The IT Sourcing project focuses on the rebid for the IT services currently being provided by Xerox (formerly ACS). The article addresses why are we doing this, what is changing, and some of the benefits that will be gained.
Why are we doing this?
The County’s current ten year, $250 million contract with Xerox ended in June 2011. Recognizing the need to provide continuity of service, the County made a decision to rebid the contract and began the process of developing and issuing an RFP in 2009. The process has been complex and has included participation from many County Agencies on the selection team.
At the same time, the County’s existing PBX-based telephone system has reached the end of its useful life and the County’s data network has become more complex and difficult to manage over time. A decision was made to include a scope in the RFP to replace the current systems with a converged network that allows both voice and data to be carried over a single network, as opposed to the two separate networks that we have in place today. The telephone system will be Voice over IP (VoIP) based, which has several advantages over the current system, including lower cost of ownership and easier management. Additionally, this initiative seeks to ensure that the County operates as efficiently as possible and is in line with IT industry standards that have evolved over time.
What is changing?
The County has relied on Information Technology to be an integral component for providing services to its constituents since the 1970s. During this period, the exponential rate of technological innovation has allowed for computing power and capability to be embedded in almost every consumer good today. IT support services have had to grow and evolve as well, from supporting mainframes to servers and desktops and now tablets and mobile devices. The County has relied on a mix of both internal County IT professionals and contract IT staff for these services. Our Data Center and Voice services have been contracted out under what is known as a “staff augmentation" model, where the vendor works under direction of the County with respect to how services are provided.
The IT service model is changing as a result of technological innovation. For instance, servers can now be consolidated on virtual platforms and users can add or remove processing power on demand. Storage capacity can be bought and paid for by the amount consumed, eliminating the need to buy excess hardware. Businesses are less interested in the “how” of the IT services they are buying than in the “what”. By way of example, as long as servers and networks are up and available 99.9 percent of the time, organizations are willing to pay a fixed price for this service regardless of where and how services are provided. These “managed services” are provided based on industry standard “Service Level Agreements" (SLA). Typical service level measures include call response time and first call resolution percentage for Service Desk or server and network availability for Data Center services. Having measurable service levels ensures at least minimum standards are being reached and that the client gets what they are paying for.
What services are in scope?
In the RFP, vendors were asked to bid on two scopes of work. Scope 1 includes the following:
- Data Center Services
- Server hosting and support
- Enterprise storage
- Operations management, monitoring and reporting
- Disaster Recovery
- Service Desk - Incident and problem resolution
- Desktop Support - Remote or onsite
- Applications Support
Vendors will be responsible for supporting the IT assets currently managed by CEO/IT. Agencies that do not use CEO/IT for these services will have an opportunity to opt in initially or acquire these services in the future through a rate plan.
Scope 2 services include the following:
- Transition support of the current voice and data networks and security (Agency Local Area Networks and the County’s Wide Area Network) to the selected vendor
- Migration of the County’s current voice and data network systems to a Countywide, converged Voice and Data Network
- Ongoing management and support of the converged Voice and Data Network
For Scope 2, all Agencies are included except those that currently have a VoIP system in place. The vendor will integrate existing systems with the new VoIP system, with the option of rolling support under the Sourcing contract at a later date. For the Law & Justice Agencies, the vendor will design and install the solution and their Agency IT staff will provide the ongoing support of the system.
What are the benefits?
Perhaps the most visible benefit to clients under Scope 1 will be in the area of Service Desk support. Currently, most calls made to the Service Desk are passed on to a second level of support. In the future, the Service Desk will be required to resolve the issue on the first call 70 percent of the time. Resolving client issues during the initial call both improves client satisfaction and reduces support costs by eliminating the need to refer the call to a second level support.
Less visible but equally significant benefits will be realized from Data Center services. Service levels will be established for all critical activities, such as percentage of uptime (99.9%+) for servers and the time required to provision servers. All of these metrics will be made available through online dashboards that will measure performance and quality of service, providing enhanced transparency of IT services.
With respect to Scope 2 services, significant benefits can be derived upon completion of the converged voice and data networks. With a converged network, equipment and circuits can be consolidated to reduce maintenance costs. At the desktop level, Agencies will be able to choose from a variety of options with respect to how messages (voice and email) are delivered. Business needs and client preferences will guide the selection of additional options, including the choice between traditional handsets and less expensive “softphones”. Cost related to moving handsets or phone numbers for staff transfers are also eliminated.
In the long term, Agencies will be able to integrate their applications into the voice system so that staff that interact with clients over the phone can provide them with more effective and timely resolution of issues. Collaboration will also be significantly improved through instant conferencing and document sharing.
We anticipate awarding the new IT Sourcing contracts in April 2013, and look forward to working with our new Vendor(s).