Rightsourcing


Last night I went to see Mamma Mia in the Cardiff Millennium Centre, and happened to meet Paul Barnett in passing. The (very short) conversation centred around retirement and people leaving Tata Steel. In his case, he no longer works for Tata Steel, but has been outsourced. This means that he’s now a deferred pensioner, and can feel free to leave the sinking ship and look for other jobs, since there’s no longer a pension to protect.

The strange thing is that the outsourcing on this occasion has been given the rather different name of “rightsourcing” – not totally sure why, but presumably it means that specific parts of the IT package are looked after by different outside companies. If I remember correctly, IBM was going to look after the hardware and the provision of desktops, laptops as well as holding our mainframe systems on servers in Brussels.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) had been around since the time that Tata Steel bought Corus, but their role as developers and maintainers of software solutions has since been expanded and in the rightsourcing scheme consolidated. As far as I’m aware they now have the lion share for anything to do with software – e.g. they took on the systems I developed for our audit team and our Occupational Health team and presumably now look after them and develop them further according to specifically set contractual terms.

The last in the rightsourcing trio was Capgemini, and I must admit that I can’t quite remember what their role in the whole set-up would be. Capgemini used to be involved when British Steel did its first outsourcing exercise in 1996-97, when a lot of our IT people went to work for them. At the time they looked after the mainframe and Data Warehouse, and many times I had to contact them when I wanted to find out what data sources were lying behind certain mainframe pages. This time, however, it looks that Cap Gemini’s involvement lies with the development and governing of our SAP systems if I understand this document correctly.

It’s hard for someone who has hardly any inside information to gauge how the rightsourcing process is progressing and how successful it is in achieving its objectives, but I can already see the movement of people out of Tata Steel into IBM and TCS, even though for the time being they still appear to work in the same offices as they did when they were part of Tata Steel.

In the case of the first outsourcing exercise involving Capgemini, the feeling was always that British Steel lost quite a bit of knowledge and understanding of their own mainframe systems, and that British Steel spent so little on the IT support that in the end the number of people looking after the British Steel, and subsequently the Corus, portfolio could be counted in single figures. I remember bumping into Mike Wheeler, who was our IT guy in Welsh Labs, on his retirement, and thinking “there goes another bit of knowledge of how our mainframe fits together”.

Let’s hope that the latest outsourcing exercise fares better.

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