After all, what is outsourcing? It is just the purchase of a service from another company. It could be catering, it could be plumbing, or it could be IT. So, outsourcing has taken place for as long as companies have bought services from experts.
In the past decade, many in the media have declared ‘outsourcing’ itself as an industry, but I think we have moved on from this broken jargon. The time has come to stop thinking of outsourcing as something good or bad, and to just accept that all companies use outsourcing to some degree.
There are two key points to remember.
Most companies are not vertically integrated. They don’t do everything in-house. They don’t do their own payroll, or accounts. The Apple computer company may design new products in California, but a contractor assembles them in China.
Companies now sit in the middle of an ebbing and flowing supply chain that is maintained by contractors, temporary workers, internal staff, consultants… all working to steer the company in a single direction. But though the end result is the same, the way people are paid for their work is entirely different to earlier models of work where everyone is an employee of the same company and is paid according to their grade, or the time they put in.
So outsourcing is no longer the scourge of the media, the stealer of jobs. It is merely one more business strategy that allows a company to access resource in a flexible way – usually more specialised than the people on the payroll.
The concept of outsourcing is alive and a part of 21st century business, but perhaps the word outsourcing is about to die quietly.