The staffing implications, including potential savings, are central to the business case for outsourcing systems such as LMS. It is typically complex to assess the opportunity because
- Implications may extend across teams beyond just systems librarians, perhaps also impacting corporate functions
- Fractional savings of posts do not necessarily equate to cashable opportunities
- Roles that might principally be dedicated to the target system may also have partial responsibilities for several other systems or specialist activities
This method provides a simple framework for systematically mapping four critical dimensions in order to understand the total systems landscape in the library service and the implications of outsourcing systems (e.g. hosting), covering the various tasks associated with their management:
- List of systems in question
- Current owner / manager of those systems (e.g. Library, IS, Vendor)
- Categorisation of tasks involved (e.g. Sysadmin, Webmaster, Backup)
- Size of those tasks – even if only on a scale from very large to very small or perhaps in fractional FTEs if hard data is available
This is likely to start as a rough management team exercise to identify high level opportunities (e.g. combinations of outsourcing that could deliver real savings), which could be followed by detailed discussion in areas of potential. Whilst there may be sensitivities in discussing the low level detail with the teams involved, this high level tool may offer opportunity for a constructive collegial audit of the overall landscape of systems and activity.
- Step 1 – Agree whether to review the full landscape or a target group of systems and list the systems involved
- Step 2 – Agree a suitably granular set of task headings, which may include handling operational changes in such as web pages and data
- Step 3 – Agree a scale of sizing of the effort per task per system (i.e. the cells in the matrix), probably not numbers for the first cut
- Step 4 – Fill out the matrix quickly based on intuition
- Step 5 – Review the resulting picture for any obvious conclusions re-outsourcing potential and / or areas for further investigation; if you’ve done it in a spreadsheet you’ll be able to sort on different columns or filter by system groups, which may help in taking an initial view
- Step 6 – Consider next steps, which could involve a further pass of this exercise with firmer data on tasks and scale or by another group
The objective of the method is therefore to move from a general impression of the value of outsourcing to a realistic estimation of the potential impact in terms of roles and therefore costs. This will be helpful when considering systems hosting (e.g. for a new generation LMS) and also for more general reviews of the balance of systems related tasks and roles.
Here is how we started the process with the Open University team (the list of systems here is real though the values entered are fictitious):
Examples of Use
This method is used or referenced in the following LMS Change Case Studies
There are many approaches to task and role analysis within a systems or process environment, not least the use of rigorous time and motion study (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_and_motion_study) and, more appropriately, cross-functional process model maps and workflow diagrams.
However, this high level mapping has a particular role, being based on an 80:20 approach that is particularly helpful as a stepping off point, focusing dialogue and leading to detailed examination of selected areas with potential.