For many businesses, the question of how to manage their IT effectively has increasingly become a choice between outsourcing and the use of cloud solutions. These two methods operate in different ways to achieve similar cost, performance and efficiency savings.
Standard outsourcing solutions generally follow a linear, transactional approach with the emphasis on large scale processes, stability, reliability, and continuous business process improvement. Cloud solutions tend to be more driven by two-way social engagement models – the focus is on listening to the customer/user, assessing their needs, behaviour, sentiment and influence to generate tailored follow-up actions, i.e., to drive customer retention or acquisition activity. Both methods have a place within the business environment, and current business demand is relatively evenly split between the two approaches.
Outsourcing is often used by larger businesses with the necessary scale and budget required to attract larger outsourcing vendors. This doesn’t exclude SME’s from exploiting the business value of outsourcing but to achieve this, they may need to consider aggregating business requirements to exploit the available benefits. Contracts often involve migrating operational processes or functions to a larger specialised partner, enabling companies to gain from reduced costs and higher service levels supported by credits. The outsourcing approach often realises these benefits through transactional strategies aimed at exploiting economies of scale, optimising delivery costs, and creating structured processes and systems with standard outcomes.
These outcomes introduce new business challenges, for example, how to leverage smarter intelligence and real time social interaction to enhance user experience and deliver innovation. To avoid disappointment and manage expectations effectively, equal emphasis should be given to improving customer interaction and user input, whilst remaining objective regarding current issues which are transitioned and require supplier focus.
Consumption of Cloud services is driven by the ability to adopt and evolve at a faster engagement rate than transactional-driven services. The “sense and respond” approach can be tailored to absorb user context and sentiment, for example, through multimedia channels, social networking interfaces, and the use of real time resolution tools. These methods create and enable environments to tap smarter intelligence and resolve key issues with a more personal touch. But consistently achieving the right level of service personalisation in a scalable and manageable way remains a significant business challenge.
Businesses are often too descriptive and inflexible when capturing technology requirements and attempting to deliver innovation and continuous improvement to IT users. The needs and priorities of different users vary, and should be factored into decisions on the selection of systems and solutions. For example, some users may prefer not to use real-time social engagement support tools, even though they can help to speed up issue identification and resolution.
Support representatives need the ability, skills, and systems to resolve service-related issues quickly to help maintain customer experience levels. To deliver these next generation support systems and experiences, businesses need to embrace Experimental and Personal Fulfilment systems. (Larger transactional solutions tend to target and measure efficiency at the point of the central IT process instead of focusing on the quality of the customer experience.)
Globally, significant investments are being made in context-aware services (which use information about the user, e.g., location, to deliver better customer experience) and decision support systems within people-to-people networks. These networks replace traditional user service desks, email and web incident tools. Businesses need to experiment with these tools and methods to understand and refine the most effective route to achieving innovation and personalised fulfilment.