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Deciding whether or not to outsource particular tasks is one of the many important decisions both large and small companies alike have to make often. This can be a difficult decision at times but often the decision making process is greatly simplified and it becomes clear that outsourcing is the only viable option. Situations in which this may occur are when the in-house staff is not qualified for these tasks, when the in-house staff is already overburdened and when there are specific client requirements specifying certain tasks must be completed by individuals with specific qualifications. This article will address each of these situations and discuss why outsourcing becomes the only solution in each case.

The Qualification of In-house Staff

Sometimes outsourcing becomes the only option available because there are no in-house staff members qualified to perform a particular task. This often occurs when a task requires a highly specialized degree or area of expertise. This is especially problematic when the task in question is one which is extremely rare. When this is the case it does not make sense for a company to hire an employee with these capabilities when they will be rarely utilized because employees who are not productive are expensive to the company. However, if this task becomes one which is required regularly, the question of whether or not to outsource the task becomes more complicated. As this article is focusing on situations where outsourcing is the only option, we will not delve further into the factors which complicated this decision such as labor costs and increased manpower.

Smaller companies often face the problem of not having staff members qualified for particular tasks more often than larger companies. Larger companies obviously have a larger pool of employees to pull from and it is therefore much more likely for the smaller firms to have gaps in their level of expertise than it is for larger companies to have these gaps.

The Availability of In-house Staff

Sometimes outsourcing becomes the only option based on staff availability. A company may have a need for tasks to be completed rather quickly. Although it may be a task for which several in-house employees are qualified, current workloads may make it impossible for these employees to take on these tasks. When this occurs, outsourcing again becomes the only option. Company employees are often multi-tasking and may be working towards several serious deadlines at any one particular time. Management is tasked with the responsibility of doling out work to lower level employees and when they feel as though their in-house staff is not able to take on more work, they often turn to outsourcing as a solution.

Workloads often become a factor in outsourcing when there are projects which are particularly time sensitive in nature. Employees and employers often have to prioritize the multiple tasks they are managing but there are times when a number of projects or tasks become urgent simultaneously and when this happens it may become difficult to complete all of these tasks with only the assistance of the in-house staff.

Client Requirements

Sometimes outsourcing becomes the only option as a result of client requirements. Depending on the complexity of a task, a client may require the consultant firm tasked with completing a task to have the task performed by an individual with specific qualifications. These qualifications may include specific training in certain types of software, exact education requirements or previous work experiences. Companies who do not have in-house employees who meet these specific requirements have no choice but to outsource the task to a qualified individual.

When this is an isolated incident, companies often outsource the task and do not make efforts to attempt to hire a full time employee with these qualifications. This is a wise decision especially when the client requirements require an expert in a particular niche of the software industry. Employing an employee of this caliber would likely be rather expensive especially if he would rarely be called upon to utilize his advanced skills. 

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There are times when outsourcing is the only option available for reasons such as no in-house employees are qualified or available to complete the particular task. However, there are also times when outsourcing is not the only option but it is also the best option. In these situations, outsourcing becomes a wise business decision as opposed to a requirement or a matter of personal preference. This article will discuss three situations where outsourcing is the best option. These options include:

* When outsourcing saves money

* When outsourcing helps make deadlines

* When outsourcing increases productivity

When Outsourcing Saves Money

Outsourcing becomes the best solution when it saves the company money without compromising the quality of the work. Companies whose goals are predominately financial in nature often focus on the bottom line in determining whether or not to outsource projects or tasks. When the cost savings results in inferior work it is certainly not the best solution. However, companies who are able to outsource projects to highly qualified and capable individuals while still saving money enjoy the benefit of knowing they selected the best solution for their software related problems.

Whether or not outsourcing saves money is a concept which many have difficulty understanding. When most people think of outsourcing, they picture citizens of third world countries working for substandard wages but this is not an accurate representation of outsourcing. Nowadays outsourcing often involves hiring high priced, domestic consultants to tackle complex software problems under aggressive deadlines. This explanation makes the issue even more confusing for some who think it is impossible for it to be less expensive to hire a high priced consultant than to complete the task in-house.

Examining labor costs is often necessary to see how outsourcing can often reduce costs. Outsourcing may carry a higher per hour rate but it is important to note that the company is often not required to pay benefits such as social security, Medicare and workers’ compensation to the consultant. Additionally, the consultant may work offsite meaning he is not putting a drain on company resources. Examining these factors is necessary to determine whether or not outsourcing is the best option.

