Outsourced services substandard: users

IT users in companies with outsourced IT departments rate service levels as "substandard" but also claim the situation is "satisfactory", because such poor practices have become the norm when dealing with IT helpdesk staff.

This bizarre phenomenon where users are happy with substandard service emerged in research released by the Melbourne-based Mt Eliza Business School which surveyed more than 1000 IT users.

Infrastructure and systems manager for a financial services firm and a member of the Systems Administration Guild of Australia, Iain Whyte, said the results reflect the lack of defined service levels in outsourcing contracts.

He said political squabbling over contractual arrangements between the customer and provider creates conflict between users and the helpdesk.

Whyte has first-hand experience working at a company that had its IT operations outsourced and continued to work on the helpdesk after moving to the outsourcing provider.

He said the provider is specific about its role and rigidly adheres to its contractual obligations, so it is end users who suffer.

"When [users] requested support we made it very clear that under the contract there are certain things we couldn't do -- which is why those surveyed in the research rated helpdesk support as satisfactory; they know the limitations of such arrangements," Whyte said.

"Of course users get annoyed, because they get sick of hearing that their helpdesk request is outside the scope of the contract; we used to feel pretty ridiculous when it could be fixed in a few seconds with a couple of clicks of the mouse."

If the company complains to the provider, Whyte said, it is advised it is not spending the right amount of money and needs to increase its investment to get improved levels of service.

Outsourcing consultant Jonathan Farrell, of Farrell & Associates, said vendors maintain a rigid process so getting the contract right is critical.

He said companies need to detail their requirements, analyse what the company needs from the provider and ensure it is set out clearly in service level agreements.

"A lot of organisations don't realise that the quality of service delivery actually drops over time," he added.

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