The Ins and Outs of Business Process Outsourcing


Delegating tasks that range from bookkeeping to IT support can be an effective way for businesses to grow while remaining focused on core operations. Outsourcing has, to some extent, cast off its traditional reputation as a way for major corporations to cut costs and increase efficiency by delegating operations such as call centres or logistics to third-party suppliers. Here are the ins and outs of business process outsourcing:

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Today, an outsourcing strategy is just as likely to be pursued by a small, fast-growing business as a way of expanding at a more rapid rate without having to increase staffing or investment levels.

It’s possible to outsource more or less any kind of enterprise activity: the more common range from human resources and payroll to marketing and IT systems, all of which typically come under the umbrella of “business process outsourcing” or BPO.

The lean start-up

Outsourcing is also available for some of the more integral aspects of a company’s activities, such as software development and testing or even product design. This approach has been popularised by the idea of the lean start-up – a methodology that originated in Silicon Valley and effectively states that new businesses will give themselves a better chance of growing quickly by focusing on their core operations, while outsourcing as many non-core activities as they can.

This strategy allows businesses to expand without having to increase headcount to such a great extent, which can be expensive and time-consuming – and which has the potential to expose the firm to new problems relating to employee management. Outsourcing also allows businesses to scale up and down quickly, and can offer access to valuable external insight and expertise.

Recommended reading: Running a Small Business – You Can’t Do It All

Delegation is a time saver

Barnaby Lashbrooke, founder and CEO of virtual assistant service Time Etc, says businesses should make a start on outsourcing by looking to delegate any task on their to-do list that is “important but not urgent”.

He adds: “Anything both urgent and important should be done by you. But if we could all delegate a couple of tasks a day to save an hour, we would get 28 working days per year back to focus on growth, nurture our teams or take a holiday.”

Lashbrooke says it’s an error for businesses not to explore the opportunities outsourcing has to offer. “A common mistake is owners failing to outsource at all – either to save money or because they think it's quicker do something themselves,” he explains. “This slows your growth. If you have to devote time to learning or working out how to do something, you're distracted from focusing on the tasks that directly contribute to your growth.”

Get help with your marketing

Digital marketing in particular is an area in where outsourcing can offer significant benefits, according to Natalie Weaving, director of marketing agency the Typeface Group.

“The signs that admin is taking over may vary from business to business – but ultimately if you don’t have time to grow and improve, that’s probably a red flag right there”

Marianne Page, Business Consultant

“For the price of potentially employing one or two people in-house, you can get a whole team of experts who are specialists in areas from SEO to branding,” she says. “Plus, you can dial up or dial down your marketing activities just when you need them in between busy or quiet periods, without throwing cash at employees when there’s less work to be carried out.

“Outsourcing is a great option for smaller businesses that may not have the in-house resources to do all that’s needed to get their name out there and in front of their target audience. An outsourced team can offer all-important information and guidance to get the ball rolling or provide inspiration.”

Recommended reading: The 8 Things You Should Know Before Selecting A Marketing Consultant

Take admin out of the equation

Business consultant Marianne Page, formerly a senior management executive at McDonald’s, says she outsources accounting and administrative roles in order to allow her to focus on developing her company.

“As an owner, my role in the business is to ensure its continued growth and development – it’s not to do admin,” she says. “The signs that admin is taking over may vary from business to business – but ultimately if you don’t have time to grow and improve, that’s probably a red flag right there.”

Recommended Reading: Why You Should Outsource E-Commerce Data Entry Services

Strike the right balance

While outsourcing has many advantages, Page cautions that businesses need to manage the process effectively. “In my experience, there are two key points that are essential to remember: outsourced teams still need to be performance managed, and you’re always responsible for the service to your customers, even when it’s delivered by someone else.”

Lashbrooke agrees. “Don’t expect to wash your hands of a job once it’s been outsourced,” he warns. “The best delegators are on hand to answer questions and steer the person doing the work, which improves the quality of what they produce – saving time later.

“But that doesn’t mean you should micromanage; if you make it clear you trust the person you have outsourced to, they’ll do a far better job than someone who is fretting about receiving your feedback.”


By Chris Torney


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