When Outsourcing Helps Make Deadlines

Aggressive deadlines often make outsourcing the best available option. Most companies do not want to have to turn down work because they do not have enough staff members available to complete a particular project. Having the ability to outsource software jobs makes it easier for a company to compete for more jobs than their staff could possibly handle. This is because the managements know they have a network of consultants to rely on during times when schedules are tight. In these cases outsourcing becomes the best option.

Whether schedules are originally set to be rather aggressive or become accelerated do to problems earlier in the project they can become a hassle for many companies. Regardless of the cause of the scheduling concerns, clients may not understand if the consultant is unable to meet the required deadlines.

When Outsourcing Increases Productivity

Outsourcing also becomes the best solution to a problem when it results in increased productivity. Consider the tasks you intend to outsource and determine the amount of time it would take for these tasks to be completed in-house. Now consider the amount of time it would take to have these tasks completed through outsourcing. If the answer is outsourcing would be quicker, it is logical to go ahead and outsource these tasks. The reason for this is the consultant can be more efficient with the tasks.

When considering productivity it is also important to note that employees who are handling multiple tasks often take longer to complete each individual task then they would to complete each of these same tasks if they were his only responsibility. This is because employees who are multi-tasking are not necessarily as efficient as they believe they are. The main problem with multi-tasking is when switching from one activity there is a small delay each time the employee switches tasks because he often has to review his recent progress and remind himself what he intended to do next. Conversely outsourcing singular tasks allows the individual to focus 100% on each task.

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Outsourcing is a term which has received a great deal of attention lately. Despite the increasing trend in companies relying on outsourcing there are still some who do not clearly understand what is meant by the term outsourcing. This article will examine some of the key elements of outsourcing to help the reader develop a better understanding of the concept of outsourcing.

Outsourcing Defined

What is outsourcing? This is the most basic question many have about the subject of outsourcing. They are not yet interested in more complex aspects of the issue because they have not yet grasped the most basic understanding of the process. In the simplest language outsourcing is when a company delegates the completion of certain tasks to an individual not employed by the company directly. This individual may be an independent contractor or an employee of another company who is subcontracted to complete these tasks. In exchange for the individual’s services, he or his company receives monetary compensation.

This description of outsourcing makes it far easier to understand the concept. Most people incorrectly assume outsourcing only applies to situations where large corporations have products manufactured overseas by a subsidiary and don’t realize examples of outsourcing can be seen just about everywhere in corporate America.

Domestic Outsourcing

Domestic outsourcing refers to outsourcing where both the primary company and the independent contractor or subsidiary are located in the same country. One of the main reasons for outsourcing is to reduce costs but it is not always necessary to outsource work overseas to reduce costs. Cost savings will be discussed in greater detail in the section on the benefits of outsourcing but essentially outsourcing results in a savings as a result of a reduction of labor costs.

Overseas Outsourcing

Overseas outsourcing is the type of outsourcing most people already understand. This is where large corporations such as Nike, and even some smaller companies, employ manufacturing plants overseas in third world countries to upsize their profits. This is significant because their costs including wages, materials and building lease would be considerably higher in the United States than they are in these other countries.

Benefits of Outsourcing

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the concept of outsourcing, you might wonder why companies would go to the trouble of outsourcing certain tasks. Outsourcing is popular because there are a great deal of benefits to the companies who outsource the work. Some of the benefits include:

* Reduced labor costs

* Increased workforce

* Greater flexibility

One of the main reasons companies resort to outsourcing is it can significantly reduce costs. In the case of overseas outsourcing of manufacturing tasks, costs can be cut dramatically because there are lower wages and costs associated with managing and maintaining the manufacturing plants. However, companies also enjoy a cost savings when they outsource tasks domestically. Reduction of labor costs is the primary source of savings in this case. Independent contractors hired on a contract basis for the purpose of completing specific tasks are often not given benefits such as social security, Medicare and workers’ compensation.

Another benefit to outsourcing is enjoying a larger workforce without actually hiring additional employees. Companies who maintain networking relationships with qualified individuals have more opportunities open to them because they are able to rely on these individuals to assist them if they acquire large or complicated projects.

Finally, outsourcing gives a company a great deal of flexibility. Companies who have a significant workload and backlog of work where the majority of the employees are highly utilized might be hesitant to compete for new work because they do not have a great deal of employee availability. However, with a network of individuals to rely on if the need to outsource arises, the company has more flexibility in pursuing new work.

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Outsourcing can really be beneficial for a number of reasons. Some companies enjoy benefits such as reduced labor costs, larger workforces, access to industry experts and increased flexibility through outsourcing. However, despite the obvious advantages to outsourcing there are some situations when outsourcing is not a good idea. Although there a number of scenarios where outsourcing is a viable business option there are other scenarios where outsourcing is not the best idea. In these situations it is best to keep the work in-house rather than attempting to make an outsourcing situation work out.

