Outsourcing functions is a key element of every business’s strategy. Richard Mammone, Rutgers University BEST Institute, has written a brief article, “Humility and the Successful Startup: Every skill required to form a business should be judged on make-or-buy grounds. If you don’t have it, outsource it” ((Since Mammone’s article may not always be accessible where I found it, you can download a PDF copy here)) .
Mammone’s argument is captured in capsule form here: “Every skill set required to form a startup should be subjected to a make-or-buy decision process. In other words, if you don’t have it, outsource it. Let me just stop here for a moment and mention that outsourcing is the strategic entrepreneur’s solution to most problems.”
Outsourcing is a great strategy. In fact, outsourcing is a fundamental component of every business strategy. Outsourcing decisions reflect the fundamental values of the organization.
However, people may think that outsourcing gets you off the hook and solves all of the problems involved in the outsourced functions. The truth is that whether as a one armed paper hanger or a global giant like Boeing, outsourcing must be managed. You can not manage functions that you do not understand. So, the executive level of any organization (back to the single entrepreneur to global giant span) must understand all of the basic functions of a business (strategy, sales, marketing, product/service development, personnel, operations, finance, information systems, and legal (these are the most important ones)) in order to decide which must be internal and which can be outsourced. Then, you have to have enough knowledge of the outsourced functions to decide on the desired results required, choose vendors, and manage for the results. This may seem to be daunting for the low end of the size scale, but most of this stuff isn’t rocket science at the basic concepts level and one can always draw on people in your network and consultants (like me obviously) to help out.
Outsourcing is tricky business as demonstrated by Boeing’s Dreamliner problems ((here is a link to an article from Reuters about Boeing’s outsourcing issues. And here is a PDF download of the article.))