IT users in companies with outsourced IT departments rate service levels as "sub-standard" but also claim the situation is "satisfactory", because such poor practices have become the norm when dealing with IT helpdesk staff.
This bizarre phenomenon where users are happy with sub-standard service emerged in research released by the Melbourne-based Mt Eliza Business School which surveyed more than 1000 IT users.
Infrastructure and systems manager for a financial services firm and a member of the Systems Administration Guild of Australia, Iain Whyte, said the results reflected the lack of defined service levels in outsourcing contracts.
He said political squabbling over contractual arrangements between the customer and provider created conflict between users and the help desk.
Whyte has first-hand experience working at a company that had its IT operations outsourced and continued to work on the help desk after moving to the outsourcing provider.
He said the provider was specific about its role and rigidly adhered to its contractual obligations, so it was end users who suffered. "When [users] requested support we made it very clear that under the contract there are certain things we couldn't do - which is why those surveyed in the research rated helpdesk support as satisfactory; they know the limitations of such arrangements," Whyte said.
"Of course users get annoyed, because they get sick of hearing that their help desk request is outside the scope of the contract; we used to feel pretty ridiculous when it could be fixed in a few seconds with a couple of clicks of the mouse."
If the company complained to the provider, Whyte said, it was advised it was not spending the right amount of money and needed to increase its investment to get improved levels of service.
Outsourcing consultant, Jonathan Farrell, of Farrell & Associates, said vendors maintained a rigid process so getting the contract right was critical.
He said companies needed to detail their requirements, analyse what the company needed from the provider and ensure it was set out clearly in service level agreements.
"A lot of organizations don't realize that the quality of service delivery actually drops over time," he added.