It is often a difficult decision for a business to identify when it needs external help. This can be for many reasons.
The role of the consultant has been instrumental in delivering niche capabilities for many years. However, the economic conditions have forced many companies to radically rethink some of their skills and resources and ask the question as to whether they should retain these functions internally or outsource them.
Outsources does not always mean disaster
Outsourcing has become a popular business process in the last10 years as companies have chosen to focus more on their core functions and look for businesses that can provide supporting services or functions better than they could organically. Some outsourcing has attracted a poor reputation as being overly complex, lacking operational agility and higher fixed costs, but this isn’t always the case.
Outsourcing can prove to be very successful especially when the decision is part of an overall business strategy. Businesses need to see the role of outsourcing as an opportunity to bring in new skills into the business operation, and not as an operations lead cost reduction exercise.
What to outsource?
Office services have been the traditional target for outsourced services. This can range from post room, reception and fleet management through to cleaning etc. However, in recent times a wider range of business functions are now becoming acceptable areas for outsourcing. Once the thought of outsourcing the business IT function would have been seen as a risky business decision but now it is almost standard business practice.
New areas for outsourcing
Businesses are facing tougher competition and are looking for new areas of competitive advantage. Marketing should be the powerhouse of many businesses strategic thinking but for many this is a difficult area to obtain the strategic input required. Many more businesses are now turning to third parties to provide critical input to their own organic marketing function. Some businesses do not have a marketing function or perhaps a very small capability aimed at providing support to annual events such as trade shows. As the recession has gripped the commercial world, this kind of limited function will not provide the foundations for recovery that many businesses require.
Having time to think
Utilising the services of an outsourced marketing function can give the internal team some time to think or provide new ideas and directions that have otherwise not been considered. Having time to think, review performance, analysis market indicators and invest in future plans are critical in achieving success.
Developing options and conducting analysis
An outsourced marketing capability can develop plans and options for the business that allow the board to consider radical thinking and identify future opportunities. This outsourced strategic thinking can also provide the free thinking that is critical when reviewing the business position in the market. Internal teams are inevitably caught up in the day-to-day running of the business, however, a more remote perspective can provide the clarity of thought and analysis which is required to see the wood from the trees.
Stay in control
Whether you need strategic thinking or operational technical advice such digital channel planning, it is important to work in partnership and stay in control. The business needs to be focused as to what it wants to achieve. Business functions, whether outsourced or organic, cannot work in isolation and must have a clear brief and an unambiguous direction.