Outsourcing is the process of contracting a business function to someone else.[1]



The term outsourcing is used inconsistently but usually involves the contracting out of a business function - commonly one previously performed in-house - to an external provider.[2] In this sense, two organizations may enter into a contractual agreement involving an exchange of services and payments.

Of recent concern is the ability of businesses to outsource to suppliers outside the nation, sometimes referred to as offshoring or offshore outsourcing. In addition, several related terms have emerged to grasp various aspects of the complex relationship between economic organizations or networks, such as nearshoring, multisourcing[3][4] and strategic outsourcing.[5]

One of the biggest changes of recent years has come from the growth of groups of people using online technologies to use outsourcing as a way to build a viable service delivery business that can be run from virtually anywhere in the world. The preferential contract rates that can be obtained by temporarily employing experts in specific areas to deliver elements of a project purely online means that there is a growing number of small businesses that operate entirely online using offshore outsourced contractors to deliver the work before repackaging it to deliver to the client. One common area where this business model thrives is in provided website creating, analysis and marketing services. All elements can be done remotely and delivered digitally and service providers can leverage the scale and economy of outsourcing to deliver high value services at vastly reduced end customer prices.


Organizations that outsource are seeking to realize benefits or address the following issues:[6][7][8][9]

  • Cost savings — The lowering of the overall cost of the service to the business. This will involve reducing the scope, defining quality levels, re-pricing, re-negotiation, and cost re-structuring. Access to lower cost economies through offshoring called "labor arbitrage" generated by the wage gap between industrialized and developing nations.[10]
  • Focus on Core Business — Resources (for example investment, people, infrastructure) are focused on developing the core business. For example often organizations outsource their IT support to specialised IT services companies.
  • Cost restructuring — Operating leverage is a measure that compares fixed costs to variable costs. Outsourcing changes the balance of this ratio by offering a move from fixed to variable cost and also by making variable costs more predictable.
  • Improve quality — Achieve a steep change in quality through contracting out the service with a new service level agreement.
  • Knowledge — Access to intellectual property and wider experience and knowledge.[11]
  • Contract — Services will be provided to a legally binding contract with financial penalties and legal redress. This is not the case with internal services.[12]
  • Operational expertise — Access to operational best practice that would be too difficult or time consuming to develop in-house.
  • Access to talent — Access to a larger talent pool and a sustainable source of skills, in particular in science and engineering.[13][14]
  • Capacity management — An improved method of capacity management of services and technology where the risk in providing the excess capacity is borne by the supplier.
  • Catalyst for change — An organization can use an outsourcing agreement as a catalyst for major step change that can not be achieved alone. The outsourcer becomes a Change agent in the process.
  • Enhance capacity for innovation — Companies increasingly use external knowledge service providers to supplement limited in-house capacity for product innovation.[14][15]
  • Reduce time to market — The acceleration of the development or production of a product through the additional capability brought by the supplier.[16]
  • Commodification — The trend of standardizing business processes, IT Services, and application services which enable to buy at the right price, allows businesses access to services which were only available to large corporations.
  • Risk management — An approach to risk management for some types of risks is to partner with an outsourcer who is better able to provide the mitigation.[17]
  • Venture Capital — Some countries match government funds venture capital with private venture capital for start-ups that start businesses in their country.[18]
  • Tax Benefit — Countries offer tax incentives to move manufacturing operations to counter high corporate taxes within another country.
  • Scalability — The outsourced company will usually be prepared to manage a temporary or permanent increase or decrease in production.
  • Creating leisure time — Individuals may wish to outsource their work in order to optimise their work-leisure balance.[19]
  • Liability — Organizations choose to transfer liabilities inherent to specific business processes or services that are outside of their core competencies.


Management, the corporation and consumers

Management processes

Greater physical distance between higher management and the production floor employees often requires a change in management methodologies, as inspection and feedback may not be as direct and frequent as in internal processes. This often requires the assimilation of new communication methods such as Voice over ip, Instant messaging, and Issue Tracking Systems, new Time management methods such as Time Tracking Software, and new cost and schedule assessment tools such as Cost Estimation Software.

