Consultants say that your job should be outsourced because of __________. Are they wrong?

The downturn in the economy has amplified the calls from management of “justifying your worth” to the firm. Many of us fear the “efficiency experts” (think “The Bobs” in the movie Office Space) coming in and suggesting that the work we do could be consolidated, downsized, outsourced, flat out eliminated. So we thought that for this week’s Elephant Post, we’d see what you’d say about justifying your worth.

We have perspectives from the Information Resources Center, the IT Help Desk, and Information Technology on the justifications they mention when the consultants come calling.

Once again, don’t forget to take a peek at next week’s Elephant Post question (it asks about your boss!!) at the bottom of this post, and send me your thoughts to share with everyone.

Information Resource Perspective

It’s Not About “Cheap Service” – It’s About Great Service That Watches the Bottom Line
Carol Bannen

The Information Resource Center staff here is made up of information specialists that not only get requests from anywhere in the firm for information but we are also proactively participating in practice group meetings to offer help and information relevant to the projects they are working on and didn’t even think to ask about.

I am not sure that outsourced library/research services would be able to offer the same proactive service that we are able to do by attending these meetings and interacting with the attorneys face to face.  In the Great Recession we have not only maintained our staffing levels but also greatly increased our billable hours.  I believe this is a direct result of our IRC Liaison program and the marketing of our services.  We offer services that go directly to the firm’s bottom line.  I don’t see any outsourcing company doing that.

HelpDesk Perspective

It’s all about value
So, I’m the HelpDesk person that refuses to be outsourced. Not me. It’s not entirely about *money*, it’s about *value*.
In short, if I can deliver what my customers want for a comparable (or even slightly higher) dollar cost than my competitors, I’ll remain. What do my customers want in their support guy?

  1. The right answer. Provide the answer they need. Take the time to understand the business and the process so that you understand the need, not just the expressed desire du jour that comes over the phone or email.
  2. The right answer, at the right time. The first time is always the right time. If not the first time, a mutually agreed upon interval that hopefully demonstrates my knowledge of what the right answer should look like (see prior point).
  3. The right answer, at the right time, delivered by the right person. What good is it being in-house if I don’t leverage my knowledge about the personalities and conditions from an insider perspective? Being the right person means a genuine interest in others that they can recognize and appreciate.
  4. Do the decision makers know what a swell person I am? This isn’t just a schmooze maneuver. I need to make sure that important people know that I’m contributing to the bottom line by keeping things moving. I can’t expect anyone else to be clairvoyant about my contribution any more than I can be about the resolution to their problems.
Though simple, these are what I use as touchstones: Am I known to be a great person, delivering the helpful information in a timeframe that’s actionable? If those points are done well, then I’m a confident employee. If someone else does these better than I do at a similar cost to my employer, I’d better be taking lessons very quickly.
IT Perspective
Consultants say that IT jobs should be outsourced because of cost, efficiency, expertise and/or customer service.  Are they wrong?
There is no categorical right or wrong answer to this statement. In the Information Technology (IT) community, outsourcing has a home and it doesn’t plan on moving anytime soon. Can the outsourcing express roll through the district and evict residents? Yes. I contend, however, outsourcing need not be the obnoxious neighborhood pest. It can be the friendly neighbor that mutually benefits the subdivision.
My organization redirects the Helpdesk hotline to an outsourcing service during the night shift. This fulfills a gap in one of our customer service objectives by providing human operators to answer Helpdesk calls. Before this change, our low call volumes scarcely merited the need for a night shift operator and calls to the Helpdesk would roll to voice mail.  Outsourcing provided the means of fulfilling one of our customer service objectives at a reasonable cost.
At my organization’s smaller satellite offices, we are unable to justify an IT position. Establishing a relationship with local outsourcing services extends our coverage to these offices in an efficient manner.  The time and material arrangement provides positive ROI and offsets the cost when the situation calls for staff to travel to the satellite offices.
These outsourced services examples are arguably long-term fundamental IT responsibilities. Does this mean I can someday be outsourced? Yes. However, I think the more an IT position provides value to core business needs, the less likely that position will be outsourced. I favor this adage, “If you are not an asset, you are a liability.” 
My organization is highly dependent on IT for email, document management and financial services. Will these core business needs be outsourced? Probably not. In contrast, we have less expertise and more elasticity with audio and web conferencing technologies. These services are outsourced. 
I think the recession brightens the spotlight on business values. The call for moral and ethical standards is clear in Ben Horowitz’s blog . While the blog focused on Hewlett-Packard’s dismissal of former CEO, Mark Hurd, the message of “… people working together to deliver value …” is true for all ranks of an organization. Outsourcing, after all, is still about human resources. The more a person increases his or her value, the more valuable the person, position and department become to the organization.
How’s your value proposition?
Next Week’s Elephant Post:

We’ve usually focused on the “negative” when it comes to the Elephant Posts, but next week we want to give you a chance to “talk-up” your boss or perhaps some peer that has been influential in your career. 

What is one thing that you have learned from your boss that has been transformational for you?

This question brought back memories of a job interview I had once (I didn’t get the job), but there was a moment when my potential boss said something to me that he doesn’t remember, but I never forgot. I’ll explain more next week in my contribution.
We encourage our readers to step out from the anonymity of reading 3 Geeks and contribute to next week’s Elephant Post. If you have a story about how your boss, or someone you worked for did something that transformed the way you thought about your profession, then send me an e-mail to discuss.