Kissing Frogs And Avoiding Toads: A Multisourcing Dilema

Cane Toad

Cane toads in Australia. An unusual place to start a blog about multisourcing IT. But run with me on this. You see, like buying in IT products, management or services, the cane toad was a solution to a problem. Sugar cane beetles were threatening sugar production – a core Aussie export at the time, so some genius came up with the solution of introducing toads from Hawaii to eat the beetles.

They introduced just 102, in one small region in 1935. But it transpires that the cane toad is a rather feral and invasive little chap. The numbers grew exponentially to around 200 million today and they carry a toxin that threatens the existence of freshwater crocodiles and turtles and native toads and frogs, they’ve poisoned pets and humans, depleted native fauna and reduced insect populations for native insectivores.

And the best bit? There is no evidence the toads had any impact on the cane beetles. All in all, a bit of a fail. But back to IT, the story reminded me of when a business adopts a “best fit we can find” solution to their IT estate; it rarely solves the challenge you needed it to and the impact on the rest of your operation can be toxic.

Imagine buying in an IT service that not only fails to deliver on the problem it promised to solve, but also causes discord within your internal teams, disrupts your existing systems and threatens the very existence of your organisation. It’s a dramatic thought, but it happens.

Enter multisourcing. Instead of choosing an outsourced IT solution based on whatever research you have managed to crowbar into your busy schedule or going with an option that worked for someone else, multisourcing actually matches service providers’ offer and skills to the needs of your business.

A good multisourcing partner will have a knowledge bank of best of class IT solutions, not just the guy with the toads; and they will match them with your specific requirement. Furthermore, they will ask great questions during initial consultations that actually help you really drill down to what your key requirements and expectations actually are!

“Single-sourced” models, like cane toads, offer limited flexibility in an environment where business objectives can change quickly – multisourcing models are more agile in their response, plus the multisource route will allow you to take advantage of new technologies – the method encourages innovative tech developments. Plus, and this (for many) is the best bit, you can take advantage of your multisourcing partners larger buying portfolio and really drive down costs.

In multisource arrangements you get to select “best of breed” service providers, commoditised into bundles of service, individual strengths or new technologies – safe in the knowledge that the provider has been checked against your specific organisational business needs – but no IT outsourcing initiative will work without governance.

A good multisource partner will also provide the governance required to leverage maximum yield from your bought in service, often a big drain on net gains of outsourcing is the mismatching of internal systems and personnel with those of the service provider. Good governance sits like a bridge between the demand and supply of the IT service, but make sure that your partner is guarding your side of the bridge – ask potential partners whether they sit “client-side” or “vendor-side”.

Cutting edge multisourcing arrangements also now forecast your future needs and allocate resources based on historic data and upcoming projects, giving you real control of IT expenditure and access to key project staff and skills when you need them. So great solutions now and no nasty surprises in the future. It’s clever isn’t it?

As an IT buyer, you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your charming prince and you can’t always be sure which ones are the deadly toads. The multisourcing model has done all the frog kissing for you – leaving you to concentrate on actually growing your business and making a profit. But like the sugar farmers in Australia, the things that drive your passion for your business can easily be swamped by having to pick up the pieces caused by ill-fitting solutions to problems.

Andrew Buxton is Business Development Director and also a co-founder of Stoneseed. He has more than 20 years' IT industry experience, working with medium and large organisations designing Intelligent IT sourcing models. Andrew works directly with CIOs to help them address critical IT needs, creating business framework models for change to balance the delivery of key IT services with on-going budget challenges.