There’s tedious work in managing outsourcing engagements when you’re the client. You have the details of contracts to remember, a multitude of service levels to monitor, vendor performance to govern, billing to reconcile. Most companies don’t do it well.
Enlighta Govern from Enlighta belongs to a fairly new breed of tool that can help you automate the mind-numbing aspects of your outsourcing strategy. You and your vendors settle on the processes, then you plug in the details and parameters of the work, and the program maintains a watchful eye on the activities, keeping you informed about whether the services are on track or not.
The basics of the program, which consists of five different modules, are these: You enter the details of contracts and other outsourcing paperwork, such as service level agreements (SLAs), process models, domain models and utilization details. Enlighta handles the workflow and compliance monitoring. What comes out — via a dashboard, alerts and reports — is visibility into the operations, compliance monitoring, flags about breaches of procedure and, ultimately, more accurate information about the work and the costs. Each person with access to Enlighta gets a customized view of the work, personalized at the level of role or user.
Let’s say you’re an IT manager in charge of application support and maintenance for your company. Your areas of interest might encompass user support, product support, maintenance and development projects. Each of those is a different “bucket” of work that gets performed by internal people, external service providers or a combination of both. Each bucket comes with its own set of service levels, timelines, important metrics and other details that tend to get lost in the day-to-day operation of an IT organization.
The software includes an optimization engine that has many uses. If a particular type of engagement has policies attached to it, such as relating to security, you can derive a ranking by best-choice-order of potential vendors or staff resources to handle the work based on the weighted criteria you specify (say, onshore vs. offshore). This more methodical approach to vendor or personnel selection improves on the hit-and-miss practice of having companies land on the preferred vendor list and then getting projects based on their relationship with the individuals contracting it vs. who best meets the hiring conditions.
The software also acts as a contact management system, which allows you to maintain a central database of contacts internal and external and lets you track the chain of command for those situations where you need to escalate concerns.
Enlighta’s rules engine allows you to set up calculations using a set of pre-written functions or through a navigational language that’s understandable — after a bit of training — by the typical business analyst. For example, a particular SLA may mandate that you as the client want 95% of the requests that are of severity level one responded to within 15 minutes and resolved within four hours. If they’re not resolved, financial penalties will apply, say, $500 for every request that violates the SLA. While that looks like a fairly simple calculation, it’s still a hard item to track — particularly when you have dozens or hundreds of SLAs to manage. Plus, many SLAs have far more complex calculations for how performance-level credits are computed. (By the way, the software is smart enough to do conversions of the metrics for the purposes of reporting to accommodate changes in service hours or variations in SLA terms that take place over time.)
The power of a tool like Enlighta is the visibility it can give you into your processes on an historic or real-time basis. Rather than getting mired in the details of a hundred SLAs, you can monitor the ones that are generating the most grief — or the ones with the biggest payback. You may discover a particular unstable application is generating a huge number of support issues; perhaps it’s time to upgrade or change the app.
Likewise, the program cuts down on rounds of “blame game.” Performance not up to snuff? You may learn that having the network go down for maintenance every night between 2 and 3 a.m. actually holds up dozens of developers in your captive center in India who are too polite to speak up. Or you may discover that a single individual has become a bottleneck on a project because he’s out sick. Once it’s discovered, you could do a quick modification to the process — for example, introducing an automated escalation procedure to kick into action after three days of non-response.
When thresholds that you set are reached, the system can notify you — and whomever else you specify — via email, dashboard, or text message. It can be as simple as letting you, your team and your vendor know a contract is within months of its expiration or as sophisticated as tracking service level performance on a multitude of dimensions across service providers.
Enlighta allows you to attach an image of the outsourcing documents themselves — whether Word or PDF or some other file format. Then you need to enter those aspects of the SLAs that pertain to the governance of the contract — the things that are action-oriented, such as when the contract will expire or what the service or business hours are, what the service levels are, what the service guarantees are and how the pricing is determined.
The program actually includes a number of different agreements based on the company’s domain knowledge in service contracts. (The founders have a deep background in outsourcing.) That means you get all the typical metrics you’d expect for a standard service. (In fact, if you’re in the position of having to put together SLAs, Enlighta can be used as a template-generator.) The built-in templates can be modified or you can use a wizard function to help you define metrics — whether qualitative, performance-oriented or based on utilization.
Enlighta has the flexibility to allow you to apply its functions to any number of different types of services — which you maintain in the services catalog. While Dan in IT might be using it for managing data center operations, Moira in customer service might have set it up to manage the call center. Same software; different application. The key is to pull together the metrics that apply, the vendors or staff resources involved in the work and the output you expect.
Once you get a performance history going, you can get snapshots about performance on almost any aspect of the details. You can drill down on how a specific call center is performing, or look at an individual agent’s history to establish which ones are most productive. You can get an SLA performance summary by vendor. For a particular vendor, you can get at the details behind issues such as security, service performance, training, attrition. You can grant access to the vendor so they can track performance. This also gives them a centralized way to report back to you on extenuating circumstances where billing would be affected.
