Jumping on the Outsourcing Bandwagon

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Outsourcing is by no means a new concept for us in the UK. In fact, most enterprises are already turning to cloud services; most succinctly described as outsourcing in its newest and brightest form. Indeed, according to the Information Services Group (ISG), outsourcing figures in the UK have hit an all-time high, with annual contracts worth a little more than £1.2 billion awarded in the first quarter of 2017. However, the fact that it’s popular doesn’t necessarily make it an easy task.

What do companies outsource?

The plain and simple answer is that just about anything can be successfully outsourced. Some businesses may choose to hand over the management of a particular department to another, highly-specialised company. Others choose to outsource particular tasks, like copywriting, translating, social media management or the running of market research surveys.

Sometimes businesses need to outsource a service, perhaps related to IT requirements, commercial and technical support for cloud enablement, or HR packages and plans. Whatever your company needs, there’s bound to be someone out there to whom you can outsource. The difficulty lies in choosing your outsourcing partnerships with care and managing outsourcing relationships effectively.

It’s a cultural thing 

One of the greatest things about outsourcing is the flexibility it affords for working with companies from all over the world. Not only can we better from competitive global solutions and prices, we can also benefit from local insight. If we’re trying to expand our company’s reach to include new regions, having a team of staff actually based in the area we’re trying to target can give us the exact kind of market research that can make or break our expansion.

Having said that, cultural differences should never be underestimated and they bring with them a whole host of challenges for anyone attempting to make a success of an outsourcing project. The company and the outsourcing partner may operate under very different norms and working practices that each take as a given within their individual cultural context, but which the other finds completely alien. Structure, authority, style, language and expectations vary between one country and even one region to another.

Challenging details to anticipate

Apart from the difficulties that may arise from a possible culture clash, anyone who chooses to outsource needs to be aware of the potential risks involved. For example, when you outsource you are essentially signing a contract that gives another company control to take care of a particular task, an entire department or a service of your choice. They do so on your behalf, but the management of the project in hand is ultimately their responsibility. Not everyone is happy about compromising on managerial control.

Hidden costs can also be a problem. It’s absolutely imperative that you go through the details of an outsourcing contract with a fine tooth comb before signing or agreeing to anything. All the details of the services that the outsource provider intends to supply will be included in the contract you sign, but anything that’s not included will come at an extra cost should you ever decide you need it. Don’t ever assume that the company would naturally do what seems logically part of the same service. It needs to be written down in black and white every single time.

Another important risk to be on the lookout for is the question of intellectual property. Any business has plans, trade secrets and other kinds of proprietary knowledge. To make sure that an outsourcing provider can accurately perform the task you’re requesting, you may have to reveal certain aspects of your company that a third party might get a hold of and use to your disadvantage. If you work in the medical industry, for example, you may also have the added concern of keeping patient data private and confidential. Intellectual property is no small matter. In most cases, any company would benefit from legal advice before moving forward.

Do you really need to outsource?

While the decision to outsource is a rising trend in the UK at present, it’s not something that all companies need to invest in. In fact, it’s a good idea to really evaluate whether it’s actually something that will add value to your company or not. When companies choose to outsource, it can make current employees feel a little nervous about their future.

As outlined in an article for The Guardian, outsourcing generally means that a company can get the same job done, for the same hours, for the same clients, but for less. It doesn’t take long for people to worry about whether their job or their department will be safe from the clutches of the outsourcing world. There’s also a lot to be said for companies who spend more time and money training the staff they already have instead of looking for experts outside of the firm who meet job requirements.

There’s no one-method-fits-all approach in business, so it really is worth taking the time to explore all options. Outsourcing is full of benefits, which is why it’s a growing trend, but the decision to include an external provider in your business is a big way. So, make sure you really do think things through before jumping on the outsourcing bandwagon.

About the writer

After previously working in software development, Jackie is now a freelance tech writer and editor. As a working mother with two small children, it became challenging to balance work with personal life. With this complexity, Jackie turned to remote working to give her the ability to continue working productively whilst raising children. After opting for a virtual office herself, she has used her expertise in writing and personal experience to encourage more people to opt for this strategy of working.

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