Insourced support delivers satisified users

IT managers ready to ditch their outsourced helpdesk for home-grown support will be buoyed by hard metrics coming from the 2000-seat Department of Tourism, Industry and Resources (DITR).

When it comes to user satisfaction, the improvement is not just good, it's dramatic - with department users rating in-house satisfaction levels nearly double to a healthy 74 percent from a terminal 30 percent for outsourced support just over a year ago.

If the figure sounds hard to believe, it's also a number that surprised the department's IT services general manager Drew Baker. Wary of whacky metrics, Baker says he immediately ordered the independent company contracted to gauge user satisfaction to double check its figures to rule out any statistical aberration.

"It was very high. Even the company that did the research was surprised. But support was the big winner. It was the department's staff answering phone enquiries from its own staff. They understood what people needed," Baker says.

The decision to bring IT support back inside the department came in 2003 after DITR decided to break from the now notorious Cluster 5 IT outsourcing framework that saw Telstra Enterprise Services (TES) provide IT infrastructure, services and support to a range of smaller and mid-size departments and agencies.

"We realized the clustered sourcing model didn't meet our needs," Baker says, politely declining to recant the various dramas his and other agencies endured during the Canberra outsourcing goldrush.

Baker says the year-long reclamation process was also a steep learning curve, with DITR choosing to outsource its infrastructure through Getronics, a smaller, local IT services company, but keeping the service desk, MS Office support, executive support, IT security and ITIL-based service management under its own roof.

However, Baker cautions that insourcing is no walk in the park, adding that support from the top is imperative for success.

"Support from our executive was critical. They were unhappy with sourcing arrangements and very supportive of the downtime required. But don't underestimate the work. [It has] meant going from one vendor to six," he says noting that more vendors mean more management, "especially with software licensing", he said.

That said, Baker also points out he "now speaks to" DITR's software vendors who are better tuned to developing requirements and more responsive to his users' needs.

Satisfying staff has also led to more demands placed on the IT shop, a phenomenon Baker says he and his agency are happy to respond to, providing value can be proven.

"We have increased user participation dramatically; they won't just stop you in the lift, they'll contact you and ask you what your capabilities are. We now have [better] educated users," he said.

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