How Do I Ensure a Smooth Transition Going to Tender?

For many businesses, putting IT or other third-party services out to tender can be a minefield.

From selecting the right provider, to ensuring a smooth transition without disrupting day-to-day business processes, it’s important to give careful thought to the organisation’s specific requirements and ensure that these are communicated at the earliest possible stage.

Here Eman Al-Hillawi and Peter Marsden, principal consultants at business change consultancy Entec Si, talk CEO Today through considerations for the idyllic transition process.

So how can businesses ensure best practice when seeking third-party support and help providers to fit seamlessly into the organisation?

A factor which can lead to poor service levels from third-party providers is a lack of clarity around their objectives and what is expected of them. As such, a wise first step for businesses putting services out to tender is to clearly define the scope of their requirements and ensure an understanding is established of the future processes required to manage the contracted service. Once this has been achieved, gaining a clear understanding of the suppliers they’re targeting and giving thought to cost expectations can help in securing a provider who complements the organisation’s individual business model and budget requirements.

While on paper, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a number of service providers, a rigorous selection process can aid decision-making by revealing important information about their culture, capacity, capability and track record. One key question for organisations to ask is whether the provider has experience in the relevant field of work, whether they would be stepping into a new area or whether there is a good culture fit with the provider. As well as being satisfied that the supplier has understood the business brief, it is worth asking prospective suppliers to provide details of how they plan to deliver the solution including future business scenarios, and then consider whether this approach would be a good fit for the business.

When narrowing-down potential providers, applying a weighted ‘cost/quality’, which scores their fees and their responses to the requirements, can help businesses to validate costs, and ensure value for money. Similarly, checking that there is the ability to flex contracts and enhance process flows as business requirements change will be key to maintaining efficiencies as the business grows. Contracts are never fixed in time and will always change with the business.

Effective communication at the transition stage is also central to onboarding a new provider without disrupting everyday business processes. At the point of putting a service to tender, developing a comprehensive internal communications plan is important. As well as clarifying any changes to the existing workforce, this can help to provide staff with much-needed reassurance around job continuity. Having key internal staff members ‘on the ground’, and making use of apps and similar technologies, can also help to ensure that communication between the organisation and provider is maintained throughout the project lifecycle.

Whilst in the procurement process, blended supplier/client teams, which involve bringing in different levels of skill and experience at various points in a project, can help a business to optimise its efficiencies and budget on outsourced programmes. This approach, which allows the team to flex, depending on changes in demand, can also provide resilience around events which could otherwise put pressure on the workforce, such as rapid growth, annual leave, maternity leave and sickness.

It’s important to remember that regardless of the scale of a project, engaging external service providers will inevitably touch other areas of the business, so should not be considered in isolation. For example, a new provider’s decision to introduce a document management solution may require time to be spent digitalising paperwork. As such, roles to carry out this task would need to be put in place early in the process. Similarly, the implementation of an appropriate management structure will become even more important. Being sure to adapt a holistic approach when on-boarding a third party, considering any knock-on impact on processes, people or systems, can help businesses to avoid unforeseen problems further along the project timeline.

While generally, the importance of thorough planning is well recognised in the business world, time or resource constraints can sometimes mean that the process of putting services out to tender is approached without a clear strategy and well-defined outcomes. By adopting a joined-up approach to outsourcing services, which recognises the role of communication and assesses candidates against defined criteria, businesses can help third-party providers to fit seamlessly into the organisation, allowing them to continue meeting their commercial objectives.

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