Quality of service

Quality of service is best measured through customer satisfaction questionnaires which are designed to capture an unbiased view. [20]

Language skills

In the area of call centers end-user-experience is deemed to be of lower quality when a service is outsourced. This is exacerbated when outsourcing is combined with offshoring to regions where the first language and culture are different.[21] The questionable quality is particularly evident when call centers that service the public are outsourced and offshored.[citation needed]

Call center agents may speak a variety of the language with different linguistic features such as accents, word use and phraseology, which may make them more difficult to understand for the clients. The visual clues that are present in face-to-face encounters are missing from the call center interactions and this also may lead to misunderstandings and difficulties.[22]


Before outsourcing an organization is responsible for the actions of all their staff and liable for their actions. When these same people are transferred to an outsourcer they may not change desk but their legal status has changed. They are no longer directly employed or responsible to the organization. This causes legal, security and compliance issues that need to be addressed through the contract between the client and the suppliers. This is one of the most complex areas of outsourcing and requires a specialist third party adviser.[citation needed]

Fraud is a specific security issue that is criminal activity whether it is by employees or the supplier staff. However, it can be disputed that the fraud is more likely when outsourcers are involved, for example credit card theft when there is scope for fraud by credit card cloning. In April 2005, a high-profile case involving the theft of $350,000 from four Citibank customers occurred when call center workers acquired the passwords to customer accounts and transferred the money to their own accounts opened under fictitious names. Citibank did not find out about the problem until the American customers noticed discrepancies with their accounts and notified the bank.[23]

Qualifications of outsourcers

The outsourcer may replace staff with less qualified people or with people with different non-equivalent qualifications.[24]

In the engineering discipline there has been a debate about the number of engineers being produced by the major economies of the United States, India and China. The argument centers around the definition of an engineering graduate and also disputed numbers. The closest comparable numbers of annual graduates of four-year degrees are United States (137,437) India (112,000) and China (351,537).[25][26]

Standpoint of labor

From the standpoint of labor, outsourcing may represent a new threat, contributing to worker insecurity, and reflective of the general process of globalization.[27]

On June 26, 2009, Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, called for the United States to increase its manufacturing base employment to 20% of the workforce commenting that the U.S. has outsourced too much and can no longer rely on consumer spending to drive demand.[28]

Standpoint of government

Western governments may attempt to compensate workers affected by outsourcing through various forms of legislation. In Europe, the Acquired Rights Directive attempts to address the issue. The Directive is implemented differently in different nations. In the United States, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act is meant to provide compensation for workers directly affected by international trade agreements. Whether or not these policies provide the security and fair compensation they promise is debatable.

By country

United States

"Outsourcing" became a popular political issue in the United States during the 2004 U.S. presidential election. The political debate centered on outsourcing's consequences for the domestic U.S. workforce. Democratic U.S. presidential candidate John Kerry criticized U.S. firms that outsource jobs abroad or that incorporate overseas in tax havens to avoid paying their "fair share" of U.S. taxes during his 2004 campaign, calling such firms "Benedict Arnold corporations".[29]

Criticism of outsourcing, from the perspective of U.S. citizens, generally revolves around the costs associated with transferring control of the labor process to an external entity in another country. A Zogby International poll conducted in August 2004 found that 71% of American voters believed that “outsourcing jobs overseas” hurt the economy while another 62% believed that the U.S. government should impose some legislative action against companies that transfer domestic jobs overseas, possibly in the form of increased taxes on companies that outsource.[30]

Union busting is one possible cause of outsourcing. As unions are disadvantaged by union busting legislation, workers lose bargaining power and it becomes easier for corporations to fire them and ship their job overseas.[31]