So how do you handle data feeds into Enlighta? The software includes Web services APIs to let you integrate with enterprise resource planning programs, help desk systems and call center switches — or you can replace manual systems such as spreadsheets with Enlighta forms.
The form function lets you create business objects with unique fields, processes and rules, as well as designate who has access to various aspects of those objects. You can also set up schedulers, which will go into the assorted data sources and capture the data pertaining to that process.
You can create your own dashboard or set up dashboards for specific users or roles. You can do the same with reports. Use the built-in ones or set up custom reports.
The tool can be a boon for vendors too. The service provider who’s waiting for clarification from the client before proceeding on a job can get automatic escalation if the first contact doesn’t touch it in the prescribed period. Likewise, that delay experienced by the vendor sitting and waiting won’t be counted against the SLA — it’s removed from the calculation.
Of course, the power of Enlighta isn’t for tiny shops outsourcing one-off projects. As the sidebar shows, pricing is fairly hefty — in the five or six digits depending on the size of the engagement and number of users. But keep it in perspective. That’s still just a portion of what you’re supposed to be dedicating in the outsourcing spend on management of the whole endeavor.
If outsourcing has become an ingrained aspect of your organization’s strategy for growth, Enlighta arms you with the management visibility and control you need to convert the usual mediocre returns into triumph.
Implementation: How Keane Uses Enlighta
Danny Suppin, program manager for Keane, has overseen the deployment of Enlighta into 15 of the service provider’s client sites with the goal of deploying it in 25 or 35 additional engagements by the end of 2006. Although Enlighta currently delivers the software as a stand-alone application (since customers tend to integrate it with existing applications), Keane delivers it as a Web-based service to its clients. A team of five or six technical people manages the program from a Keane office in Gurgaon, a satellite town of Delhi.
The software is part of the service provider’s outsourcing governance and performance management platform, called Productivity Insight. This platform combines the vendor’s best practices and methodologies with Enlighta’s workflow automation, real-time metrics capture and reporting capabilities to give clients visibility into the application outsourcing work being performed by Keane. The program is delivered as a Web-based application, so there’s no footprint on the desktop.
Suppin said his company went through a rigorous evaluation of solutions specifically for workflow management and dashboard performance measurement, though he declined to name the products. It chose Enlighta for several reasons. “They have powerful workflow technology,” said Suppin. “The application is flexible and scalable. It can grow with the volume of deployments we want to make. It’s Web based. The technology is really the right technology. It’s flexible and extensible… You can see the potential for applying it to other domains and other vertical applications.”
But he said the “thing that really pushed it over the edge — at least in my mind — was that they were the only vendor with deep experience in application outsourcing. The information model — the way the thing is designed — really maps almost identically to the approach that we follow. They bring that expertise in. It’s reflected in their tool.”
The process Keane follows for deployment involves an initial meeting with project stakeholders (executives, project managers and end users) to introduce the application. Next, the Enlighta support team works with the Keane process experts for that client site to tailor the application to the specific engagement. That includes entering various thresholds into the Enlighta system. Then the program gets installed at the hosting center in India and the support team does testing. That’s followed by user training — for both clients and the Keane engagement team. The training takes place over the network and lasts about an hour. That’s followed by a pilot project shakedown, then the cutover to production. The amount of time from start to finish: 10 to 20 days.
Configuration of the program actually caused Keane early in its use to switch plans. The initial approach called for each engagement team to do the tailoring and deployment of the application for the client. Keane moved away from that “quickly,” Suppin said, because it found it would be supporting multiple releases of the program and would “start to lose control.” Now, because a central team hosts it, it also controls it — and that guarantees “a high level of service.”
During deployment, he said, it’s normal to run into a number of applications that require integration with Enlighta — typically, a ticket-tracking system. Also, usage requires network access, which brings up security issues, but Suppin called those, “pretty technical — they’re pretty well understood.”
Also, he’s found deployment slightly more complex in existing, mature environments vs. those that are “starting fresh.” The advantage in the latter, he said, is that “you’re going in new. It’s easier — in some respects — to change behavior.” The settled environments require a “bit more tailoring and customization.”
Then the benefits kick in. Suppin explained, “Oftentimes, when these arrangements are implemented, a client says, ÔWell, we have this workload.’ You say, ÔWhat evidence do you have of that?’ ÔWell, we’re not sure, but we think it’s this.’ When you implement this kind of process, you get a baseline very quickly. You understand what the work is, what the mix of work is… When you have an application that captures this kind of information, it can be transformative in that you can’t really deny the information. It helps with eliminating finger-pointing.”
Based on that, he said, “you can establish a much more effective relationship” between the client and the vendor.
Plus, it drives better decisions about the IT being delivered. “If you want to make strategic decisions about your application portfolio, getting a handle on costs is really key.”
Ultimately, said Suppin, the tool becomes a kind of “holy grail.” “I’ve demonstrated this capability to a number of senior executives and CIOs and they look at it and say, ÔThis is the kind of vehicle I need to get my arms around my organization, to implement consistent processes and to be able to align myself more closely with the business units… My belief is, there isn’t any other tool that’s comparable to Enlighta.”
An interview about outsourcing governance with Enlighta CEO, Nipun Sehgal