Once a term used solely to describe the delegation of entire business processes, such as manufacturing, outsourcing has evolved into a household expression. Indeed, outsourcing as a concept has even made a surprising evolutionary leap; crossing over from the environs of commerce, into the consumer realm, with gurus and life coaches ready to show us all how we might outsource every task in our lives that we find unpleasant, of little value or beyond our personal abilities.
In this context, it’s understandable how some opponents of outsourcing see it as self–indulgent laziness and an abdication of all that stands for personal responsibility and growth. However, life in general and life in business are quite different, at least in terms of what does and doesn’t add value.
So does the outsourcing of menial business tasks really benefit today’s managers or is “outsourcing” just a fanciful term that could be equated to shirking?
Outsourcing: The Beauty
As a consultant in the field of supply chain and logistics, I’ve helped many organisations improve operational efficiencies. When it has made sense to do so, that has included recommending clients to outsource activities which don’t add value to their core business. This is really one of the strongest arguments in favour of outsourcing and is as relevant in day-to-day management tasks as it is to specialised functional processes.
Every manager has specific objectives to meet, typically aligned with the overall goals of his or her employing company. Take any manager who leads a team, as an example. Managing people (as anyone who does so will tell you), is no mean feat and requires plenty of drive and focus. Add the fact that people are the most valuable asset in any commercial operation you can begin to see why the more time managers invest in their teams; the more effectively they can deliver results.
The problem with managing people is that there are typically a whole lot of peripheral tasks which must be taken care of, which don’t actually involve leading and inspiring a team. At the same time, admin staffing levels have fallen away in many companies, with appointments sacrificed for the need to become leaner. The result is that more and more basic administration activities have fallen into the hands of managers.
Since the advent of connected technology though, companies can begin once more, to take advantage of administrative help, only now they can do so by outsourcing, without needing to incur the high costs of hiring and retaining employees in-house. Consequently, managers are able to spend more time building and strengthening teams and individuals through coaching, delegation and the use of other leadership skills.
In addition to relieving managers of tasks that distract them from actually managing, outsourcing has other benefits. The tasks cost less to complete for one thing, especially if digitally outsourced to a developing country, such as the Philippines. In a lot of cases, they can also be completed with a higher degree of quality than when performed hastily by an overburdened manager. Some activities also fluctuate in terms of workload, so outsourcing can be a good way to utilize “on demand” resources.
And the Blemishes
How about the cons of outsourcing? Well, there are a few. One issue presenting a concern for managers considering outsourcing is control—or rather the lack of it. Certainly for any manager who struggles with delegating staff to his or her own subordinates, relinquishing the reins to someone who may not even operate in the same country, let alone the same company, might just be the cause of some sleepless nights and nail-biting.
Communication difficulties too, can become a drawback for companies that outsource. Even if the service provider speaks English, a heavy accent can make for some misunderstandings, although this problem is less likely if communication primarily takes place by email. That’s one reason why the Philippine Islands are becoming a popular outsourcing destination. Apart from the low costs of outsourcing to Filipino organisations and freelancers, English is typically spoken with a fairly neutral accent, reducing the risk of communication issues.
The Ethical Angle
For some people, the question of whether outsourcing has more advantages than disadvantages for businesses is irrelevant. For these opponents of outsourcing or, to be more specific, opponents of offshoring, the practice is simply unethical. I raise this point, to address it from the perspective of someone who works hard to help people succeed in business, both at home and overseas.
The burning issue for many who oppose offshoring, is a belief that it harms the domestic economy and particularly the labour market, by offering revenue to workers in other countries—revenue that should perhaps remain at home. In many ways though, this is a rather blinkered perspective from which to view the use of international business support.
My own company launched a venture in the Philippines, called Virtual Done Well, because we believe that Australian SMEs can work together with Filipino businesses, creating opportunities for the people of both countries. Virtual Done Well is a social enterprise, owned by its Filipino management team and supported by Australian mentors.
As a provider of virtual assistants for Australian businesses, Virtual Done Well was founded to challenge the exploitation that exists in some offshore outsourcing organizations—where workers are poorly paid and toil under oppressive conditions. The success of this venture has spoken for itself. Prices for VDW’s services are competitive, with lower profit margins so that staff can be paid at a rate that’s highly favourable, compared to the average scale across the burgeoning Philippine business outsourcing industry.
Virtual Assistance—Real Results
Aside from financially assisting people in developing countries, outsourcing to companies like Virtual Done Well also affords national enterprises the ability to focus more on core business activities. As a result, Australian business can become more successful and consequently generate more revenue. Successful businesses enjoy growth, creating more employment domestically and supporting the conditions required for a healthy economy.
From my perspective then, as one whose working life is focused on making businesses successful, paying professionals to make light work of tasks that are necessary, but burdensome, might surely be construed as a lazy way to live one’s business or personal life. However, in business, it’s a method for managers to make way for a much more productive, outcome-oriented workload; that in turn leads to more business growth and success.
Lazy? No. It’s common sense.
Author: Rob O’Byrne – 0417 417 307 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Rob O’Byrne is a successful Sydney businessman and Author of 5 business books, who has founded a number of small businesses within the Logistics Bureau Group, as well as a BPO Social Enterprise in the Philippines called Virtual Done Well.