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Seven Key Considerations for a Successful Outsourced IT Infrastructure Implementation

On 27-Jul-2012
Posted by: , Director of Solutions Management

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**Part one of a two-part series   
Before you sign an outsourced IT services agreement, and ideally as part of your vendor selection process, it is critical to have a roadmap for a successful implementation. Developing the roadmap requires an understanding of key considerations and questions to pose to service providers (SPs) 1) during the RFP process, 2) after the service provider is selected and during the implementation process, and 3) at the end of the implementation as you move to create support processes. Regardless of whether you’re turning up a new environment, executing a technology refresh, or migrating away from a legacy environment to a next generation platform, the best and most innovative service providers will take a highly organized and collaborative approach to ensure the implementation is a success.

During the RFP Process
Key consideration – Requirements gathering and solution vetting is the most important part of the RFP process—and the devil is in the details. Even the most skilled enterprise IT solution designers can fall into the trap of being too simplistic when it comes to requirements. In the rush to choose a provider and meet deadlines, they become less analytical and more tactical. All they see is, “I need five servers, 20 virtual machines and a firewall.” The best and most trusted Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers are very active in the RFP process to carefully analyze solution requirements and should be asking you questions such as:
  • What are the measurable performance criteria the solution needs to deliver? 
  • Who will access the environment? How and from where?
  • What security concerns must be addressed for compliance reasons?
The best IaaS providers are highly skilled in technologies, components and platform requirements. They recognize that it’s not just about the 20 virtual machines (VMs). They will want to know:
  • What type of VM? 
  • What operating system needs to be installed?
  • How many resources will the VM need at peak?
  • Does it need to be redundant?
  • If so, how should that redundancy function? 
Instead of looking simply at what components are chosen, they will look at the functions that those components perform. What does each component actually need to do for you? They will ask the questions about what you are trying to achieve and the business problem you need to solve. The best SPs will never take the easy way out and tell you what you want to hear. Leading you through a collaborative process, they will get into the details and be very active in requirements gathering to ensure the right decisions are made about technology, components and platforms.   

After the Service Provider is Selected
Key consideration – Hold a formal kickoff meeting -- Once the IaaS provider is selected, the best SPs will get all of the key stakeholders involved in designing, implementing and supporting the solution together to discuss the scope of the implementation. This might be in the form of a kick-off meeting to talk through what the solution is, answer questions, discuss the timeline and collaborate on the project plan.

Key consideration – Ensure there is one person on point -- Because there is so much cross-functional coordination involved, it is also critical to have one person leading the project. At the beginning of the implementation process one person must lead the coordination efforts and manage the individual tasks that need to be carried out. Is the IaaS provider going designate someone or do they expect you to manage your own project? Some providers will simply direct you to the relevant technology or network vendors to work with individually. The best will leverage a professional implementation coordinator/project manager to oversee all coordination with each of the appropriate internal parties. This involves anything from operations folks setting up cabinets, network engineers allocating IP addresses, and systems engineers that are imaging your systems, etc. 

Key consideration – Ensure there is a project plan and milestones for success – Once a contract has been signed the customer can’t simply walk away and discontinue their involvement. Because there are stakeholders on both sides, another key consideration is creating a mutually agreed upon project plan. This includes agreeing on all of the milestones and the appropriate due dates for both parties. Being able to document and understand who is going to do what, when, where, and how is going make the implementation that much more successful. 

The implementation coordinator/project manager is typically in the best position to define and manage project milestones. If a provider does not offer this, or if the person they name is also the one doing the provisioning, that person will be limited in their project management focus, ability to see both sides, and may struggle to define accurate milestones for success.  

A good SP is going to work closely with the customer to compile the solution, turn the solution up and provide advice on best practices. But at the end of the day, the customer still needs to make the final determination for how the environment is set up to meet their needs.

*** Check back next week for part 2 of this blog that will examine three key considerations after the implementation