Out-sourcing – how to be good at it!

In the present climate the pressure to seek value for money through out-sourcing is stronger than ever.

Yes, you can save money but getting the full value from your outsourced service and making sure that it supports your business in the way you intended is complicated.

The financial benefits alone are often not properly understood.  The results of research by Warwick Business School working with IT group Cognizant showed that less than half (43 per cent) of all CIOs and CFOs have attempted to calculate the financial impact of outsourcing to their bottom line let alone determined the real value to their organisations. They don’t know the real value and it is doubtful that they are getting the outcomes they expected!

Here are some steps you can take to ensure you achieve real value from your out-sourcing activity.

1. Know why you are doing it

Don’t out-source just because the competition does it!

What do you expect from the service and what resource will be available to support it?

Can you specify what you need and will you be able to measure and monitor it when it is delivered?

Have you got experience of managing outsourced services or can you afford to buy that expertise?

How essential is this service to your business operations?

Can you afford to take the risk?

2. Be systematic but keep it simple

Work out a strategy for out-sourcing that your organisation can cope with!

If you are new to out-sourcing don’t go for a complicated strategy that involves many suppliers.

If you go for a complex supply chain, you will need to know how to manage it

If you go for multiple suppliers, you will need to know how to coordinate them

Start with a single and relatively simple business function and a single supplier and build from there.

Gain experience as you develop the approach

3. Know how you are going to measure and monitor

Many companies rely on service level agreements (SLAs)

SLAs are crucial to outsourcing arrangements but you will need more than a traditional SLA if you are interested in business improvement!

Measuring against an SLA will tell you about delivering the status quo

Most SLAs will not tell you if the service is really delivering benefits and the right outcomes to your operation!

You need to focus on business improvement rather than just service improvement processes!

Determine what evidence of success and the right outcomes really looks like and use it!

Use industry benchmarks IF they are useful to your business

4. Invest in the relationship for long-term value

Demands and expectations change over time!

This can lead to disagreements with your supplier which can erode the relationship

Agree at the start how you will recognize and respond to changes together

Share information honestly between you

6. Be an intelligent client

Don’t hand all your talent across to the supplier with the service

Keep enough expertise available so you can talk intelligently to your supplier about performance

Keep enough expertise to cope with changing your contractor if necessary in response to supplier failure or market changes

Keep enough expertise available to cope with business innovation.

Be honest with your supplier about your expectations and your customer base

But be prepared to learn from your supplier

You can find this as a slide presentation on LinkedIn at the following link  http://slidesha.re/hc0HyK

Achieving that high performance – excellence and why I don’t play the piano!

Aristotle, the philosopher, had it exactly right 2000 years ago: “We are what we repeatedly do.”  Experience shows that by relying on highly specific practices, we can dramatically improve skills ranging from empathy, to focus, to creativity, to summoning positive emotions, to deeply relaxing.

Anders Ericsson is one of the world’s leading researchers into high performance. For more than two decades, Ericsson has been making the case that it’s not inherited talent which determines how good we become at something, but rather how hard we’re willing to work — something he calls “deliberate practice That notion can be wonderfully empowering. It shows we can be in control of at least part of our own fate.   But it is also daunting. One of Ericsson’s central findings is that practice is not only the most important ingredient  in success, but also the most difficult and probably the least enjoyable. Excellence requires dedication and focus.  But it worries me on other fronts!  Do I want to be excellent at one thing or good enough at a range of tasks that help me lead a rounded and satisfying life?  I suppose I want to be more than good at something so that I can make a real contribution to the world! Call that egotistical but there it is!  But I want to be pretty good at a range of things and I want to be broad enough to take to take the helicopter view over the world that makes for a good leader!

Anyway if you want to be pretty good at something and still keep your wider perspective here are some pointers!

  1. Lead with what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance. Choose as your key skill something you really enjoy and love doing
  2. Do the hardest part first. Learning anything is part grind and grunt! We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice first, before they do anything else. Dedicate the time in the day when you have most energy to the part you like least.  Do it well and get it out of the way!
  3. Practice, practice,practice without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break. Ninety minutes appears to be the maximum amount of time that we can bring the highest level of focus to any given activity. But don’t spend all day! The evidence is equally strong that great performers practice no more than 4 ½ hours a day. And you need the rest of the time for wider pursuits and other interests
  4. Seek feedback, but not too much. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments. Too much feedback, too often, overwhelms and erodes confidence.  Find people you trust, who like you, to give honest feedback in the right doses!
  5. Take regular breaks. Just like in the gym, relaxing after intense effort provides an opportunity to rejuvenate. But it also allows you to metabolize and embed learning. It’s also during rest that the right hemisphere becomes more dominant, so you could so something creative during your break and find a whole new world of interests.
  6. Build you practice into a ritual . Researcher Roy Baumeister has found, that very few of us of us have huge amounts of will and resolutiont. The best way to insure you’ll take on difficult tasks is to build rituals — specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.
  7. Review, review, review Be prepared to take a step back sometimes and review your progress.  How does the skill you are acquiring fit in with your rounded life?  How is it going to contribute your future success and happiness?  Be prepared to change your plans in the light of your learning.

As for that piano, my aunt was a pianist at concert performance level!  When I was a small child she attempted to teach me to play.  She became incredibly frustrated because I would find every excuse not to practice.  I never did learn to play!  But her lesson that the hard work gets done first has stayed with me throughout life!  I regret not being able to play but I value my creative childhood!  I spent my time exploring and that is a valuable skill that has stayed with me throughout life!