers sufficient time to respond to the RFP document and to understand the requirements and due diligence information contained in the RFP.

  • 6. RFP responses and supplier evaluation: Upon receipt of the suppliers’ RFP responses an appropriate methodology should be used to compare the proposals and identify the most compelling commercial offer with the highest level of capability to meet the service and technology requirements. Prior to receipt of responses the evaluation team should agree the weightings applied to each section of the RFP and each requirement within the individual sections should be classified as to its relative importance. A detailed supplier evaluation should focus on innovation, commercials, service delivery, technical quality, assurance of supply and risk. It is not enough for suppliers to simply offer an attractive total cost of ownership (TCO) savings profile; it is equally important that the suppliers are sufficiently capable of delivering against the customer’s business requirements. This should ideally result in a down-selection to two preferred suppliers to maintain competitive tension and to secure an optimal deal. The supplier evaluation should include:
    • Quantitative evaluation (scoring)
    • Qualitative evaluation (strengths, weaknesses and risks)
    • Commercial analysis
    • Reference feedback from existing customers
    • External market views
  • 7. Contract negotiation: After down- selecting preferred suppliers in response to RFP submission, the customer should prepare a draft contract with a full set of schedules. This should be designed according to the customer’s requirements, rather than being based on suppliers’ terms and conditions. Prior to releasing the draft contract to the supplier(s) it should be thoroughly reviewed and finalized through consultation with key stakeholders. The preferred suppliers should be instructed to review the draft contract and to supply a marked-up version highlighting any proposed changes. Upon receipt of the marked-up drafts, the customer should compare the submissions in detail and develop a clear contract negotiation supplier. There is significant benefit to be had by adopting a ‘time-box’ approach to the contract negotiation process whereby firm deadlines are set for completion of the negotiation process. Not only does this force all the parties to reach a conclusion at a known time, but it also allows the parties to communicate a clear timetable to achieve the necessary internal approvals for the final deal. In order to maintain competitive tension throughout the sourcing process it is important to negotiate in parallel with the down-selected suppliers. This phase of the process requires a significant change in the structure of the customer project team in terms of the number of people required and the experience they have of contract negotiation. To achieve the ‘time-box’ deadlines the negotiation of the contract must take place in parallel workstreams and the project teams of both the supplier and customer need adequate resources to achieve this. Depending on the TCV (Total Contract Value), it is not unusual for teams of up to twenty on both sides to be involved in this process. Ideally each team member needs experience of this type of activity. Throughout the process the appropriate stakeholders must be kept fully informed on progress of the contract negotiations and the suppliers’ performance against the key success criteria of the sourcing phase. This is particularly relevant in the case of the commercial offers of the suppliers.
  • 8. Planning for transition and transformation It is never too soon to start planning for transition and transformation. Preparation for the transition phase should begin as early as possible and shouldn’t wait until the service commencement date of the contract; it needs to begin during the sourcing process. Following contract signature, it is vital that the contract is mobilized according to the spirit of the negotiation process and as outlined in the terms of the contract. The supplier(s) should provide detailed transition and transformation plans during the sourcing process and this should be reviewed and agreed during the contract negotiations. The customer should ensure that plans are aligned with business requirements and constraints, and that the plans are achievable and can be supported. The customer should also make sure that their transition responsibilities are clearly understood. If there are existing contracts in place then exit planning should also be addressed during the sourcing process and a detailed exit plan should be agreed with the incumbent. The way of working between the incumbent supplier(s) and the future supplier(s) should be discussed. In order to develop a successful plan, the transition and exit team structure should be agreed prior to contract signature. Transition is a joint activity involving stakeholders from the customer and supplier organisations. Whereas the customer should always be responsible for managing the transition process, it is normal for the supplier to perform the majority of the tasks required and to bring a far greater level of experience to the process. There must be continuity of resource and knowledge from the sourcing phase to the transition phase. This is best achieved by making the number of people allocated to the transition program a contractual commitment for both the supplier and the customer. This commitment must extend to retaining certain key individuals from the sourcing process through the transition phase.
  • 9. Developing an effective IT governance framework: Governance is one of the main reasons why IT managed service or outsource contracts succeed or fail. Good contract governance is about the delivery of business benefits, well managed services, and a strong customer-supplier relationship. Poor contract governance, on the other hand, often results in poor service delivery to the customer and/or an unprofitable contract to the supplier. The IT governance framework highlights the ‘who’ and ‘how’ elements of the operating model. It defines the principles, rules and processes that enable effective decision-making. It provides the framework to address how decisions are made, who has the authority to make decisions and how decisions are communicated. The IT governance framework must be fit-for-purpose and flexible such that it can readily adapt to the customer’s changing business requirements. The IT Governance framework should be multi-tiered, ideally across three levels: executive, commercial and operational. This not only ensures effective decision- making but also provides a clear escalation path for dispute resolution. The IT governance framework also needs to define the performance measures and reporting requirements – standardizing management information across all the different parties in the operating model will enable effective evaluation of the success of the operating model. As a general rule, good governance maximizes the potential for successful contract implementation whereas poor governance is often the reason why contracts fail to meet expectations. The following are 10 steps to good contract governance:
    • 1. Define and implement a clear and unambiguous governance structure
    • 2. Track and report on contractual obligations
    • 3. Actively monitor and review service delivery performance
    • 4. Consider the IT ecosystem interdependencies
    • 5. Proactively manage operational changes
    • 6. Implement effective commercial governance
    • 7. Create and manage a contract risk register
    • 8. Create, populate and act upon a supplier scorecard
    • 9. Implement a clear communications strategy
    • 10. Perform regular contract assessments.

