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Organise IT Before Outsourcing, Warns CIO

IT infrastructure should be organised before it is outsourced, otherwise an internal mess will simply become an outside mess

Companies should consider virtualisation and consolidating their IT infrastructure before going down the outsourcing route, so as to avoid an internal mess being transferred to an outside provider.

So said Discovery Communications CIO David Kline during a keynote address at the Global Sourcing Forum and Expo. He suggested that any companies wanting to outsource their IT assets would do well to virtualise, streamline and otherwise render shipshape their organisations before the transfer.

“If your mess is a mess, and you turn it over, it’s still going to be a mess,” Kline told the assembled audience.

“You could do an offshore … where your management staff is saying, ‘It’s over there. It’s not my problem anymore.’ And that’s not true. IT’s still your mess. Get it as clean as you can get it,” Kline said. “Know yourself. Know your limitations. It is a huge proposition to do global sourcing.”

Virtualisation and consolidation, apparently, are key to getting a company’s IT infrastructure “clean” for outsourcing.

When Kline joined Discovery, he was tasked with helping CEO David Zaslav reduce workforce and increase the company’s IT efficiency. As part of that, he said, “We had to ‘rightsize'”, reducing IT employee count from nearly 600 to around 200. Kline also restructured Discovery’s global IT network, the hubs of which in Asia and Europe operated on a different infrastructure of standards than in the United States.

Part of Discovery’s process in outsourcing involved determining who among of the physical staff had to be located in a specific place because of a job, eventually transferring some staff to other locations in order to save money. On a broader level, the company also restructured its infrastructure organisation on a follow-the-sun model, with teams in Europe, Asia and the United States trading off in 8-hour periods throughout the day.

But even more vital, Discovery learned, is a combination of having effective governance processes in place to manage the relationship with outsourcing vendors, and understanding the costs and processes within a system.

“The real value that global sourcing brings is the competitive edge of flexibility that lets enterprises toggle up and down and ride out these unpredictable storms,” Kline said, citing Amazon.com and Salesforce.com as examples of enterprises that could emerge from the global recession in a stronger position thanks to reshaped corporate infrastructures.

Companies considering whether to outsource their IT jobs will also need to consider the security implications.

In a report back in September commissioned by VanDyke Software and conducted by Amplitude Research, 61 percent of 350 IT professionals surveyed reported an unauthorised intrusion in their outsourced systems within the past two years. By comparison, about 35 percent of respondents working for companies that kept their infrastructure in-house reported an intrusion.