When a press release was issued a couple of weeks ago announcing that Microsoft’s IT help desk, desk-side services, and infrastructure and application support were to be managed on-premise by Infosys for its branches across the globe, it caused a lot of controversy in the media.
Outsourcing frequently provokes strong opinions, and whilst it is often accepted that outsourcing catering or cleaning is a sensible move, outsourcing IT is often seen in a different light. There can be a supposition that the company in question has somehow lost control of what it is doing and is embarking on outsourcing as a “last resort” to help clean up the mess.
These beliefs appear to be driving much of the Microsoft criticism. People have been criticising Microsoft products for years that they are difficult to manage, so if the company that produces them can’t even manage them, what chance for the rest of us?
However, this thinking stands on shaky ground. First of all, the company has always endorsed outsourcing so it is not surprising that they are now embracing what they described as a consolidation strategy, choosing only one provider to deliver all services.
Secondly, there seems to be a lot of prejudice about organisations in the IT field, where it is thought that software producers, hardware vendors and services providers are all the same, which is obviously far from true.
It should go without saying that as Microsoft is a software company, it is not implied that it can also be an expert in infrastructure support and management. Just like organisations in many other fields, the giant turned to a managed support provider to help with improving its system while achieving its main aim, cost-cutting. It is recognised that delegating the management of support services to experts can enhance IT efficiency and overall improve the whole business operations, minimising disruptions, inefficiencies and time and money loss.
The controversy, if there was one, would be that they have chosen an Indian provider to deliver the service rather than one based in the US, given all the fuss about off-shoring stealing work from the country. But the company was probably faced with little choice: the provider has to deal with 450 locations across more than 100 countries, including issues such as managing different languages, cultures and laws. Only an offshore global giant could probably do the job for Microsoft whilst still keeping the offer affordable.
The focal point of the discussion, anyway, should not be the provider, but the service. It is remarkable that an important company such as Microsoft recognises the value of managed services, choosing this option over full outsourcing. As they and a growing number of organisations of all sizes might have understood, this solution proves ideal when the need to delegate management of IT functions is accompanied by the desire to retain a certain level of power and control over operations, to retain intellectual property, and ultimately for enhanced security.
Staying up to date with the latest techniques, solutions and best practice is something that internal IT departments can struggle to achieve, but is generally easier for a service provider working across multiple clients. This strategic move shows us Microsoft doing what it frequently does – not accepting the status quo but frequently looking for “the better way”. Whether it has made the right decision is obviously to be proven, but it is the organisations that never change that are most prone to obsolescence.