When “Outsourcing” Leaves a Sour Taste, Try Talking about “Outtasking” Instead

Tim Norton describes the benefits of outtasking over outsourcing, giving valuable advice on switching the external resourcing perspective from people and roles to specific tasks.

outtasking

“Outsourcing” is a word that has developed unfair connotations in various business and social communities around the world. From an IT outsourcing (ITO) perspective, it is generally associated with moving American jobs elsewhere. While there are myriad reasons for this, it most commonly comes down to cost.

One way to create more understanding about the value outsourcing brings to business might be to change the word a little. This is why we should consider the word “outtasking” instead of outsourcing.

By focusing on specific tasks that are perfect for outsourcing instead of focusing on specific people or roles, this should lead to better choices on what is done outside of the organization and what must stay within the client walls.

Outsourcing vs. Outtasking: What’s the Difference?

There are as many different models and programs for external resourcing as there are companies engaged in it, and numerous influences determine how such programs exist. There are many factors that designate each company’s strategy and presence in their environment. These include the maturity of the external resourcing program itself, the appetite of the companies to implement and expand such programs, the relationships with the vendors that are chosen to engage with, and the careful selection of work that enters the program.

Perhaps one of the most difficult components of an effective and efficient external resourcing program is the selection of work that goes into the program. Many companies are not certain of what work is best suited to do externally. Furthermore, it is not always clear what sort of work vendors are capable of or interested in doing.

The easiest way to think about what to outsource is to look at each person in the organization and the function they perform. Try to determine if that role could be done externally in some way more beneficial to the company is a very common approach. But that sort of holistic role-oriented view has its inherent problems.

First and foremost, the threat to that person and their role in the company will become apparent very quickly. Doubters will come along and claim no one else could do that job as well as the person in that role today. That may be followed by headlines that companies would rather not read about, such as how jobs are shifting outside of the country. Also, teams associated with that role will have to figure out how to work with people that are now not sitting right next to them.

How do I start Outtasking?

Instead of focusing on a particular person or a particular role, consider a lower unit of measure for determining how work can be done internally or externally. Look at the tasks across an entire function or organization. Carefully identify those tasks that are the secret sauce or intellectual property of the company. Consider which tasks would be too risky to be done anywhere but inside the walls of the enterprise and then group those tasks together, independent of what person or role does them today.

Alternatively, consider the tasks that are of a nature that any number of persons could do them. These tasks are generally easier to do, repetitive in their nature, tactical in their execution, and very likely something that someone else who specializes in that sort of work can do more efficiently and at a better cost point.

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This sort of review of work can often be more palatable to the people whose jobs are impacted. It is quite common to find these sorts of tasks are not where the internal worker feels the most satisfaction or sense of accomplishment. Whether these are small units of work like processing an invoice, taking a call, converting some data, preparing some transaction for processing at the next stage, or larger work units like QA testing an application, developing some code based on solid specifications, or collecting requirements from the business, tasks such as these can be defined and organized as work units that can be considered to be done externally using vendors who specialize in this sort of work.

Once I go for Outtasking, How Will Internal Work Differ?

Tasks that are performed across various roles that are clearly defined as internal tasks can be grouped together and built into newly defined roles for these internal people impacted by the former task evaluation. This can produce some wonderful new roles that have a lot higher percentage of the ‘fun’ or ‘more satisfying’ work. This work aligns well with what the corporation actually does or is known for. This can also lead to more leadership roles overseeing the ‘tasks’ that have now been moved externally.

Offering work to vendors in this sort of mode is far easier and has a higher degree of success than asking a vendor to take over an entire responsibility of a person doing that role for a long time. Likewise, the new roles produced by this realignment of tasks may be of higher value to the company and provide workers growth and opportunity for their future.

Outtasking is a smarter way to look at the work that encompasses your external resourcing program.  You may find that your organization will align with the program with less consternation or objection. Everybody wins. Better roles for those internally and vendors associated with your program have a higher degree of success and alignment with how they run their own business with the most efficiency and effectiveness.

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