Amateur or Professional Big Project/Little Project, A
Project Just the Same
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
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
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
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
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
Clear identification of the "point of no return"
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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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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
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
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