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Outsourcing: Cost Effective or Unrealistic Expectations?

The Trenton Public Schools Board of Education decided to outsource their IT department to save on costs, but how much will they really be saving?

Monday night, the voted to outsource the IT department. While I don't think they reached this vote easily, the decision doesn't feel right. Having been in the field as a professional for several years, outsourcing might not be as cost-effective of a solution as mentioned.

During the last Board of Education meeting I attended where Plante & Moran representatives discussing the current technological upgrades, none of the responses given or questions asked hinted that this has been a smooth transition to the new Windows based network. While it is a massive project that will cause far more frustration than receive adulation, bringing in outsourced staff to replace on-site techs during a switch of this nature sounds wrong.

After experiencing companies that had no other choice than to outsource their IT department, I've seen the challenges. What about the potential for overtime, weekends, and nights? Can the cost of this contract increase similar to the mileage of a leased car? Can the outsourced techs pick up and go at the end of their shift, regardless of pending issues? Probably not, but we don't have the full details yet.

In this industry, nothing ever goes according to plan. What if the district requires 50-70 hours per week instead of the reported 40 or even have to bring in another tech for larger projects? If outsourcing ends up costing the district closer to the IT department's 2011-12 budget, how was this a cost effective decision?

It was wrong for the Board not to at least hear the department out with their counter-proposal first. Instead, they made a motion to vote on the decision and directed them to the public comments section of the night. While they may have had their reasons not to hear them out first, it seemed unprofessional considering their jobs were on the line.

The outsourced employees do have the choice to interview for jobs that opened as a result of the contract, but if the two techs provided through inaCOMP are acting on a "break-fix" model, where does this leave the three technology positions? In the tradition of the industry, the district could pass on the experienced employees and hire entry level graduates instead. 

Regarding the company itself, inaCOMP is a successful company with two divisions, one dedicated to small and medium businesses while the other provides sales and service to educational and government entities. They've been around for twenty-five years and have a great reputation in the industry. They are not to blame for submitting their bid.

While no one is to blame as districts everywhere are making extreme cuts, some students and most faculty will be affected, too. The relationships the IT department formed with everyone, especially those that may have been helped with their own personal IT problems, are important and appreciated. As a tech, it's not just about providing service, but quality customer service. It's always sad to see employees that seemed to have been so well trusted for so many years let go without a fight.

Robert Barbantini July 14, 2011 at 03:07 AM
Excellent thoughts, Danny.
Denise Nash July 14, 2011 at 05:18 AM
To Quote you: "While no one is to blame as districts everywhere are making extreme cuts" Yes, there *is* someone to blame, and his name is Rick Snyder! He is cutting funding to schools and at the same time he is cutting the tax rate for corporations - taking from kids and giving to CEOs. Sign the petition to recall Rick Snyder. www.firericksnyder.org.
Denise Nash July 15, 2011 at 04:57 PM
I understand this perfectly, Dean. My background is in IT, and my husband was outsourced from his job to EDS, which was then bought by HP. After HP acquired EDS, he was told that everyone was to take a 5% pay cut. That year, the CEO made $40 Million as a bonus. I could go on about executive compensation, but I try not to obsess. Yes, when my husband was cut from his job as a UNIX administrator, he and his fellow employees were told that "IT is not our core competency". It cost them *more* to outsource than to keep the servers and several people that worked on them in house. Their service levels were inadequate sometimes, as inexperienced, off-shored workers in India were assigned tasks that the "in house" people used to do. The fact of the matter is that while my heart goes out to you and your co-workers, no one else cares. This is the main problem: NO ONE CARES. I decided to join in the Recall of Rick Snyder because I do care. But you would not believe how many people, even democrats, say "lets give him a chance". The fact of it is this. Nerd is not going to be satisfied until there are no public employee unions. Until all the public jobs are outsourced to companies that pay cents on the dollar of what the middle class public workers used to make. The result? Fewer Middle Class people, more rich people as the owners of these outsourcing companies rake in the dough. We will have no control. But remember, NO ONE CARES! Volunteer. We can fix this!
Robert Barbantini July 15, 2011 at 05:00 PM
Both excellent points, Dean and Denise, and "no one cares" probably should read "not enough care to make a change." But that is where Trenton has been for a long time...
Denise Nash July 15, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Sorry, I hit the limit. I only have one more little thing to say. The only way to let everyone know that you are on that cares is to hit the street. Hitting the street sends this message: I am paying attention. I don't like what I see. I CARE what happens to my fellow citizens and the middle class as a whole. It's the only way I know to make a difference!

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