Typically, outsourcing carries a negative connotation.
We picture impersonal customer service, delivered from a call centre in a country far removed from where the actual customers are. Or perhaps we imagine working with a faceless organization to design our website or manage our IT; an organization that doesn’t understand or care about our brand, values, or culture.
Overall, outsourcing seems to exist in our cultural imagination as an expensive process that’s riddled with insurmountable obstacles.
However, in today’s gig economy, outsourcing is easier than ever, and yet a report from the National Federation of Independent Business recorded that over half of business owners surveyed were reluctant to spend money on outsourcing. The fact is, if you’re not willing to consider outsourcing niche tasks that your employees don’t have the skillset to manage, you will be left behind by your competitors—especially if that skillset represents a project-based task in your organization and not a direction for company growth.
Imagine you’re looking to overhaul a core software product. The product was developed using the best tools available several years ago but now, it’s starting to feel a bit dated. You want to update the technology before it becomes unstable, and reach more customers by having it run in a web browser and on mobile devices. Unless modern software development is an existing department or is a vertical in your business that you’re actively looking to grow, hiring a full-time staff member to undertake this temporary bubble of work doesn’t make sense and may prove nearly impossible.
While some companies opt to hire a contract-based worker to handle projects tasks like this, why limit yourself to a single employee when you could access an entire team of professionals when contracting an organization?
Let’s consider another example, maybe you’re a scaling product company but hiring has proven more difficult than anticipated. There have been many articles published over the last few years on the shortage of developers. Some companies opt to continue the search for candidates, often spending thousands on expensive recruiting efforts and talent search campaigns, all the while at risk of falling behind the competition and accumulating a massive backlog of work.
Why not exercise the more flexible option by augmenting your staff with contract-based developers? The team can make better progress, reduce the backlog, and then scale down once the hiring efforts have been successful and the product is ready to ship. Many of the obstacles that business owners and executives imagine, when it comes to hiring an outside organization, are easy to overcome as long as both teams can communicate with each other effectively.
What seems to hold many companies back from taking the plunge and hiring an outside firm to undertake a specific project is the perception that outsourcing is a more expensive solution in the long-term. For business owners and executives who have always handled tasks internally, the model of the gig economy may seem intimidating to approach. They may wonder how they can possibly find an organization they trust, and how they can ensure that the team they’ve hired understands the culture of their company.
However, these are questions that employers can (and should) be asking about any potential full-time staff hires to meet the demand of a new project. And arguably, the consequences for an unsuitable full-time hire can be much more serious and long-term than the consequences of choosing the wrong firm. While outsourcing a project to another organization may present a larger upfront investment, the expense of hiring, onboarding, and integrating a new full-time staff member into your team can be far higher—particularly if their role will be rendered obsolete once the project is complete.
Organizations who refuse to consider the possibilities and benefits of outsourcing work that isn’t in their wheelhouse of expertise are cutting themselves off from reaping rich rewards. Your competitors are hiring the best talent to get them ahead, whether that’s talent within their organization or outside of it. Opening your mind to outsourcing as an option allows you to take advantage of the absolute best talent you can find, and the upfront costs can lead to major long-term gain.
Chris Keithlin is a cofounder of Vehikl.