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Friday, May 18, 2012

Outsourcing is NOT a Dirty Four-Letter Word!

Aside from the obvious, the word has 11 letters, it is not the evil mess that perhaps people think it is. For companies like my last employer, many of my previous employers, it can be a blessing, but the selection will be the proof of the pudding. The "traditional company" is full of outsourced solutions and this progression should not surprise us,  but of course for the individual affected by it, it does.

People like you and I have a death grip on the idea that working for a company is something stable, consistent and that a company should never discard those trusted employees for some group of people that "don't know the business or people the way we do, but this is a selfish perspective to hold and while this may sting, here's why: A company, especially one with shareholders has a responsibility to earn money for those shareholders. If there are functions of a business that are a cost, not earning revenue for the business, it is fiscally responsible to look at those areas and consider options that will reduce costs.

Frankly, I'm in a very poor position in my career, I have a role that is a constant target for outsourcing, Information Technology. When I started out in my career I had an inkling of the potential problem because I was heavily vesting in a rather crude communication technology at the time, bulletin boards. I could communicate with people all over the world using a a PC, a modem, and my local phone line. This was before the Internet, but that was rapidly approaching. The reality kicked in when I began resolving technical issues on systems that would take several hours and expensive flights to get hands on, when I was comfortably seated in my office in Toronto. This was where I should have stopped and thought about what I should really be doing, building my own outsource solution.

There are many companies out there that offer outsourced solutions including IBM, Google, CompuCom, and CGI. They offer different options on reducing the cost to the company, and while some aspects of your business may not be easily pushed out the door, the smart companies are setting a course for this flexibility and there are many options for those who'd like to outsource, at any level of business. Even I am an outsource, for the small-office/home-office (SOHO) market. While my interest is helping you get along with technology, I am an outsource to the DIY approach for your home PC, or your small business. I am a "services company," but so is the company that does your weed spraying, the kid that shovels your walk in January (except in Toronto where we didn't get enough snow to call in the army this year), and even the newspaper you buy.

Each of those options allow you the free time to live better. If you're a busy person, doing those tasks yourself, especially researching your own news sources, is time consuming. The service will deliver information or services to you so you have the time to do something else. My services would provide you with technical support for your technical needs. Whether it is servicing hardware, configuring your home or small-business network, the office file server, and your company's website and e-mail provisioning. I would be your "go-to-guy" for technical advice and because it's my job, I would charge you for the time I spend helping you, but the benefit is that you will have someone you can count on for support, even at 3AM when your hard drive crashes and you have a presentation at 9, though I really hope you would have taken my advice on backups and cloud-based solutions like Google Drive.

Even I see the advantages in outsourcing, the real trick for the people most affected by outsourcing, is to be the outsource of choice by forming partnerships and co-operative arrangements. If you're not the entrepreneurial sort, being part of an outsource company is a good option. The pay may be sub-prime, but the benefit of being employed is constant because you no longer serve one company, but several. I believe this might be the most thrilling way to earn a living these days. Personally I love new challenges and a healthy variety of work.

Outsourcing is not going away, though it does fluctuate in it's support in any organisation. Sometimes the mesh of the company and the outsource is not as tight and seamless as hoped, planned, or expected and the business suffers. It is important to not look at an outsource solution as a "set-it-and-forget-it" solution, it does not eliminate management and there are now contracts and legalities to what management can expect. It is those expectations that need to be understood before the contract is signed. I can see that my last employer did the right thing in keeping a full-staff of Technology Architects, because those people are going to be the guidance to the demands on the outsourced solution. The terrifying thing for technical people below that architect level is that they are completely replaceable.

Well... even architects can be outsourced by consultants, but I believe that you need people who have a vested interest and thorough understanding of your business guiding your technical decisions, not a consultant, especially when your business is not technical by nature.

For more on what I offer as a Technology Services provider, visit: www.sohonorth.com


Jordan Deeks said...

Maybe they can't handle the fast uprising of their competitor and they look very insecure in that way. I guess they should try outsourcing too.

Cameron Stevens said...

I look back at this entry, the title, and I feel poorly. I put a positive spin on something that many people will experience and experience trauma over. There are many dirty four letter words that will come to mind through this process if you are the victim of it, and not being the victim is challenging.

I think one big problem with outsourcing is that you tear apart the character of your company, replacing people that might care about the end result and the reputation of their employer, with people who are only there for the pay cheque. They can't possibly care about the company because the company, management, could not possibly have any concern about the outsourced worker. The company loses its heart and soul. I am certain that even a company needs that to be a positive contributor to society.