Renske van der Heide
Project lead for Worcade
“Outsourcing services can save costs” is a well-known argument, but is it true? There can still be a lot of hidden costs and you might introduce new challenges for your organization. Still, there are plenty of good reasons to outsource activities. Worcade team lead Renske van der Heide tells about the perks and drawbacks of keeping your organization operating with help of suppliers.
Outsourcing is the latest trend. It is however not always the best choice. Services that are essential to your core business are best kept in-house. For example, it’s nice for nursing home residents that the kitchen knows who would like a piece of fish on Fridays, and that the cooks know that Mrs. Smith wants less salt in her food.
When saving costs is an argument to outsource your services, you should always ask yourself to what extent the experience of your own product will be harmed by it. After all, your own employees are more involved in the organization and often have a heart for the company. However, there are enough arguments in favor of outsourcing certain activities within your organization to say that sometimes it's the best option.
It doesn’t matter who does it
Services or products that can be standardized, and for which you can make clear agreements on the supplied quality, can easily be outsourced. These are often services that do not directly affect your core business. Think of your building’s security or the monthly visit from the window-cleaner. These activities need to be performed correctly, but not necessarily by people who are closely involved in your company.
In this situation it is probably best when the person is not too involved in the organization so they can fully focus on their tasks. Receptionists often feel involved in the organization and therefore perform more tasks. These tasks can be logging disruptions, or placing an order for one of their colleagues. This can be very helpful, but not always desirable. A supplier is probably more efficient when performing these tasks.
It is important to keep the organization’s goals in mind and what contributes to achieving them. When your organization wants to distinguish itself with excellent services and strives for good customer relations, your service desks plays an important role. It is not logical to outsource in this case.
Hiring external expertise
When you need specialist — often technical — knowledge for a task, it can be advisable to hire external experts. They are up to date on the latest developments in their area of expertise and often make smarter decision because of this. Sometimes small changes can have an unexpected large impact. By making a small change to the settings of your climate control system you can drastically reduce your energy use, for example. You also need extended expertise and up-to-date knowledge for managing something like Oracle databases. A specialized third party can make sure that the impact of disruptions and changes is limited.
Sometimes your organization only needs specialist knowledge for a short period of time, for an Exchange migration for example. Here, it is not worth hiring someone to do the task. An in-house Exchange specialist should always be up to date on all developments in his area of expertise in order for his work to remain intuitive. This leaves him with little time for other developments. If you only hire an Exchange specialist when you need the knowledge, you will hire someone who can focus full-time on keeping his or her Exchange knowledge up-to-date.
Effectively scheduling your staff
It is smart to work with suppliers when your organization experiences large fluctuations in required capacity. A high school’s IT department is often busy in September: everyone starts school again, many people lose their (new) password and it can take a while before everything is up and running. Peak seasons in the hotel branch and a continuously changing demand for lease cars are good examples of fluctuating needs. An external party can supply you with these additional resources when needed.
When your HR department cannot match the occupancy needed in the organization, it is a good — hopefully — temporary solution to choose for additional manpower. It’s important to understand that these temporary workers cannot immediately carry out your organization’s culture and vision. It’s a feeling that needs to grow.
Flexibility in staff can ensure that there are fewer problems when employees are ill or on holiday. Your supplier will make sure that there are enough people present, making your organization less dependent on available internal staff.
Solving supplier needs
But cost saving is only half the issue. You also need to outsource tasks to someone who knows what they are doing - and someone with whom you have a great relationship. You will want things to run as smoothly as possible.
But no relationship works well without communication. We would recommend a purpose built tool to solve this issue - and there are quite a few out there. Even at TOPdesk we are currently working hard on further developing Worcade: an online platform that enables easy and quick communication between the TOPdesk environment and your suppliers. It enables easy and straight forward collaboration - the key to better supplier relationships.