Anyone who's ever tried a DIY home renovation knows there's real value in hiring tradesmen with a particular skill, rather than attempting to tile the bathroom yourself. Uneven tiles can become merciless reminders of a past failure to outsource.
The stakes are even higher in business when, for example, designing a new online media centre, or planning a major event. While some projects may require in-house knowledge, others are better trusted to experts in that field. That’s where outsourcing comes in.
“A good rule of thumb for outsourcing is that anything that isn't related to your core competency should be outsourced,” writes Marissa Levin, founder and CEO of leadership training organisation, Successful Culture.
She notes that if the necessary skills and resources to accomplish the task are lacking in-house, then insourcing may only lead to greater problems, such as poor execution, frustration and decreased morale.
“It's best to outsource to experts that focus on a specific discipline full-time, stay current with the skills and technologies needed, and love to do the work,” she advises.
Operational efficiency expert Marissa Brassfield, of Ridiculously Efficient, agrees, “If you have someone on your team who you trust and can train to do your given task capably, by all means delegate [in-house]. If the tasks you need to delegate require a skill set or workload that your co-workers can't meet, then I recommend outsourcing.”
Chaitanya Sagar, CEO of online marketplace P2W2, explains: “What you should outsource depends on whether the other party can do it better (and whether “doing that thing better” is necessary).”
In making the decision to outsource, Sagar also advises considering availability of existing, skilled staff, and whether they can be spared for another project. Sometimes even with the skills available, company resources will be stretched too thin for a successful outcome.
Once you’ve decided to outsource, there are some things to remember.
Communication is crucial
Don’t just handball it and hope for the best.
When delegating or outsourcing a project, expectations need to be clearly outlined and a level of accountability defined. Without defining company vision, task requirements, and timelines, failure is almost certain.
Compare outsourcing with going to the salon. A client who walks in and asks the stylist to just “do” their hair without any other explanation is going to sit squirming in that chair for an hour, and leave with the style they never wanted and a depleted bank account. But if the same client describes in detail the look they’re after, brings photographs as a guide, and gives feedback throughout the cutting process, the end result is going to be much less drastic.
Patrick Tam of “The Constant Analyst” recommends setting desired checkup points and defining the type of communication you expect, for example, notification of any issues or delays.
“Start explaining with the end in mind,” is his advice.
Business Process Outsourcing company Infinit-O advises a thorough vendor selection process. “One of the biggest regrets of companies that had a failure in their outsourcing plan is that they had spent less time on vendor selection and evaluation before signing a contract,” they explain.
Arbitrarily choosing the first available option because they’re friends with someone in the design department is not good business.
“You need to make sure that the potential vendor has actually done, and done well, the particular work you're asking them to do,” writes Howard Tullman, executive director of Ed Kaplan Family Institute.
“You want people who have done it before, not the ones who merely think they can do it.”
Expert help requires expert knowledge, so consider what you’re buying into first. Check current client testimonials, research previous projects undertaken by the company, and call to speak directly with the team or staff member you would be working with before you give the go-ahead.
Outsourcing in the business world is generally higher stakes than a dodgy bathroom reno or a bad hairdo, so do your homework, invest your money wisely, communicate clearly and enjoy the returns on your investment.
Are you planning an event soon? Outsourcing a conference or meeting to Karstens means the event is in the safe hands of experts, both an on-site technical team and dedicated conference coordinators who will be there to manage your event smoothly from beginning to end.