IT Outsourcing & Business Continuity Planning


    I haven’t seen outsourcing service providers position themselves in the "Business Continuity" service provisioning sector, although I see their services being used for that purpose – either intentionally or otherwise.

    A few months back, the Outsourcing Institute hosted an awards ceremony to recognize exceptional service in the various sectors of outsourcing services. One award caught my attention: Wipro won the award for their service toward one of the leading airlines in the U.S. for providing exceptional service during Hurricane Katrina. This airline’s customer support infrastructure was severely affected during the hurricane and they needed a quick and effective failover option. They looked to Wipro, which was already providing them with customer support services from offshore locations, to help them in this regard. Apparently, Wipro moved quickly to take-over the additional overhead without a questions, thus giving the airline sufficient time to get their U.S.-based infrastructure back in place.

    This example goes to show that corporations need not necessarily look at outsourcing as a cost cutting initiative. In today’s highly regulated and compliance-intensive business environment, enterprises are hard-pressed to devise cost-effective ways of compliance. Compliance also includes business continuity and disaster recovery. Offshore service providers would be an ideal candidate since they not only provide offshore locations for business process mirroring, but they also provide significant cost savings.

    Why aren’t enterprises looking at outsourcing as a "one stone two birds" solution? I think that it is up to the service providers to include this in their marketing/sales pitches. These days, when hardware costs are going down, setting up mirror infrastructure will not prove as expensive as it was a few years ago. Therefore, I believe that outsourcing service providers should include business continuity as a part of their service offering and get into an educating mode in their sales pitch. What differentiates service providers from each other anyway? Most of the large enterprises are already aware of the costs, benefits and risks associated with outsourcing. The need for educating the business user and evangelizing the process of outsourcing is in its decline. Thus, outsourcing services (in general) are becoming a commodity. Service providers need to have an educational component in their sales/marketing pitch to differentiate themselves from other plain-vanilla me-too providers. Business continuity is one such area where the benefits are evident upfront.

    Would love to hear your comments on this one.

    (By the way – these are are not "random ramblings." I was a part of business continuity planning effort for an international bank during Y2K. It sucked coz I had to spend my New Year’s Eve on December 31, 1999 watching the clock tick past 11:59:59 and have my phone ready in case everything failed!)