Legal Aspects of IT Services Integration


As a member of the Atos Origin Scientific Community – focusing on Alternative Delivery Models – I sometimes get questions that seem related to my expertise but in reality open up a whole new world of thinking. I am not a lawyer, judge or even remotely educated in legal affairs; still the legal aspects of providing services is something that comes up a lot – especially in the field of service integration.

When we explain a service to the customer we would like to say: “hey, trust us, it will work” and we frequently end up with a 100+ page document describing the service properties, levels and (my favorite) penalties.

I once heard one of my colleagues mention that for the management of the IT of the Olympics we actually have just 1 page that only mentions: “it just works – all of the time” – but that may be company folklore.

I am using this specific example because it makes my point of legal complexities versus simple statements very well: for the Olympics we integrate the products and services of over a dozen of partners to support the biggest event on the planet and we have proven time after time that “it just works”.

But when we wanted to integrate the Microsoft BPOS services in our portfolio we ended up in a lengthy legal discussion on the agreed service levels that we jointly wanted to create for our customer(s).

I spend many evenings on the phone hearing legal experts from both sides of the ocean discussing meaningful aspects of ‘causalities’, ‘ownership’ versus ‘stewardship’ and the ever popular definition of ‘to the best of our abilities….’.

Currently my view is that we will probably need the legal translation of ‘our best intentions’, but that some kind of agreed framework will help in defining the nature and results that can be expected from those intentions.

Such a framework does not seem to exist and certainly the common language is not defined: tedious and frustrating legal discussions are the result.

If the next wave of IT is in services and services integration, such a framework and common language needs to be developed quickly – otherwise progress will be stopped by legal affairs, not by technology.