For nearly 12 years, working as a Sales Director for a major technology and communications provider, I watched the IT outsourcing market evolve and adapt as it danced to the tune of external stimuli and economic mood changes – but the pace of change really started to accelerate around late 2008. As global markets began to grind to a halt and a worldwide recession spread virally, the outsourcing market was being reborn and re-energised in a way that was ground breaking and in my opinion about a decade overdue.
In fact, looking back, the old outsourcing ways seem as outdated today as Windows 98 is compared to Windows 8. Back then the balance of benefit was tipped in favour of the provider, of course as a Sales Director, I knew what my clients wanted to achieve through outsourcing – cut costs, get faster results, be better – but the corporate structures were never set up to achieve for clients anything more strategic than that.
The tune was chosen by the orchestra – not the audience. Success was defined by service agreements that were functional, limited and unimaginative. The service providers held all the cards and there were so few players controlling so much of what was available, that it seemed like that would never change. Then the recession happened. And change was forced upon the market. By this time a few like-minded individuals and I had begun to create a vessel that, as it turned out, would be perfect for these new unchartered waters. Multisourcing was born.
We had begun from a starting point of some frustration – caused by the limits placed on what we could achieve for our clients imposed from above and the “big players take all” narrative, that meant often clients were simply outsourcing to the wrong vendor – but also there was a lot of excitement, raw ambition and a feeling that we were on a voyage of discovery.
We also knew that beneath the veneer of large outsourcing companies there was a wealth of service providers who were better, cheaper, more flexible and agile. They just needed a way to market. Finally, and crucially, we’d also identified that although they were signing off the cheques every month, the clients of the big outsourcing players were not really happy with what they were getting. They had started to question the measures of success, they were starting to ask for something a little more in-line with their strategic thinking – more in tune with their specific business case – a little less of “one size fits all”.
Multisourcing was to be the bridge that joined them together. We created a team with a deep, proven knowledge of technology and IT support combined with years of experience gained in senior business and commercial roles. This gave us a unique perspective – we already knew what the right models, governance, methods and approaches looked like – together with the pitfalls and potential bottlenecks on the road to Multisourcing success.
We asked intelligent questions about what the client really wanted to achieve by outsourcing – we really drilled down beyond the faster, cheaper, better wish-list defaults to the more strategic, business goal aligned desires. Then we drilled through the big player veneer to source the country’s finest emerging technology and IT talent and found (and continue to find) vendors who were geared up specifically to meet the client needs that we identified.
Finally, we remembered how frustrating it was that “old outsourcing” had been leveraged in favour of the provider and we sat client-side in all negotiations – everything that we did benefitted the client. That was 2009. Since then the evolution of the Multisourcing market makes the changes I’d seen back in the 90’s and 00’s seem stagnant in comparison.
Both clients and providers are benefitting from the economy-of-scale effects of “customised standardisation”. Clients are now increasingly willing to go back to the drawing board and rip out their inefficient internal processes and buy in a provider’s standardised solution at a lower cost. Sometimes there’s a tweak here and there, but more often they realise that the provider’s offer achieves their strategic ambition straight out of the box – thanks to the intelligent questions at the start of the process.
But the real benefit of multisourcing is not in the outsourced services themselves but in the way that they are delivered. While service delivery has evolved towards a more simple commoditised approach, the service delivery models have evolved in a much more complex, robustly governed, multi-faceted way.
True multisourcing has therefore evolved beyond a “tick-box” dating agency for clients and vendors to a trusted advisory role in which clients who know where they want to go, but don’t have a map, are guided to the best solution. Furthermore, given the pace of change and exciting innovation in the IT market, yesterday’s best solution might not be today’s – multisourcing ensures that you are accessing current best in class providers.
I don’t think that I envisaged how key that advisory role would become and I don’t think any of us (if we’re honest), realised how many great IT solutions lay waiting to be discovered beneath that “big player” veneer, but they are growing in number exponentially and the IT solution to your strategic goal is waiting to be unboxed. And isn’t that paradoxical. My multisourcing journey began with a frustration that off the shelf, out of a box IT wasn’t REALLY working for my clients – it just turned out we were looking in the wrong boxes and not looking in enough of them.
Excitingly, as multisourcing evolves further into its next phase, that advisory role is becoming more strategic to client success and driving vendor innovation too. From assessment to selection, from design to implementation, from ongoing management of projects to end of lifecycle transition, the players and available solutions are multiplying.
I wake up each day excited to be in the middle of one of the fastest growing and evolving industries, thrilled to have the best solutions available, buzzed to be working with the country’s best talent … but more than that … happy to really be achieving what I set out to do … save clients money while improving their operations, solving their business problems and helping them identify and achieve their business goals. Not a bad way to earn a living. Bring on the next five years.