- its experience in specific types of outsourcing projects. What systems does the provider have in place for its own use, and for your use as a client?
- How will the provider manage ongoing communications? Keeping expectations realistic on both sides is an ongoing process. Strong account management is critical to ensuring clear communication, controlling scope, staying focused on objectives, and monitoring quality. Who will be the primary ongoing contact for your project, and what are their qualifications? How often will you receive informal and formal updates, and what format will they take? Will the provider proactively solicit your feedback? Will you have the opportunity to provide periodic "report cards," perhaps one of the simplest and most under-utilized practices for staying on track? This may take the form of an informal conversation, or a checklist against which a provider can be rated at specific project milestones.
- How does the provider plan for the unexpected? In the process of turning over a critical business process or application to an outsourcing vendor, you are likely to encounter a few surprises. You want a vendor who, in the process of developing a statement of work and service level agreement, is proactive in understanding your priorities and in creating guidelines for a working relationship that is flexible in meeting those needs, which will undoubtedly change over time. In the course of your discussions, does the provider walk you through a well-structured set of questions to better understand your needs? A well-qualified vendor will often ask questions your organization has not considered, but should. Are the results of these discussions expressed well in a resulting proposal?
Ultimately, despite diligence in selecting an outsourcing partner, clients and providers alike understand that the proof is in the pudding. If your organization has little experience with outsourcing information technology services, you may want to test the waters with a pilot project that is of small scope, short duration, or within a low-risk focus area. A provider with a genuine interest in evolving a long-term business relationship with your organization should be willing and able to structure such an engagement for you.