Outsourcing processes or services or not – What are strategic risks that you have to consider ?

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I write my own opinion, not that of any organization.

The economic and financial cycle waves often lead to savings. One of the methods that is being tried is outsourcing services. In addition to the question as to whether this is a saving, because people often intervene with other budgets, which means that a cost is diverted from one’s own personnel costs, there are a number of criteria that I think should all be checked off. This before deciding to outsource a task in the short or longer term. There are a number of strategic risks involved.

The concerns are as follows:

  1. Is the service or process a core competence of the organization that should be kept in-house, even if it seems that this is an adverse cost? In my opinion, for many organizations since the information age came into being, ICT and all related processes are things that meet this. After all, it should not be forgotten that Flanders is increasingly evolving into a knowledge society. And knowledge depends one-on-one on information and information systems. ICT outsourcing provides an extra link in the risk chain, and reduces the involvement of ICT professionals with your business. The fact that there is a contract almost always means that there are gaps in the service, for which one has to pay extra.
  2. Is it really less expensive to outsource the process, if one considers all in-house and out-house life cycle costs? After all, an organization often continues to pay for the risks associated with the process that has been outsourced. One therefore remains morally obliged to remain awake to the risks associated with the process. Outsourcing the service does not outsource liability for it as long as it is done in the name of one’s own organization. Further, a contract between the two parties does not mean that the quality of the service is guaranteed at the same level. After all, another company often subscribes to different values. And a contract, as a legal binder, therefore has backdoors too easily.
  3. Is the process more expensive to carry out in-house, or can it be redesigned to reduce costs sufficiently to adequately meet the costs saved in outsourcing? If one can redesign it but doesn’t, one loses skills because off the outsourcing, and the opportunities to improve in one’s own field through cross-pollination with related or other services.
  4. Is there an investment involved in outsourcing the service, and if so, can this cost be easily recouped with the savings? Conversely, if outsourcing meant liquidating equipment, would the proceeds of sale mean anything in the return on the investment of outsourcing? This is a purely financial criterion. If the CFO does not address this, it is a missed opportunity or an unnecessary risk that one runs, depending on the facts post-outsourcing.
  5. If outsourcing is disappointing, can the service be easily insourced again in the future? Are the lost knowledge and skills therefore easy to reacquire? With the current ‘war for talent’, this is not obvious. And people who have been relocated will not like to be placed from one job to another on an ad hoc basis. People who are not permanently appointed will have found another job by now, perhaps even better paid. If insourcing is not successful, a strategic mistake has been made from the start.
  6. Does management have enough time to foresee a transition to outsource it? But do they also have enough time to foresee to insource it again if the outsourcing is disappointing? Because such operations are not low-hanging fruit, and require efforts from top management. It should not be a light decision. After all, top management is responsible for picking the high-hanging fruit, not for picking the low-hanging fruit .
  7. Could renting equipment or asking the vendor of equipment for this service (such as software vendors) provide a lifecycle with a solution that is doable, other than outsourcing? For example, by training an AI to support a service with software. If this is possible, would this mean a positive influence of innovation and therefore efficiency? In the short term, or only in the long term?
  8. What if the contractor goes bankrupt, despite ‘good papers’ when the contract was awarded?

In my opinion, the answer to all these questions must be that outsourcing is the only meaningful answer, otherwise, when in doubt of an argument, it is better to keep the service in-house.

This does not alter the fact that outsourcing tasks can be useful. But especially when the viability of a new service has to be determined, and at a start-up, during the transition period in which the service has to prove itself. In this way, the new service can be optimized not only with cross-pollination with other own services, but also with the experiences of consultants, at the most important moments of the life cycle, namely the design and the teething problems period.

It is best not to outsource essential management needs of an organization. When you have them in the organization, you have unique assets in your hands. Outsourcing skills means that in the long run the cost of outsourcing will increase because one gets stuck by losing the skills.

CAW (Combined Arms Warfare) and climate drought

Author: Manu Steens

In this article I write my own opinion, not that of any organization.

We write February 20, 2023. A Flemish newspaper writes “Drought plunges Argentina into a perfect storm – Argentina is groaning under the most severe drought in sixty years. The whole world will feel that”.

On the internet, journalists explain that neither Ukraine nor Russia are making progress in terms of gaining ground, and that the West’s arms supplies to Ukraine matter less than how those weapons are used. CAW – Combined Arms Warfare – is the new magic word. (More information about CAW can be found at Combined arms – Wikipedia)

One question is, does it make sense to post this wisdom about CAW and Ukraine on the net? With the collection of his flying equipment, it seems that Russia could also be planning something similar. Furthermore, there is a chance that Russia wants more than that: will it apply hybrid warfare in total warfare? What if it attacks Ukraine’s economy by destroying grain production in the fields? The other countries in the world will have to step in with the food supply. What could such a future look like?

There are the following uncertainties here that I plot against each other:

  • Russia is actively or trying to eliminate Ukraine’s grain production or not;
  • other countries (not just the West) may or may not be able to provide sufficient assistance in terms of grain production.

This gives us the following possible futures:

1: The show goes on – Assisting succeeds and the grain of Ukraine is not destroyed by Russia. Ukraine can export its grain and generate income. The disappointing harvest in Argentina does cause increases in food prices. This is going to be felt by ordinary citizens in many countries and is going to cause inflation to rise.

2: Feeling hungry – Assisting succeeds and the grain of Ukraine is destroyed by Russia.

In addition to the rising food prices, famine is imminent in Ukraine. More people are seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Aid organizations are providing more food packages to Ukraine.

3: Also hungry – Assisting is not possible and the grain of Ukraine is not destroyed by Russia. There is a famine that is spreading: countries that depend on foreign grain see their livestock shrink. Meat production in a number of Western countries is coming to a standstill or is shrinking sharply. In the southern hemisphere, too, there is a cry for help with regard to livestock. A number of grain exporting countries impose export restrictions. Part of the global food supply chain comes to a halt.

4: Human disaster – Assisting is not possible and the grain of Ukraine is destroyed by Russia. The global supply chain of cereals and meat products is partly at a standstill, but the production and export of beer and alcohol production is also experiencing serious problems. Not only Ukraine is experiencing a famine, parts of Africa were also dependent on the grain from Ukraine. Inflation is skyrocketing, reaching more than 10% year-on-year again. Certain foods are taken out of the basket that defines inflation, in order to try to moderate wages and not derail the economy. The number of suicides among ranchers is increasing.

Conclusion: regardless of whether the war in Ukraine increases in intensity, food prices come under attack, and world hunger is not getting any better. Sectors that depend on grain production are also coming under attack. Ostensibly, this is independent of the war, but given that Ukraine is a breadbasket for the world, one disaster here may fuel the other. So a conclusion may be that it is a bad time to go to war. But it always is.