When a Small Outsourcing Project Fails

A Minneapolis-based law firm likes to do its IS work in-house as much as possible. The firm has about 300 employees, eight of which make up the IS department. Yet, when the firm decided to roll out Novell ZENworks desktop management software to centrally manage its applications across its 300 desktops, it turned to Convergent Solutions Group to aid in the process.

“This was non-standard,” explains Jamie Blomquist, director of information systems. Instead of doing the project internally, which is tradition, the firm chose to outsource based on the time commitment involved and Convergent Solutions’ expertise with Novell NetWare. “There are not a lot of resources around town that have focused on the legal market to provide those kinds of services,” Mr. Blomquist adds.

A Convergent Solutions engineer and salesperson met with Mr. Blomquist to ascertain the firm’s needs and to offer possible solutions as well as possible implications of various approaches to the project. After that meeting, the engineer determined the scope of the project discussed in the meeting and drafted a project plan listing the phases and time lines to complete the project. According to Mr. Blomquist, the project was a six- to eight-week process from start to finish.

Phase one involved a Convergent Solutions consultant working on-site with the law firm for two to three days to develop applications and test them. More effort was put in outside on their part in planning, Mr. Blomquist notes.

ZENworks was successfully implemented and works fine, but the law firm is still coming up short with the necessary resources in-house to manage and maintain it appropriately. The product includes many modules, such as inventory and applications management. The law firm has not yet found a need for some of those modules and knows there are things it could do to make better use of the product.

One of those things involves attending training classes, but Mr. Blomquist is not convinced that the product will do what he wants it to do. He had hoped it would become a seamless desktop management program that would allow his firm to push out updates easily without a lot of user interruption, he says. In addition, he hoped it would help his firm maintain a more standardized desktop environment and aid in better management of the applications on employees’ desktops.

Mr. Blomquist’s firm has not been able to achieve those goals partly because of ZENworks’ high learning curve, he says. “It’s lacking ease of use to a certain extent,” he explains. “It’s not something you can lightly pick up and use.” It was not anything particular in the product itself that kept the firm from accomplishing things, he adds, but time constraints and limited resources played key roles. “It’s done most of what we needed it to do,” he contends. “We’ve just never taken the next step.”

What Mr. Blomquist really wants is to be able to manage the product in-house, but he doesn’t want to invest time and energy into something that might not be the right solution. So he is considering other tools that will essentially do the same thing but that are easier to use, “something that my team could pick up and manage internally here,” he says.

The firm chose ZENworks in the beginning because it was already a Novell shop, ZENworks is a Novell product, and it seemed like a natural fit. “There’s not a whole lot else out there for doing desktop management and doing it centrally,” Mr. Blomquist notes. Besides that, a lot of law firms used ZENworks at the time, he adds, and probably still do, so it had a good reputation.

Convergent Solutions agreed that ZENworks was a good choice and was called in to help implement the product. This was not an unsuccessful project with Convergent, Mr. Blomquist says. It was unsuccessful just in the firm’s overall view of ZENworks.

–>LESSON #1: Prioritize the features you need most and master those.

Mr. Blomquist urges other IS managers using ZENworks, or any other desktop management system, to identify what is important and to prioritize the modules they want to use. “Focus on making those successful,” he recommends. “Put together a plan and dedicate time and resources to make those primary modules useful. Dedicate time after the fact to making secondary modules work,” he urges.

–>LESSON #2: Schedule and budget to take the next step so secondary features don’t become shelfware.

Mr. Blomquist’s firm did dedicate resources to mastering the primary modules, but it did not dedicate any follow-up time to ZENworks, he says. “It’s not a set it and go” product, Mr. Blomquist cautions. “It’s something that requires some focus if you decide to implement it. Understand what a desktop management system will do for you and determine what’s really important,” he advises.

–>LESSON #3: Even a service provider with proven expertise can’t ensure success.

He also suggests that organizations considering implementing a desktop management system align with some sort of outside resource that has experience using it in order to get full utilization out of it. “We probably wouldn’t be close to where we are right now if we decided to do this on our own,” he says.

Mr. Blomquist is pleased overall with Convergent Solutions’ help and has enlisted their aid on several other projects as well.

Useful Links:


Novell ZENworks Suite

Convergys Statement of Work for Law Firm
/docs/free/Law Firm Statement of Work.doc