Wednesday, 26th January 2011
Tim Buckley Owen
No-one seems greatly enthused at the idea of outsourcing information services but most people seem to agree that it’s here to stay so they might as well make the best of it. That seems to be the message of an intriguing new guide from Outsell on how to make it work.
It was in 2009 that FreePint last conducted its own survey, in collaboration with outsourcing specialist Integreon. It found that senior managers were quite keen on outsourcing whereas the work teams weren’t, that research services were the most frequently outsourced, and that those managers that had outsourced were pretty happy with the quality and cost-effectiveness they achieved.
Now FreePint has collaborated with Outsell on this new report – Making Information Management Outsourcing Work: Success Factors and Best Practices (purchase here or download a free executive summary – registration required). FreePint assisted in recruiting survey participants – so the demographic between the two surveys is going to be pretty similar.
Outsourcing has become ‘fairly common’, Outsell reports. Low value-add transactional services (like document delivery or alerting services), activities that are tactical but not strategic (such as intermediated research), and tasks that require expertise that in-house staff don’t have (such as information analysis) are the ones most likely to be sent out.
One particularly intriguing finding is that virtually none of the respondents’ initial outsourcing decisions have been reversed. Once you’ve done it, you’re stuck with it, so it’s pretty important to get it right.
So do outsourcing relationships work? A shrug and a tepid ‘Sort of’ was the typical response Outsell received – so the advice it offers is all about trying to transform that ‘sort of’ into a resounding ‘Yes!’.
Cost versus quality has always been a crucial factor in outsourcing decisions. Outsell reports that bosses are focused on cost savings, while information managers are naturally worried about quality of service – and respondents to FreePint’s 2009 survey, too, rated quality significantly above cost concerns.
But a new free Economist Intelligence Unit report, Leaders of Change, suggests that the focus in change management is currently shifting from cost-cutting towards growth. And if outsourcing means offshoring too, it’s not just quality of service that matters but things like political environment, cultural compatibility and security – so in this regard, Gartner’s 30 Leading Locations for Offshore Services, 2010-2011 might help (outline here, with link to purchase details).
Should information managers still fear outsourcing? Not as much as lawyers, perhaps, if an Economist article late last year is to be believed. Quoting a variant on the ‘light bulb’ story, it concludes: ‘When every joke about your business mentions featherbedding, you should be worried about outsourcing.’
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