By Jaroslav Cerny
Outsourcing DBA services has become increasingly popular over the past few years, largely due to its cost-effective “pay as you go” model. While many companies are happy with their outsourced DBA services, others feel disappointed by the level of service they are receiving. This is understandable, seeing as there are outsource service providers who set up Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) that don’t always meet the needs of their clients.
Negotiating the minefield of outsourcing providers and finding the perfect one for your business is a challenging task. So how do you find a service provider that is flexible, experienced and can provide the kind of service you need?
I’ve set up a list of certain key criteria that you should take into consideration when assessing different outsourced service providers:
- Skilled technical staff This is one of the most important questions to ask: Are all your technical staff appropriately certified according to their level of experience and position? For example, if you’re outsourcing an Operating System component, varied levels of skills are required. While a junior staff member may not have vendor certification, you should expect that the Senior Consultant will have these certifications. Your best bet is to partner with a company that has a varied level of staffing that can be matched to various tasks.
- Multi-platform, multi operating system support Your outsource partner should have a good working knowledge of multiple OS’, seeing that not all businesses use the same OS and multiple types of OS’ are often used simultaneously. If the company has a broader knowledge base, it can significantly reduce implementation time and support various platforms.
- Pre-define the services offered, and how they are delivered While it’s important to define clear roles of responsibility and measurables, it’s equally important to have the finer details – such as mean-time-to-respond and mean-time-to-repair – clearly stipulated in Service Level Agreements (SLA’s). You should also insist on an Operations Level Agreement (OLA), which is a contract that specifies how the SLA is executed; something which is often not included as a standard procedure.
- In-house developed, pro-active monitoring and alerting tools Clients will often be advised to invest in industry standard tools for their relational database or OS outsource clients. These tools can be expensive and you will probably end up paying for it. If your budget is lean, the outsource provider should be able to offer an in-house developed solution as part of the entire package.
- Implementation of industry standards and best practices The outsource provider should be able to provide a ‘value-add’ database consulting service that consists of advising the client on Best Practices. Different industries have different Best Practice standards – another reason why your outsourcer should have a broad knowledge base from which to work.
- Service Level Management Your outsourced partner should include a Service Delivery Manager to monitor the service delivery of the project. This will ensure that any grievances can be raised and dealt with. A good outsource provider will also conduct Service-Surveys to establish service levels and customer satisfaction.
- Regular management meetings You need to know how your project is progressing. The outsource provider should set up regular on-site management meetings to discuss the progress and completion of project ‘milestones’ or simply let the customer know, in person, exactly how things are progressing.
- Strategic partnerships with software vendors Find out if the outsourcer has strategic partnerships with relevant software vendors. You need to partner with a company that remains up to date with all the latest technologies and developments in the industry.
- Comprehensive documentation Insist on comprehensive documentation about the project. Not only does this ensure transparency into the project, but it also means that an employee can be replaced (if the person working on the project is away on annual or sick leave). It also gives you the ability to switch to another outsourced partner because the new partner can pick up where the previous one left off with minimal disruption.
- Achieving a significant ROI Using an outsourced partner comes at a price, but your partner should deliver benefits that outweigh these costs. For example, if an organisation experiences downtime that costs the company R1m, the outsourced organisation could provide a service that minimises or completely eliminates downtime at the cost of R600 000, paying for the exercise and further improving the bottom line.
Contact RDB Consulting for database management and maintenance – Jennifer Mbesa, firstname.lastname@example.org or +27 (0)11 807 7663