Sourcing Divides Spirits

Terwijl operationele medewerkers van uitbestedende bedrijven en van leveranciers op de werkvloer langs elkaar heen praten en werken, is het hoger management doorgaans dik tevreden over de strategische resultaten van IT-outsourcing. Waar IT-outsourcing wel een succes is, is dat vaak in hoge mate bepaald door een open relatie tussen uitbesteder en leverancier. SLA’s, ‘afspraak-is-afspraak’-discipline en boetes voor missers dragen nauwelijks bij of werken zelfs ondermijnend.

From: Automatiseringgids, 16 November 2011: Sourcing verdeelt geesten (Article in Dutch)

“One of the most remarkable findings is that the satisfaction about outsourcingrelations seems to depend on the level of the respondent within the organisation. Managers on strategic levels are generally (83 percent) satisfied or more, but on tactical/operational levels this is only true for about 58 percent of the managers. “The higher in the tree, the happier the monky”, summarises research leader Guus Delen.”

This is a citation (translated from Dutch) from the article, which reports on a research project called Symbiosis which is a joint research from the University of Amsterdam and some other Dutch universities, together with ICT Consultancy firm Verdonck, Klooster & Associates.

The article correctly mentions the discrepancy, partly in perception but also in awareness, between the strategic and tactical/operational levels in organisations. Interestingly enough the discrepancy was also detected in the outsourcing partners, not only in the outsourcing parties themselves.

I think this discrepancy is more problematic than is usually reported, and deserves much more attention. I have encountered situations where the strategic level seemed to live on a different planet from the operations floor.

One of the problematic situations is that the strategic level does not get the “real” picture from what is happening because they only receive their information from the immediate levels below them. They set procedures in place to help them get more trust in the provided information but this usually creates the well-known problem of “squashing the middle-manager”: squashed between his manager who demands almost impossible results, and the team under him, racing to meet those expectations but unable to communicate the problems they encounter to their boss.

Architecture is a process I envision as a helper in this dilemma. Because the process focusses on the quality of the work, it can be somewhat easier to use as a vehicle of communication that provides better, and certainly more impartial, information to the strategic levels.

More on the Symbiosis project:

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