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24 February, 2015 - 17:30

Outsourcing is a contractual relationship where an external organization takes responsibility for performing all or part of a company’s functions (Vita, 2006). Outsourcing is the term used to designate a relationship in which a partner company performs business functions. Common examples of outsourced functions for companies in the developed world are software development and call centers. The principle justification for outsourcing functions like these from, for example, the US to India is that prevailing wage rates for these kinds of tasks are much lower than in the US and the Indian partner companies hire and train employees who speak English and are skilled at their jobs. There’s a difference between outsourcing and off-shoring. When a vendor in another country performs an outsourced function, off-shoring is the correct terminology for describing the relationship. The jobs being outsourced in an organization do not necessarily have to be outsourced to another country. Off-shoring can result in significant savings due to wage and currency discrepancies among countries. However, quality controls must be maintained to ensure that the products and services provided are returning the expected results. Outsourcing is typically done by organizations who outsource non-core processes that are inefficient, difficult to manage, or too costly. Choosing a supplier to meet an organization’s outsourcing needs depends on the business process being outsourced, the scope of the project to be outsourced, as well as geographic factors. Business processes that are often considered good candidates to outsource include, but are not limited to:

  • administration (audit, tax)
  • asset and property management
  • finance (accounting, billing, accounts payable, accounts receivable)
  • human resources (benefits administration, payroll)
  • information systems (development and operations)
  • miscellaneous (energy services, customer service, mailroom, food processing)
  • procurement/logistics

Business process outsourcing is becoming increasingly important. The management of one or more processes or functions by a third party is a means for the organization to reduce costs. The key benefits of outsourcing are realized by organizations that outsource business processes by transferring the entire function out-of-house. This enables access to specialized knowledge and expertise in the area; sharing of new methodologies, technologies and other resources; and standardizing processes across the organization.

An organization needs to outline the benefits and risks of outsourcing when deciding whether to outsource. The benefits need to outweigh the risks in order for outsourcing to be efficient and effective (Halvey, 2000). A typical benefit/risk analysis is:


  • cost savings
  • increased flexibility
  • better customer or employee service
  • higher productivity
  • ability to concentrate on the core business
  • implementation of wide initiatives
  • movement of assets off books
  • more resources
  • variety of skills
  • access to new methodologies and technologies
  • training expense reduction
  • greater flexibility


  • loss of control
  • difficulty in managing costs
  • additional liability
  • difficulty in bringing the business process back in-house
  • reduced flexibility

Uncertainty in outsourcing occurs when an organization is not sure which business process function to outsource. Organizations should be overly inclusive with what needs to be outsourced. Including an unbundled requirement where the vendor provides separate pricing for certain functions can be helpful. Also, deciphering through the complexity of outsourcing can be easier once determining where the services will be provided.

The next step in assessing outsourcing is to identify potential vendors that have the desired resources, capabilities, and experience. The following will provide beneficial information to help make an informed decision:

  • vendor information from industry reports/survey
  • looking at industry publications
  • talking to other outsourcing customers
  • sharing goals and concerns with chosen vendors