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Outsourcing Buzzwords: The Final Frontier

The outsourcing industry is generally good for a new buzzword every 2 or 3 weeks ...rightsourcing, flexsourcing, multisourcing, and homesourcing to name a few. I imagine a large, open-space environment, replete with free food & drink, pinball machines and the obligatory foosball table. Inside, legions of marketing and strategy gurus (outsourced, of course) sling around ideas, a dozen at a time, until something sticks. Subsequently, the term is either embraced as a true outsourcing innovation, or it is relegated to a service mark of some outsourcer or advisor. The reality, however, is that virtually all of these buzzwords attempt to describe the very same thing: outsourcing intelligently. That is, treating outsourcing as an ongoing strategic imperative, rather than a one-off yes/no decision. Let's take a couple examples...

According to Wikipedia, "Multisourcing is the disciplined provisioning and blending of business and Information Technology services from the optimal set of internal and external providers in the pursuit of business goals. 2. It is also defined as a strategy that treats a given function, such as IT, as a portfolio of activities, some of which should be outsourced and others of which should be performed by internal staff." So as far as I can tell, multisourcing is either the non-erratic purchasing of IT products and services in such a way that it doesn't hurt your business, or outsourcing in any possible way other than to summarily outsource your entire business to one supplier. Both very worthy concepts - but does that differ (at least in intent) from virtually any non-destructive outsourcing strategy?

As defined by Tom Koulopoulos, founder of the Delphi group,"Smartsourcing advocates using partners who can help a company to focus on its core, balance risk and opportunity, lower costs, increase innovation across all of its processes and finally, put in place attitudes to optimize all of these factors, socially and politically. Again - a completely valid and thoughtful outsourcing strategy, but is there anything unique? Do many companies elect to use outsourcing to unbalance risk and opportunity, or to de-optimize their social and political presence?

As defined in B2B magazine, "Rightsourcing [is] the process of selecting the right resources to perform a project by determining the tasks to be completed on-shore (in the U.S.) and those to be provided offshore (in an outsourcing model)." To be fair, this is a bit more specific, but again, does this really say any more than "think just a little bit before you throw everything over the fence"? Do companies willfully select the "wrong" resources in many situations?

While all of these buzzwords represent valid approaches to outsourcing, they don't really say a whole lot. To be fair, the substance to these and other buzz-word strategies lie in the rigor and thought behind executing them successfully. However, it is in that rigor that one can see that they all basically say the same thing: treat outsourcing as an ongoing strategic programme that must align with your business goals, rather than one or more pivot-point decisions. While this may seem like common sense, there are more than a few businesses who have embraced one or more of these strategies as an end, rather than a means, and have suffered as a result.

Finally, no bashing of banal buzzwordery would be complete without a little gratuitous alliteration, and a contribution of my own! Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce a method of outsourcing whereby companies actually 'gain' from the experience. Rather than losing profit, productivity, quality or flexibility, companies make 'gains' in one or more of these areas as a result. I call this wild new frontier of outsourcing 'Gainsourcing', or 'G-Sourcing' for short. According to Google, the term doesn't currently exist in the ether, so act fast, and you can be on the bleeding edge the next outsourcing revolution! 

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