Staying on Top of the Game

I have no idea how California, the state where I live, gets its IT services. Maybe it has a huge staff of admins running its servers and programmers cranking out code. Maybe it bids that work out of house. But I really doubt it. I recently used the job site run by CalJobs, whose ostensible goal is to put employers and employees together through the magic of the Web. I’d have to say, service sucks. The performance is hot-day dog-slow. The functionality appears to have been designed by somebody who doesn’t really care about the user experience. (Hey, everybody, when was the last time a winning job site you went to offered information only about employment in a specific county?! Have these folks heard about relocation or — gasp — commuting across county lines?)

This surely isn’t typical of government-run services. After all, my library uses a handy online system developed by a third-party, Dynix, that allows me to look up books available at any library in the county and reserve it for delivery to my local branch quickly and efficiently. Although it doesn’t provide email notification (the library prefers to mail out a letter telling me my book’s ready for pick-up) and it doesn’t yet tap the inter-library loan system, I find it simple, elegant and highly useful, though a tad pokey at times. (I blame our county’s budget on that last item — after all, we only 30,000 residents here; how much can the county afford to put out in hosting services?) I’ll bet Dynix uses outsourced services. After all, it’s a global company, selling into every country in the world that has a library.

I bring this up because California’s legislature has put forth a passel of new bills to reduce the amount and type of outsourcing that takes place in the state. The state’s chambers of commerce took out a full-page ad to encourage the governor to veto them. The Sacramento Bee ran an article about what’s being called “job bills.” I don’t really have an opinion about whether the bills should go forward or not. But I say to the legislators and all the state managers out there, if you’re going to push for state work to stay in-house, make sure to budget to give the workers doing the job the training and resources they need to get it done right.

Service providers live and die by their recurring sources of revenue (in the form of repeat business, multi-year contracts, renewed contracts, references and the like). They live and die by the quality of the service they provide and the caliber of the workers they employ. That motivates these companies to invest in staying on top of their game. That’s how you obtain quality.