Car Cleaning and IT outsourcing

So this is my first blog post of 2011, the theme was brainstormed while I was doing yet another “first thing” in 2011 and that was Clean the car. My car has been filthy ever since the UK had the excessive unusual abundance of snow in November and December, I have not cleaned it since then for obvious reasons, today we have had a bit of sunshine and this gave me the opportunity to finally clean her off. So whats car cleaning got to do with my blog which focuses on all things in the Datacentre? Well nothing to tell you the truth, both subjects are about as far apart as I am from the gym this time of year! However the actual job of car cleaning isn’t what I am going to discuss, what I am going to discuss is the similarities that lie in the choice who who does your Car Cleaning and IT Outsourcing.

Car cleaning just like IT projects are tedious at the best of times, this job took nearly an hour of my limited spare time on a Saturday afternoon, additionally it is still 5 or so degrees here which is hardly something you want to get soaked in. With all of these thoughts arriving in my head before actually doing it I thought i’d take the car down to the local hand car wash and outsource the whole shebang to my local “cheap labourers from overseas”, hey they do only charge a Fiver after all for a first class finish? I mulled over this option in the morning, eventually deciding to insource it and do it myself. Whilst out on the drive and while I was doing it I drifted into thought on how this decision would have panned out if I did outsource it, and why I decided not too. This type of strategic thought process happens quite a lot in IT for both business aligned and financial reasons, IT decision makers make decision on Outsourcing in a similar way to i’ve done with my car cleaning activity and here are some of the comparatives and analogies that I thought about while doing it;

Down and dirty

After deciding not too outsource the car cleaning activity I had to obviously use my own resources (Capex) in the garage to clean her up, the first requirement was the shampoo and water, then of course there was the bucket, all items I pay for out of my own pocket. Had i’d outsourced this, all of this cost would have been divulged in my no questions asked £5, the outsourcer would have provided all of the materials and divulged the cost, however How would I have known they were using as good a mitt as I use at home, or how would I have known they were even using a “good” grade shampoo? they could have been using fairy liquid for all I know! All questions or sometimes questions that never get raised when evaluating IT outsourcing/Cloud.

Man Power

Resourcing and project delivery was a no brainer, there is no way that just me alone could have washed and buffed off the car in as much time as a hand car wash would, my local (like most I assume) have a large volume of “cheap” labourers, where as me in my Internal operation had to unfortunately plan the day more effectively. I did of course only wash and buff off, a task that 8 year olds can do, if I were to do my usual summer routine of Wash>Buff>Claybar>Wax then this would have been a bit different, the rates i’d pay someone to do a “specialist” job like this would involve I expect a lot more time and of course money. Fact is this task was one that I didn’t need to kneejerk to do, I wasn’t rushing about trying to finish it before it got dark, it was a task that had to be done but was done in an allotted low priority slot on my day off. Again the same could be compared to how IT outsourcing deals or bespoke outsourcing with SI’s for installs get commissioned, some are done due a specific immediate need, some get planned months if not years ahead.

Service delivery quality

Quality of work today for me was probably a “must try harder” result, mainly as I know that on this car cleaning project initiative the grime and dirt will appear the next time I go out, and for me to do the full job I usually do was not something me as the business stakeholder would get large amounts of value from (i.e. looks from good looking women :). I could however on the other side have outsourced this task, but in reality would I have got the same desired result my stakeholders expected? Would the women really be that worried about looking at a grubby old banger like mine in this weather? So based on the decision weigh up, I thought i’d save a little cost and do it myself and apply a little less attention to detail due to me being able to monitor the volume of effort going into the actual wash. As with a lot of IT contracts, and more especially within emergent cloud this would have been a bit difficult. Try tailoring an IaaS instance on any well known cloud services that will suit your need exactly, in comparison the car cleaners have a service at a cost that they stick too, I couldn’t say “do it for £3.50 guv but put in 75% less effort in, they have a team of guys that provide a service and pride themselves on it.

Horses for Courses

So after an hour of semi hard graft the car was finished and I was in short term monetry terms I was under budget and provided a service to my to my stakeholders that will be satisfactory. Had I outsourced I’d be sitting here with £5 less to spend on something else such as a beer or Fish and Chips for dinner to then still find that in Two weeks time I’d have the same dirty car with an unhappy Five pound less stakeholder.

Summary

To summarize this post, IT Outsourcing of either services or project implementation activity has its place and is appropriate at certain times and for certain activity within your business, Outsourcing dosn’t provide you with the silver bullet for every business requirement, however if you use the services strategically within your business it can pay dividends, do it willy nilly and you run the risk like I did of running the risk of your car being cleaned with what could be duff materials of no benefit to my paint work in years to come, and also having no tailored control over what work gets done for your money, both of course meaning you get very little pay back and satisfaction :)