Effectively Managing IT and Communications Infrastructures

By | August 23, 2006

Many organizations today lack the internal resources and expertise to effectively manage their IT and communications infrastructure. This is especially true in the health-care sector, where spending on IT personnel has been declining for years and the trend is expected to continue as budgets remain tight. The emergence of mobile voice and data technologies in many cases has made management even more complex. As a result, a lot of organizations are turning to expert companies for help.

Choosing a service provider to help manage the organization’s technology is one of the most important decisions a CIO or other technology executive has to make. Selecting the right one can result in improved service, cost savings, more productive workers and satisfied customers. Choosing the wrong one can lead to serious problems including increased costs and loss of revenue.

At Continuum Health Partners, we’ve opted to outsource a number of IT processes including voice communications. Among the goals of this strategy are to consolidate disparate legacy systems, increase service levels, reduce base operating costs, and obtain an infusion of cash for the purchase of aging assets.

Initially we went with a large, “all-purpose” service provider that would handle all the different facets of IT. This strategy did not work well. The vendor’s expertise was not consistent across all the various technology domains. We ended up with escalating costs over a five-year term, and were not able to control costs over any particular domain.

In 2005 we decided to change our strategy, going with multiple service providers, each with specific areas of expertise. This “selective outsourcing” model enabled us to bring in five firms that had expertise in areas including telecommunications, networking, services, identity management, and enterprise resource planning.

This decision has proven to be a good one, enabling Continuum Health Partners to more effectively manage outsourcing dollars and reduce operating expenses by 20 percent. By leveraging the abilities of best-of-breed service providers, we’re providing much higher service levels to employees and customers.

Selective outsourcing has given us better pricing flexibility including discounting, greater technical expertise, direct access to the vendors that produced the technology, a direct pipeline to future product migration strategies, and overall enhanced relations with our providers.

Voice communications provides a good example of how this selective outsourcing strategy has worked successfully for us. We faced a number of significant challenges in this area, including an aging voice infrastructure at multiple sites, numerous client interfaces, an aging physical wiring plant, multiple communications platforms with no internal network or dialing plan, large recurring monthly expenses for internal calls, and high maintenance costs due to multiple vendor support.

After considering a number of prospective outsourcing providers we hired Siemens to provide its managed services and to help Continuum implement a new, converged enterprise communications solution to support operations distributed across the Manhattan area. The communications infrastructure would be a mix of both traditional TDM and IP telephony.

Among the goals of this converged network were to provide a single system image, enterprise-wide centralized applications, workflow improvements, reduced communications operating expenses, reduced real estate requirements, risk mitigation, and business continuity.

One of the biggest advantages of our selective outsourcing model is that the service provider is the company that developed the equipment. Who better to answer questions about the technology and resolve issues as they come up? In the case of communications, that includes all phones and switches. As part of our outsourcing arrangement, we were able to include a complete refresh of our communications assets.

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