Tower Talk

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    Maybe I’m just a novice at this, or maybe it’s the newest way to describe a certain kind of organization, but there was a lot of “tower” talk at the Gartner show this week. In the context of outsourcing, that means IT organizations that are grouped and managed by function.

    The Boeing Company, a rather sizable organization, has a tower for desktop (serviced by Dell), mainframe (serviced by CSC), help desk (serviced internally), network (serviced internally), voice (serviced by IBM) and pager (serviced by Arch). Each tower has a lead person who is responsible for vendor management and contract monitoring.

    Philip Harris, the Director of the IT Services Business Management Shared Services Group, said the tower structure was set up in 2003 to resolve one of the major challenges of his environment: that “engineers know everything.” That includes how IT services should be delivered. At some point in an engagement with IBM his group realized that a given vendor needed one face, not 50; that it’s hard for people to let go of work — especially those who want to handle the contract management themselves when it’s not part of their direct responsibilities; and that while the service providers were behaving, the internal people weren’t.

    The lead person couldn’t be somebody with strictly a buyer’s background. “Take a good buyer,” he explained, “put ’em into a sourcing management office [dealing with technical work], and they fail. The skills that are needed: negotiation and interpersonal skills.

    Tomorrow, I’ll share more of Phil’s wisdom and practical advice.

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