If you’re outsourcing to save money you’re doing it for the wrong reasons

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According to some sources, one of the earliest examples of outsourcing was in 1949 when an accountant created a company in New Jersey to take on payroll admin from organisations. That’s over 60 years to get it right….and yet year on year I hear the same issues from clients, I witness the same mistakes over again, I encounter the same fairy tale sold by consultants that it’s going to save money. And they’re wrong. Outsourcing done for a panicked cost saving exercise is a bad enough reason but coupled with x-shoring it’s a disaster (replace x with near or off, either works, believe me).

Here’s why.

Forget logistics. It’s about people and process. Whether you’re in manufacturing or financial services it doesn’t matter, the same problems will arise.

  1. Outsourcing to any other location means an increased span of control for the originator but it gets worse because of the fact that culturally the organisational structure you want your provider to follow may not be supported not matter how much you want to impose it upon them. This isn’t a failure on the provider, it’s a failure on the originator to understand the workforce culture of an entire country.
  2. Originators seem to think that they can manage attrition levels in the same way they do at home for the same reasons as above, or that incentives designed for one will apply to all. They don’t. It’s especially so of outsourcing technical development to another provider in another country, whilst the labour may be cheaper (in theory only) the reality is that constant attrition is going to happen and the cost of having to recruit and train a flow of new starts only to see them disappear in a matter of months is something frequently ignored. Hiring someone for a support role and expecting them to sit there for 10 years is incredibly naïve. Add on the demand pull on local subject matter experts to provide constant mentoring and support in the early stages and the costs begin to pile up exponentially.
  3. You think that FTE is cheaper ? You’ve not taken into account the time to train them on your organisation’s methods/ tools/ systems. Whether you hire a Java developer or assemly line worker, they may be skilled but have no idea on how to operate in your business. Add on the costs in (2) and that FTE starts to look expensive. Oh, don’t forget to add on Management time into the rate, after all they have to be accounted for as well (whether you think you’ve negotiated a direct cost or blended rate, you’re going to get stung somewhere with it)
  4. What does that FTE cost include ? What does it exclude ? Thought about travel budgets yet ? Didn’t think so.
  5. What’s happening to those costs as they sit idle while you scratch around trying to decide what to do with this new cost centre you’ve created ? You’re being charged for it, better make that call and quick.
  6. Have you even bothered to set up the governance structure and supporting processes to ensure service delivery is monitored ? Created a set of principles to measure effectiveness against yet ? SLAs ?
  7. Risk. It’s underestimated always. Whether regulatory, data or IT,  there will always be something in the way which you’ve never considered that will impact the effectiveness of the outsourced process.

When I said I see the same mistakes happening I meant it. None of these may be new but they are mistakes constantly repeated, and in some cases ignored by ‘experts’ who say it’s a cost effective way to create flexibility in the organisation. What they really mean is that it’s a cheap trick fix to a bigger long term problem they won’t be around to pick up for you until it hits. And the amount of times I’ve seen companies steamroll into this direction without considering any of the above is staggering.

So. You want to replace like for like, reduce onshore headcount as an expensive resource and replace with cheaper alternatives ? Take a look above then decide again.

Don’t get me wrong, outsourcing works but done for the right reasons. Perhaps it should be called rightsourcing to keep that in people’s minds.

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