When Outsourcing is Too Costly

One of the primary advantages of outsourcing is a cost reduction. In many cases outsourcing results in reduced labor costs because costs such as social security, health care and workers’ compensation are eliminated. Additionally, the increased efficiency resulting when tasks are outsourced to industry experts can also result in a cost reduction.

Despite these many opportunities for cost reductions, there are some situations where outsourcing might be the more expensive alternative and it may also lead to a financial loss instead of a gain. This may include a situation where the cost of outsourcing to a highly specialized expert exceeds the budget for the project. Fees for individuals with highly specialized degrees or areas of expertise are often quite expensive. Another possible situation is one where finding an individual qualified to complete specialized tasks would be too expensive of a process.

When Outsourcing Causes You to Lose Control

Even when tasks or projects are outsourced the company responsible for the work likes to continue to manage the project and keep close tabs on the progress of tasks. It is important for the company to continue to manage the project even after it has been outsourced because they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for the successful completion of the project. Whenever an individual or company wants to deny the company access to project files or documents, outsourcing is a bad idea. The company who has the vested interest in the outcome of the project should never be excluded from participating in making decisions regarding the project.

Before outsourcing a task or project care should be taken to establish criteria for the management of the project. Depending on the length and complexity of the project it may also be wise to schedule regular meetings to provide updates on the progress of the project. During this time the contractor should provide the employer with all documentation necessary to evaluate the progress of the project and verify it is still on track for completion by the established deadline.

When Outsourcing is Not Permitted

Sometimes outsourcing is not a good idea simply because it is not permitted by contract requirements. Some project contracts may have stipulations stating the work cannot be outsourced to an individual or to another company. Inserting such a clause into a contract document is well within the rights of the clients. When they hire a particular company to complete a project or task, they expect all work related to the project or task to be completed by members of that company unless they specified otherwise when negotiating the contract. Violating the contract documents in this situation is not a good idea. The company could be penalized by the client. Penalties may include withholding payment or refusing to award future projects or tasks to the company.

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Outsourcing has become a very popular alternative for a number of very valid reasons. Outsourcing initially emerged as a way for companies to cut costs by having processes such as manufacturing and assembly done in overseas locations where costs were much lower. Lower wages and operating costs both contributed to these reduced costs. These lower costs were appealing because they greatly improved the profit margins for the companies. However, outsourcing is now gaining in popularity for a variety of other reasons. While cost reduction is still a primary advantage, other elements such as access to industry experts, a larger workforce and more flexible options are being embraced as welcomed advantages offered by outsourcing.

Cost Reductions from Outsourcing

As previously mentioned reducing costs was the original purpose of outsourcing and although outsourcing has since been demonstrated to have other significant advantages, cost reduction still remains one of the prime advantages. Companies look to outsource tasks which would be more costly to complete in-house. An example of this type of task would be a software related task requiring specialized training. Companies who do not have an on staff employee qualified to complete this task can benefit financially by outsourcing this task.

There may be significant fees required to retain the services of an industry expert on a contractual basis but the efficiency of this individual will enable him to complete the task much more quickly than it could have been done in-house. If the task were not outsourced an in-house employee would have had to complete the task and may have taken significantly longer costing the company more in the long run.

On Call Experts

In the previous section we discussed how having industry experts available to complete outsourced tasks can result in a cost savings for the company but having these experts on call also provides the potential for new opportunities for the company. With experts waiting in the wings to assist, the company is able to go after larger and more specialized types of work. This is important because in doing this the company can find themselves enjoying greater prosperity.

A Larger Workforce

Still another advantage to outsourcing is the benefit of enjoying a larger workforce when necessary without the hassle of maintaining a larger staff. Through outsourcing companies can bring in additional employees on a contract basis during times of prosperity without worrying about having to lay them off or keep them utilized when the surge of work begins to wane. This is particularly relevant in industries which enjoy peak seasons as well as off seasons.

Another advantage of having a larger workforce is the ability to generate a larger profit. This is important because smaller companies can find themselves in a position where they can compete with larger companies for bigger jobs by outsourcing a portion of the workload.

More Flexibility

Finally, more flexibility is another considerable advantage to outsourcing work. Even the most well planned projects may suddenly end up behind schedule or under a time crunch due to minor errors, changes in plans or other incidental activities. Smaller companies who do not have the resources to compensate for these inevitable mishaps may find themselves in serious trouble without the ability to outsource work when necessary. These companies can take advantage of outsourcing in times of trouble to help them deal with problems without alienating clients or performing poorly on a project.