Another given[by whom?] rationale is the high corporate income tax rate in the U.S. relative to other OECD nations,[32][33][34] and the practice of taxing revenues earned outside of U.S. jurisdiction, a very uncommon practice. However, outsourcing is not solely a U.S. phenomenon as corporations in various nations with low tax rates outsource as well, which means that high taxation can only partially, if at all, explain US outsourcing. For example, the amount of corporate outsourcing in 1950 would be considerably lower than today, yet the tax rate was actually higher in 1950.[35]

It is argued[by whom?] that lowering the corporate income tax and ending the double-taxation of foreign-derived revenue (taxed once in the nation where the revenue was raised, and once from the U.S.) will alleviate corporate outsourcing and make the U.S. more attractive to foreign companies. However, while the US has a high official tax rate, the actual taxes paid by US corporations may be considerably lower due to the use of tax loopholes, tax havens, and attempts to "game the system".[36] Rather than avoiding taxes, outsourcing may be mostly driven by the desire to lower labor costs (see standpoint of labor above). Sarbanes-Oxley has also been cited as a factor for corporate flight from U.S. jurisdiction.

European Union

Where outsourcing involves the transfer of an undertaking, it is subject to Council Directive 77/187 of 14 February 1977, on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the safeguarding of employees’ rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, businesses or parts of businesses (as amended by Directive 98/50/EC of 29 June 1998; consolidated in Directive 2001/23 of 12 March 2001).[37] Under that directive, rights acquired by employees with the former employer are to be safeguarded when they, together with the undertaking in which they are employed, are transferred to another employer, i.e. the contractor. An example of a case involving such contracting-out was the decision of the European Court of Justice in Christel Schmidt v. Spar- und Leihkasse der früheren Ämter Bordesholm, Kiel und Cronshagen, Case C-392/92 [1994]. Although subsequent decisions have disputed whether a particular contracting-out exercise constituted a transfer of an undertaking (see, for example, Ayse Süzen v. Zehnacker Gebäudereinigung GmbH Krankenhausservice, Case C-13/95 [1997]), in principle, employees of an enterprise outsourcing part of its activities in which they are employed may benefit from the protection offered by the directive.