IT Sourcing
source: Consultancy United Kingdom

IT Sourcing Challenges[4]
There are four challenges SVM leaders must address to ensure their roles remain relevant and in line with their organization’s digital business initiatives.

  • Enable digital business and bimodal IT.

Traditional SVM organizations and practices typically struggle with the Mode 2 aspects of bimodal IT and are therefore frequently late delivering on top business priorities. The most common criticisms from stakeholders are a lack of flexibility with regard to processes, poor competency in new technological domains and an overly tactical approach that fails to strategically align SVM efforts with key business priorities.

  • Increase the efficiency and scope of technology procurement

As technology spending grows rapidly outside the IT organization, SVM teams must engage with innovators in business units to ensure they are involved early and deeply enough to deliver business value. This allows them to efficiently deliver projects.

  • Deliver aggressive cost optimization

IT costs typically represent a small fraction of business costs: 4.3% on average. There are often better opportunities to optimize costs outside the IT organization, yet many CIOs are reluctant to surmount the cultural and political barriers involved. During times of disruption or economic stress, however, business leaders have an increased appetite for radical change. SVM leaders should exploit this by identifying sourcing opportunities that can streamline and standardize business processes. At the same, they can restructure organizational technology spending into channel funds, which can drive business value in areas like digital business innovation, competitive differentiation and renovation of core IT.

  • Manage complex vendor ecosystems

Using vendors for digital business initiatives can bring innovative your organization, but may also expose you to potentially devastating performance and security risks. Teams need to create clear incentives for vendors to cooperate and collaborate and must use tools and analytics to measure performance in compliance, collaboration and project delivery.

See Also

IT Strategic Sourcing
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
Business Process Offshoring (BPO)
Outsourcing Relationship Management (ORM)
Vendor Relationship Management (VRM)


  1. What is IT Sourcing (Information Technology Sourcing)?
  2. Priority Objectives for It Sourcing Strategy Accenture
  3. Nine Steps to Successful Strategic IT Sourcing Consultancy UK
  4. 4 Challenges Facing IT Sourcing Gartner

Further Reading