22 Feb Managed EBS Support Services Part 2 – tendering
In a recent post, I wrote about the desirability of managing the long-term transition from Oracle E-business Suite (EBS) to the Cloud by making the best possible use of managed support services. The article covered issues such as the necessity of having a 5 to 10-year roadmap in place to enable that transition, as well as the potential for difficulties to arise as skilled IT personnel begin to retrain for the challenges and career opportunities that a cloud-based future will bring.
Judging by the level of shares, comments and discussion that piece generated, I think it’s fair to say that managed support services for EBS is quite a hot topic for IT Directors and Managers at the moment.
I think that’s largely because the realisation is now dawning on people that many of the best and brightest EBS-trained personnel are now going to night school with a view to moving on as quickly as possible: making it a matter of some urgency to procure managed support.
While I fully agree with that notion, I believe that we all need to pause and take a breath, as serious thought needs to be given to how organisations put the managed support that they need in place. Is a traditional tender process fit for purpose when you need managed support for Oracle E-business suite?
Traditionally, this would have been achieved by putting out a Tender within a strict framework. However, my experience of the challenges presented by managed support leads me to believe that a far more engaged approach is required at this moment in time.
Whether you already have a long-term roadmap in place or need to write one, any thoughts of seeking managed support need to be put in the context of four key areas:
1. Keeping the lights on activity: such as database housekeeping and hardware optimisation.
2. Compliance activity: keeping pace with market moves and legislation, not to mention Brexit preparations.
3. Optimisation activity: to get the best from your existing solution in terms of reporting and process refinement.
4. Strategic alignment: benchmarking against your roadmap and vision, with specific regard to your people, culture, market evolution and digital transformation.
Unfortunately, most of the frameworks for managed support tenders that we see are 80% focused on activities that are just about keeping the lights on, giving scant regard to points two and three, and virtually none to point four.
The fact is that while standard frameworks work well for most procurement tasks, they simply won’t cut it if you need managed support for EBS that will do more than just keep essential services running.
To put it another way, it doesn’t make sense to settle for giving your car an oil change at a back-street garage when you could have it fully serviced and tuned by a main dealer for the same cost.
So if you are about to spend part of your budget on buying x hours and y capabilities from a managed support provider, it makes sense to engage with them at the earliest opportunity, in order to ensure that you all understand your roadmap, and can therefore put a contract in place that covers all four points above.
Making pre-engagement a part of the tender process
Probity and impartiality have been the foundation of tender frameworks for years. After all, conducting the procurement process at arms-length greatly reduces the risk that partiality or impropriety can play a part.
All of which is fine and well when you are outsourcing a task with quite rigid frames of reference: such as an outsourced call centre, where the price or number of calls handled provide easy yardsticks.
However, the challenges of issues such as managed support mean that procurement is slowly evolving in this field to involve some degree of pre-engagement, simply because the frames of reference are both individual and highly nuanced.
That’s why we strongly advise procurement teams to use specialist consultants to help establish frames of reference that are closely allied to your own roadmap.
As long as there is complete transparency to this part of the process, there is no need for the involvement of a third party to compromise the integrity of the process in any way. In fact, I firmly believe that this is now the only way to write managed support contracts that are worth the paper they are printed on.
That’s because the alternative is to end up with an agreement that is effectively unworkable thanks to the plethora of caveats and contingencies most managed support providers will protect themselves with when the frames of reference are too open-ended.
The only answer to this is honesty and engagement from the beginning, which puts every relationship on the right foot from the outset and has the potential to deliver managed EBS support in the long term that goes above and beyond your expectations.