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6 myths about outsourcing your finance function, debunked.
Say the word “outsourcing”, and images of large call centres located in distant lands, immediately springs to mind. It may have been the case in the early 90’s when businesses started to focus more on cost-saving measures, and decided to offload chunks of their operational processes to companies who were able to manage that on their behalf, but fast forward to current day where outsourcing has become part-and-parcel of most operational strategies – strategies which are being executed much closer to home, and quite often without giving it a second glance.
Call it what you will – a networked economy, a collaboration, a strategic partnership – the concept remains very similar; employing the expertise of specialist service providers to perform a core strategic function, on your behalf. It’s still outsourcing. But instead of dropping a process into a dark pool of nameless faces, the world of outsourcing and service delivery has taken a much more pivotal role around the boardroom table.
We debunk 6 myths surrounding the notion of outsourcing and give you a reason to consider using the specialist skill available to you, to improve your business process even more.
If I outsource, I lose all control
Wrong. Outsourcing isn’t, and shouldn’t be, any different to the way any of your internal functions work with each other. Just as each individual function has its own set of responsibilities and service level expectations in place towards other functions in the business, so too should your service delivery partner work with you. You need to have the assurance that, at any point that you need to, you have full accessibility to whomever you need to speak to within the business. Your service level agreement should include budget and timeline expectations, deliverables and escalation channels. You should be clear on the type of information you expect to receive, when you need it, and your service delivery partner should do that. You should be clear on where the ownership lies on critical parts of the process, especially when it comes to things like customer data, company records etc. All of which should be discussed and agreed before any work commences. Your service delivery partner needs to be vetted and selected based on their ability to deliver to you, their track record, their ability to service your business needs accurately.
I can’t trust someone who isn’t employed by me.
Wrong. Sometimes, you can’t trust certain people employed by you – which usually results in corrective action. It’s no different to using a service delivery partner. Any relationship – be it supplier-based or otherwise – needs to be built on trust. Building trust starts at the very first impression and is solidified in the agreement you sign with them. A continuation of that trust is then built on how they deliver – whether as a one-off service, or on a recurring basis. The nature of the working organisation is changing. Specialists are going it alone, and starting their own businesses. Skills are becoming sought-after, and if you’re looking for a niche skill to perform a function, the chances are high that you may need to employ the services of a consulting company to work for you on your behalf. You may not employ the specialist you need, but using their services is no different – and clarifying any agreements up front, will go a long way in solidifying a long and sustainable working relationship.
They don’t know my business, and therefore won’t know what’s best for me.
Wrong. As service delivery partners ourselves, we know the value of delivering exactly what the client wants, and expects. Which is why it’s in our best interest to make sure that we acquaint ourselves with as much as we can about our clients. And your service delivery partner should be doing just that too. If they’re not – there’s a problem (unless the remit is to deliver something based on impression only – in the case of mystery shoppers. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.). Your service delivery partner should be asking you what your goals are, what the critical risk areas are within your business, what your targeted customer looks like. They should be trying to understand where you want to go as a business, and how you plan to get there. And very often, in our own experience, the service delivery partner has insight into things that you may never have thought of – simply because you’re too close to the issue. Outsourcing to a quality service provider doesn’t mean relinquishing control, it means you’re inviting insight in.
They won’t do it as well as if I were to do it myself.
Wrong. Think about your motivation behind outsourcing to an experienced service provider. Think about why you’re choosing to do that in the first place. It could be that your business is at maximum capacity, and you just need extra help. It could be that you need to cut costs through outsourcing specific functions to specific specialists. It could be that you simply don’t have the skill internally to deliver what you need to deliver. Whatever it is – your choice is to find someone who can do the job, and can excel at it too. Surely, if you could do all of this yourself, the need to ask for help wouldn’t be there in the first place? The world of work is changing – specialist skill is no longer tied to large, nameless organisations, but are springing up as exciting new businesses offering niche services in a much more accessible and results-driven way.
It’s going to be done by a faceless organisation
Wrong. See point above. A networked economy, which is the one in which we find ourselves, is anything but faceless. We (all of us) are focussed on customer delivery – and walking hand-in-hand with a great customer experience is personality. Yes, if your choice is to outsource chunks of your customer delivery process to offshore businesses, this may be your experience, but the case is not always true. Working with smaller, specialist firms who are there to deliver for you, should be anything but faceless. And if they are, then you shouldn’t be using them in the first place. The services industry in the UK alone, makes up 80% of all business. If they were all faceless, that statistic would probably be completely inverted.
Outsourcing is always about cost-cutting
Wrong. Outsourcing anything is very often about finding specialist skill. In a study conducted by the City & Guilds, it was found that 9 in 10 employers struggle to recruit the skill they need – driving a need to look towards other independent businesses to satisfy their core operational deliverables. Although outsourcing was borne out of a need to cut costs and streamline operations, modern-day outsourcing has become far more specialist and strategic. A focus on a more sustainable, economically-empowering solution to growing business means that organisations are looking to procure services from local suppliers. Independent businesses have steadily been growing as experienced individuals step away from long-term corporate careers and build their own offering.