Outsourcing is the contracting out of a business process, which an organization may have previously performed internally or has a new need for, to an independent organization from which the process is purchased back as a service. Though the practice of purchasing a business function—instead of providing it internally—is a common feature of any modern economy, the term outsourcing became popular in America near the turn of the 21st century. An outsourcing deal may also involve transfer of the employees and assets involved to the outsourcing business partner.
Two organizations may enter into a contractual agreement involving an exchange of services and payments. Outsourcing is said to help firms to perform well in their core competencies and mitigate shortage of skill or expertise in the areas where they want to outsource.
In the early 21st century businesses increasingly outsourced to suppliers outside their own country, sometimes referred to as offshoring or offshore outsourcing. Several related terms have emerged to refer to various aspects of the complex relationship between economic organizations or networks, such as nearshoring, crowdsourcing, multisourcing and strategic outsourcing.
Outsourcing can offer greater budget flexibility and control. Outsourcing lets organizations pay for only the services they need, when they need them. It also reduces the need to hire and train specialized staff, brings in fresh engineering expertise, and reduces capital and operating expenses.
One of the biggest changes in the early 21st century came from the growth of groups of people using online technologies to use outsourcing as a way to build a viable service delivery business that can be run from virtually anywhere in the world. The preferential contract rates that can be obtained by temporarily employing experts in specific areas to deliver elements of a project purely online means that there is a growing number of small businesses that operate entirely online using offshore contractors to deliver the work before repackaging it to deliver to the end user. One common area where this business model thrives is in provided website creating, analysis and marketing services. All elements can be done remotely and delivered digitally and service providers can leverage the scale and economy of outsourcing to deliver high value services at reduced end-customer prices.
Reasons for outsourcing
Companies outsource to avoid certain types of costs. Among the reasons companies elect to outsource include avoidance of burdensome regulations, high taxes, high energy costs, and unreasonable costs that may be associated with defined benefits in labor union contracts and taxes for government mandated benefits. Perceived or actual gross margin in the short run incentivizes a company to outsource. With reduced short run costs, executive management sees the opportunity for short run profits while the income growth of the consumers base is strained.This motivates companies to outsource for lower labor costs. However, the company may or may not incur unexpected costs to train these overseas workers. Lower regulatory costs are an addition to companies saving money when outsourcing. On comparative costs, a U.S. employer typically incurs higher defined benefit costs associated with taxes for (social security, Medicare, safety protection (OSHA regulations)/FICA (taxes)). On comparative CEO pay, executive pay in the United States in 2007 was more than 400 times more than average workers—a gap 20 times bigger than it was in 1965. In 2011, twenty-six of the largest US corporations paid more to CEO’s than they paid in federal taxes. However, it appears companies do not outsource to reduce executive or managerial costs.
Companies may seek internal savings to focus money and resources towards core business. A company may outsource its landscaping functions irrelevant to the core business. Companies and public entities may outsource certain specialized functions, such as payroll, to ADP or Ceridian. Companies may find the same level of consumer satisfaction.
Import marketers may make short run profits from cheaper overseas labor and currency mainly in wealth consuming sectors at the long run expense of an economy’s wealth producing sectors straining the home county’s tax base, income growth, and increasing the debt burden. When companies offshore products and services, those jobs may leave the home country for foreign countries at the expense of the weatlth producing sectors. Outsourcing may increase the risk of leakage, reduce confidentiality, as well as introduce additional privacy and security concerns.
Greater physical distance between higher management and the production floor employees often requires a change in management methodologies, as inspection and feedback may not be as direct and frequent as in internal processes. This often requires the assimilation of new communication methods such as Voice over ip, Instant messaging, and Issue Tracking Systems, new Time management methods such as Time Tracking Software, and new cost and schedule assessment tools such as Cost Estimation Software.
Quality of service
Quality of service is best measured through customer satisfaction questionnaires which are designed to capture an unbiased view.
In the area of call centers end-user-experience is deemed to be of lower quality when a service is outsourced. This is exacerbated when outsourcing is combined with offshoring to regions where the first language and culture are different.
Foreign Call center agents may speak with different linguistic features such as accents, word use and phraseology, which may impede comprehension. The visual clues that are missing in a telephone call may lead to misunderstandings and difficulties.
Before outsourcing an organization is responsible for the actions of all their staff and liable for their actions. When these same people are transferred to an outsourcer they may not change desk but their legal status has changed. They are no longer directly employed or responsible to the organization. This causes legal, security and compliance issues that need to be addressed through the contract between the client and the suppliers. This is one of the most complex areas of outsourcing and requires a specialist third party adviser.
Fraud is a specific security issue that is criminal activity whether it is by employees or the supplier staff. However, it can be disputed that the fraud is more likely when outsourcers are involved, for example credit card theft when there is scope for fraud by credit card cloning. In April 2005, a high-profile case involving the theft of $350,000 from four citibank customers occurred when call center workers acquired the passwords to customer accounts and transferred the money to their own accounts opened under fictitious names. Citibank did not find out about the problem until the American customers noticed discrepancies with their accounts and notified the bank.
Qualifications of outsourcers
In the engineering discipline there has been a debate about the number of engineers being produced by the major economies of the United States, India and China. The argument centers around the definition of an engineering graduate and also disputed numbers. The closest comparable numbers of annual graduates of four-year degrees are United States (137,437) India (112,000) and China (351,537).
Companies looking to outsource their engineering activities should evaluate the capabilities of the providers. There are many bench marking reports by independent research and consulting firms which analyze the vendors’ capabilities