Successful Outsourcing

You cannot outsource a problem, not invest deeply in fixing the problem in conjunction with your outsourcer and then expect that the problem will just magically disappear.  Successful outsourcing relationships require hard work and there is no shortcut to success.

In the early 1990’s I spend about 2 years in Atlanta with Deloitte.  While there my wife decided that she would like to run the Peachtree Road Race, a high profile 10km fun run.  For me the words fun and run should never be used in the same sentence, however, I agreed that I would do it with her.  Now I wasn’t in the best shape of my life so I thought I should find out what running 10km was really like so as a bloke does I decided to go out and run and see how far I could get.  As it turned out it wasn’t that far and I paid for the experience for days as my body tried to recuperate.  It was during this recuperation that I decided it would be great if I could just outsource the training to a fitness professional then come in for the glory of race day.  Of course this is not possible, no training no glory, so I set about slowly building up to be able to run the 10km.  It began by walking and built from there slowly and surely. We laugh, or perhaps shake our heads in disbelief, at the absurdity of the notion that you could outsource your way to physical health and fitness yet isn’t this exactly what we try and do in our professional lives?  

 

Our IT team isn’t performing the way we want it to, it’s not fit, and rather than do what is required to get it fit we believe we can outsource it to “the professionals” and all will be OK.  But inevitably it isn’t OK because you cannot short cut your way to success in business any more than you can in your physical health.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that outsourcing is a bad thing and you should never do it, what I am saying is that successful outsourcing relationships require hard work and there is no shortcut to success.  You cannot outsource a problem, not invest deeply in fixing the problem in conjunction with your outsourcer and then expect that the problem will just magically disappear.  So what do you need to do make
your outsourcing relationship successful?

 

Below are some starting thoughts for you to consider.
  1. Be clear on what outcome your are expecting.  A good way to frame this is to define which level or levels in the hierarchy of needs you expect the outsourcing relationship to fulfill.  Often this will be the bottom 2 levels of the hierarchy, systems reliability and cost effectiveness.
  2. Define success measures for the outsourcer that are relevant to that level of the hierarchy of needs and ensure that success measures are defined for all persistent needs represented in the balanced scorecard.
  3. Provide active management and leadership to the relationship just as you would for an internal direct report.  Active management should include performance reviews and joint continuous improvement aimed at achieving the level of process maturity required to produce the outcomes wanted.
  4. If you have not currently achieved the level in the hierarchy that you expect your outsourcer to provide then allow a reasonable amount of time for your outsourcer to build to that goal and provide the resource and support they will need to aid them on the journey.

If you do these things you can build your way into a successful outsourcing relationship.  Of course, if you do these things your could also get your own internal team fit.  If you are prepared to do the hard work you have a real choice and it is always good to have a real choice.

Back to Atlanta, after training for about 4 months I successfully completed the Peachtree Road Race.  I really enjoyed the run and got a massive sense of achievement as I crossed the finish line and received my much coveted finishers t-shirt.  In fact I liked it so much my wife and I decided to continue training and take on the Atlanta half marathon but that’s another story.

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