Perfecting Service Management

Issue #47

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Amateur or Professional – Big Project/Little Project, A Project Just the Same
by Craig Bailey

One of the most fundamental things I have learned is that the Enterprise Customer Relationship is an ongoing "project engagement" and NOT a bunch of disparate tasks and activities.

Here is a real-life scenario. The customer, a major semi-conductor manufacturing firm, wanted to upgrade the systems environment that we managed for them on an outsourced basis. The upgrade was small (application of a software patch). The request was received by customer service. A support ticket was promptly opened and handed off to the department that handled patch applications. Information in the ticket included the nature of the request, timeframe required by the client and constraints.

Promptly at the time requested by the client, early on a Saturday morning, the person owning the request (let's call him Fred) took down the server, applied the patch and realized that he needed assistance from another organization to perform a key task to complete the client's request. Fred engaged that person (let's call her Sarah) who committed to picking up the ball where Fred left off. Well, now that Fred had done his job he went to the beach (out of cell/pager range).

Sarah dutifully performed her task, requested by Fred, and closed the ticket.

The client, on the other end of the activity, sees the server, and connections to it, going up and down. They acknowledge the fact that their managed services provider was doing the requested work so they weren't (initially) concerned. However, after a couple of hours of NO activity or updates they sensed something was awry. Especially since their server was still down. And, wouldn't you know it - month-end processing was to begin "tomorrow."

Excuse my French, but this is where all hell broke loose. To make a long story short, the change was backed out to restore things back to the way they were. The client was impacted by more than 24 hours of downtime at the beginning of their month-end processing cycle. Needless to say, I had to get my suit on and go visit the client. (We'll discuss the approach taken in this client meeting in our next edition "Amateur or Professional – Wait for the bullet or fall on the sword?")

The client gave us "one more chance" to get it right. As a result of this experience, a policy was instituted such that ANY change to a customer's environment was to be considered a project, with a plan, to include (at a top-level):

  • Nature of the request (Why are we doing this? The business AND technical reason)
  • Risks and assumptions
  • Scheduling constraints (Periods like month-end processing, to be sensitive to or avoid)
  • Primary and backup (24x7) contact information for each person involved in the project, including client, managed service provider, and 3rd party vendors
  • Single point of accountability (at our firm) for the entire effort (a.k.a. project manager)
  • Detailed list of tasks, activities, timetable and owner
  • Clear identification of the "point of no return"
  • Back-out plan
  • Steps to validate that the work was performed properly, all prior capabilities have been restored and new capabilities (if any) are working properly.
  • Final confirmation from client that "all is well."

Once a plan has been drafted, it must then be reviewed in detail with the client to confirm everyone is on the same page. And, depending on the complexity of the project, it may require multiple project/status meetings leading up to the time of actual execution.

An obvious response from the staff was "geez, it will take more time to do the plan than it will to do the work." The reality is, however, that the breadth and depth of the plan should be commensurate with the size and complexity of the work. One way to look at it is, there are projects with a big "P" and those with a little "p." However, both are projects just the same, requiring at least the basics of good project management.

We leveraged the above planning process to "re-do" the work for the semi-conductor client and it went off without a hitch.

In summary, the major lesson learned is that EVERY change request from a client should be handled as a project.

View previous articles in this series

Exploring Outsourcing: Managing RFP Responses (Part 2)
by Kurt Jensen

As mentioned several times in previous articles, Request For Proposal management is a function of creating a detailed and concise document. Shortly after the arrival of the first responses, you will know if your RFP creation efforts will lead to an efficient evaluation process or one that will take a couple of weeks. Regardless, your efforts to evaluate responses need to focus first on normalization of several key points.

The first two steps of normalizing RFP response contents are in the areas of Compliance and Pricing.


Non-compliance is a quick and easy way to eliminate respondents. For example, if a respondent indicates they will not comply with press release restrictions contained within the RFP, why explore anything further with them at this stage of the process? The following are compliance example areas which require normalization as first steps in the evaluation process:

Document – Does the respondent agree that preparation/participation costs are their responsibility, and that responses can be reviewed by consultants? Do they agree to your confidentiality requirements? These are yes/no questions which if answered "no", can tally against the respondent.

Coverage - Does the respondent agree their response provides the coverage (days, hours) required in the RFP? Again this is a yes/no answer. If they respond differently, then they have not responded to the RFP requirements.

Language – Does the respondent agree their response addresses any language requirements? If they do not meet RFP language requirements, it can be counted against them.

To make it easy to check for compliance, the RFP response template should include a section of yes/no questions covering each high-level requirement. A quick review of this section will allow you to determine overall compliance. Unless you find a required compliance area consistently refused by all or the majority of respondents (error, confusion or un-reasonable requirement in the RFP?), determining compliance or non-compliance will begin the response management process by elimination.

Pricing normalization

You can expect a wide variety of pricing models to be contained within the RFP responses. These prices need to be normalized and may require multiple vendor discussions. Major price influences are determined by two main categories: Geography and Model.


As stated before, in the most simple of terms, outsourcing is paying someone else to perform a job. Therefore, geography should not matter….but it does! Below are a couple of key terms to look for within the RFP responses. Each often has a significant impact on pricing.

Offshore – Support is provided by personnel located overseas. Popular examples include support provided for US or European based customers from India or the Philippines.

Nearshore – Support is provided by personnel located near the border. A popular example would be support provided for US based customers from Canada or Mexico.

Onshore – Support is provided in country.


Support models take two primary forms: Dedicated and shared personnel.

Dedicated – Employees of the outsourcer are dedicated to your contract. These dedicated individuals will consist of line employees and possibly a blend of supervisors and/or management depending upon the size of the outsourcing engagement.

Shared – Employees of the outsourcer are used to fulfill requirements of multiple contracts. These individuals may handle contacts originating from a wide variety of clients.

Within each of the above areas, price points will vary from per incident, per hour and per minute (among others).

In order to compare pricing you will need to normalize pricing data across all vendors! This sounds easier then it is and may require you to engage the respondent several times in order to be certain you have a clear understanding of their pricing model. These engagements need to be in writing in order to eliminate any "he said, she said" discussions later in the process.

Sorting RFP responses by compliance then pricing in a matrix (think Excel) will assist you with rapidly narrowing the list and allowing you to make a key decision regarding which vendors to consider for oral interviews. In the next issue we will review the oral interview process.

Contact us if you would like to share outsourcing or RFP experience. If you are thinking about outsourcing, we can help you manage the process, while you focus on your business!

View previous articles in this series


+ Amateur or Professional
+ Exploring Outsourcing
+ Recommended Reading
+ Featured Whitepaper


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Recommended Reading
You can't get enough information about outsourcing these days. To complement our ongoing series on "Exploring Outsourcing," we recommend Jason Compton's CRM Magazine article "How to...choose the right contact center outsourcer."

The article offers suggestions for how to get the outsourcing arrangement that is best for you, from up-front needs analysis to the vendor selection process.

Featured White Paper: A Logistics Perspective - Being a Preferred Supplier
If you like our articles, you'll love our white papers! Our editing team has been hard at work generating white papers from the many articles we've written over the last year.

This issue's featured white paper is A Logistics Perspective - Being a Preferred Supplier by Craig Thompson.

Achieving preferred supplier status is one of the best strategies for ensuring a long-term relationship with your key customers. This whitep aper explores the role and meaning of being a preferred supplier, identifies the attributes common in preferred suppliers, shares some successful methods to gain (and maintain) that status, and provides helpful tips, insights and pitfalls to avoid.


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