August 12, 2009
Outsourcing is subcontracting a process, such as product design or manufacturing, to a third-party company.Outsourcing became part of the business lexicon during the 1980s.
The decision to outsource is often made in the interest of lowering firm costs, redirecting or conserving energy directed at the competencies of a particular business, or to make more efficient use of labor, capital, technology and resources.
Outsourcing involves the transfer of the management and day-to-day execution of an entire business function to an external service provider. The client organization and the supplier enter into a contractual agreement that defines the transferred services. Under the agreement the supplier acquires the means of production in the form of a transfer of people, assets and other resources from the client. The client agrees to procure the services from the supplier for the term of the contract. Business segments typically outsourced include information technology, human resources, facilities and real estate management, and accounting. Many companies also outsource customer support and call center functions like telemarketing, customer services, market research, manufacturing and engineering.
Outsourcing and offshoring are used interchangeably in public discourse despite important technical differences. Outsourcing involves contracting with a supplier, which may or may not involve some degree of offshoring. Offshoring is the transfer of an organizational function to another country, regardless of whether the work is outsourced or stays within the same corporation. With increasing globalization of outsourcing companies, the distinction between outsourcing and offshoring will become less clear over time. This is evident in the increasing presence of Indian outsourcing companies in the US and UK. The globalization of outsourcing operating models has resulted in new terms such as nearshoring and rightshoring that reflect the changing mix of locations. This is seen in the opening of offices and operations centers by Indian companies in the U.S. and UK.
Process of outsourcing:
Deciding to outsource
Ongoing service delivery
Termination or renewal
Reasons for outsourcing:
Catalyst for change
Reduce time to market
Criticisms of outsourcing:
Against shareholder views
Failure to realize business value
Quality of Service
Qualifications of outsourcers:
The outsourcer may replace staff with less qualified people or with people with different non-equivalent qualifications.
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 on the definition of an engineering graduate and also disputed numbers. The closest comparable numbers of annual gradates of four-year degrees are United States (137,437) India (112,000) and China (351,537).
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 no-longer are 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. It can be argued that fraud is more likely when outsourcers are involved. 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