Outsourcing is a people issue

Opinion

Outsourcing is a people issue

The three-week strike by IT staff at Swansea Council in protest at possible outsourcing raises serious issues with ramifications far beyond the boundaries of a Welsh local authority.

Although outsourcing can offer dramatic business benefits, successfully handing over your technology assets and many of your staff is a vastly complex process in which people management is central to success. You cannot outsource IT effectively unless the people who are affected think it is a good deal for them. There is too much scope for problems.

The evidence from a decade of outsourcing is that skilled staff who transfer from the public to the private sector or from a private sector firm to an IT services company have nothing to fear.

Staff turnover rates at outsourcers are often lower than those in the IT departments of government departments, local authorities or businesses where IT is an enabler, not the core of the business.

Outsourcers can offer new opportunities and skills to the staff who transfer to them, but many IT staff are concerned at the prospect of switching their employer. That is why alternatives such as secondment are increasingly being embraced.

Whether Swansea Council outsources its IT staff, keeps them in-house or offers a secondment, the lesson for all IT managers is to tackle staff concerns in an open, timely manner or face the consequences.

Outsourcing challenges do not end with the signing of the contract, as our articles on page 30 make plain. The cost of managing contracts can be considerable and questions of control have led to pioneers such as Barclays to buy shareholdings in some of their key outsourcing service providers.

IT managers must learn from the Swansea outsourcing strike and tackle people issues>>

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This was first published in September 2004

 

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