Industry Publications

Outsource Magazine - [Wikipedia Page] - Official Website

See also


  1. ^ "Terms and Definitions". ventureoutsource.com. http://www.ventureoutsource.com/contract-manufacturing/information-center/terms-and-definitions/3/. Retrieved 2007-10-05. 
  2. ^ Overby, S (2007) ABC: An Introduction to Outsourcing. CIO.com.
  3. ^ (Q4 2006)Mandatory Multisourcing Discipline Business Trends Quarterly
  4. ^ (2006) Mandatory Multisourcing Discipline
  5. ^ see Holcomb & Hitt, 2007
  6. ^ Gareiss, R (2002, 18 Nov) Analyzing The Outsourcers. Information Week.
  7. ^ Drezner, D.W. (2004) The Outsourcing Bogeyman www.foreignaffairs.org
  8. ^ Engardio, P. (2006) Outsourcing: Job Killer or Innovation Boost? Business Week
  9. ^ Justin Chakma, Jeff L Calcagno, Ali Behbahani and Shawn Mojtahedian. Is it Virtuous to be Virtual? The VC Viewpoint. 27, Number 10, October 2009, subscription required. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. doi:10.1038/nbt1009-886. http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v27/n10/full/nbt1009-886.html. Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  10. ^ Engardio, P. & Arndt, M. & Foust, D. (2006) The Future Of Outsourcing Business Week
  11. ^ Engardio, P. & Kripalani, M. (2006) The Rise Of India Business Week
  12. ^ Rothman, J. (2003) 11 Steps to Successful Outsourcing: A Contrarian's View www.computerworld.com
  13. ^ Manning et al. (2008) A Dynamic Perspective on Next-Generation Offshoring: The Global Sourcing of Science and Engineering Talent Academy of Management Perspectives 22.3: 35-54.
  14. ^ a b Lewin, A.Y. & Couto, V. (March 2007). "2006 Survey Report". Offshoring Research Network. https://offshoring.fuqua.duke.edu/orn_report.pdf. Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  15. ^ Couto et al. Offshoring 2.0: Contracting Knowledge and Innovation to Expand Global Capabilities Offshoring Research Network 2007 Service Provider Report
  16. ^ Nadeem, S (2009) “The Uses and Abuses of Time: Globalization and Time Arbitrage in India’s Outsourcing Industries”. Global Networks.
  17. ^ Roehrig, P. (2006) Bet On Governance To Manage Outsourcing Risk. Business Trends Quarterly.
  18. ^ "Russia finally gets serious about venture capital". VentureBeat. 2007-06-01. http://venturebeat.com/2007/06/01/russia-finally-gets-serious-about-venture-capital/. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  19. ^ Gamerman, Ellen (2007-06-02). "Outsourcing Your Life". Wall Street Journal. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118073815238422013.html. Retrieved 2010-07-23. 
  20. ^ Maddock, B. & Warren, C. & Worsley A. (2005) Survey of canteens and food services in Victorian schools.
  21. ^ Nadeem, S (2009) Macaulay’s (Cyber) Children: The Cultural Politics of Outsourcing in India. Cultural Sociology.
  22. ^ Alster, N (2005) Customer Disservice. www.CFO.com.
  23. ^ Ribeiro, J (2005) Indian call center workers charged with Citibank fraud. www.infoworld.com
  24. ^ Stein, R (2005) Hospital Services Performed Overseas. www.washingtonpost.com
  25. ^ Wadhwa, V (2005) About That Engineering Gap. www.businessweek.com
  26. ^ Gereffi, G. & Wadhwa, V. Framing the Engineering Outsourcing Debate: Placing the United States on a Level Playing Field with China and India. Duke University.
  27. ^ Krugman, Paul (2006). "Feeling No Pain." New York Times, March 6, 2006.
  28. ^ Bailey, David and Soyoung Kim (June 26, 2009).GE's Immelt says U.S. economy needs industrial renewal.UK Guardian.. Retrieved on June 28, 2009.
  29. ^ Croghan, Lore (February 23, 2004). "Kerry Targets N.Y. Firms: 'Benedict Arnold' move sending jobs overseas". Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/money/2004/02/23/2004-02-23_kerry_targets_n_y__firms___b.html. Retrieved March 7, 2011. 
  30. ^ Zogby International survey results online at zogby.com
  31. ^ "Tell Xerox to Stop Unionbusting and Shipping Jobs Overseas". American Rights at Work. http://act.americanrightsatwork.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=576. Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  32. ^ "Veronique de Rugy on Corporate Flight & Taxes on NRO Financial". Nationalreview.com. 2002-04-18. http://www.nationalreview.com/nrof_comment/comment-rugy041802.asp. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  33. ^ "U.S. Lagging Behind OECD Corporate Tax Trends". The Tax Foundation. 2006-05-05. http://www.taxfoundation.org/news/show/1466.html. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  34. ^ John Tamny. "John Tamny on Hillary Clinton Economics on NRO Financial". Article.nationalreview.com. http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=ODZjNjI4ZTNjZmNiOGMxYjAwOTg1ZGI0NmFiOWFjZjI=. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  35. ^ Joel Friedman (October 24, 2003). "The Decline of Corporate Income Tax Revenues" (pdf). Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. http://www.cbpp.org/files/10-16-03tax.pdf. Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  36. ^ "High Corporate Tax Rate Is Misleading at". Smartmoney.com. http://www.smartmoney.com/investing/economy/high-corporate-tax-rate-is-misleading-22463/. Retrieved 2010-03-15. 
  37. ^ "Council Directive 2001/23/EC". EUR-Lex. http://eur-lex.europa.eu/smartapi/cgi/sga_doc?smartapi!celexapi!prod!CELEXnumdoc&lg=EN&numdoc=32001L0023&model=guichett. Retrieved 2011-03-09. 

External links

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