Outsourcing, offshoring and right sourcing for the future

This is the title of an interesting blog post on the Practice innovations site which provides an introduction to the concept of outsourcing and offshoring for anyone who hasn't come across the terms before. If you work in a Law Library in the UK and aren't aware of these terms, where have you been!?! From the introduction to the blog post.

So what does this mean for Law Libraries and Law Librarians? Well as it happens and as outlined in the post "Law libraries have been outsourcing supporting functions for decades. By outsourcing looseleaf filing, cataloguing, indexing, document retrieval, technical services, legislative history compilations, subscription management, and interlibrary loan, an information professional is free to perform highly skilled core business needs" and this market is growing as Law Firms merge and firms feel the pressure of a market that is becoming even more competitive more and more firms are looking at outsourcing as a way to streamline some of their internal processes, free Library professionals up to do more value added work and of course save money.

You only have to look to the recent CMS/Integreon partnership to understand how important the outsourcing market is, both in the UK and overseas. The author of the article makes a good point about how and why services are outsourced though. "One would think these decisions are not simply quick cost-cutting measures, head count ratio, or a reaction to competitive behavior. One would hope it also isn't a problem or a "mess" that a firm or administrator wants to be rid of. Having a grasp on the function and process helps direct improvement and the value proposition for the firm, clients, and employees. The best cases for outsourcing are those that have a strategic broad view of the firm's core business, vision, mission, and culture"

The author then looks at some examples of how outsourcing elements of Library teams can work well in practice, citing Allen & Overy as a good example of where the management team has worked closely with the outsourced team and those team members who were retained to provide a "blended" service. "Sarah (Fahy) has engaged a blended partnership with Integreon to produce business development reports. Relying on scalable models to support business development needs allows Allen & Overy's research team to create bespoke standards of research, business intelligence analysis, and deeper core legal research while working with an outsourced team. The ability to draw upon outsourced professionals who support non-billable, non-confidential projects while freeing dedicated professional staff to work on client research is an example of operating with a broad-spectrum strategic view of the business."

Then the question that everyone automatically thinks of when anyone mentions outsourcing or offshoring. "Aside from centralizing noncore functions, what about outsourcing? Are we hung up on the concept of outsourcing that has been maligned in the press and viewed as causing job loss and producing lower quality work? Is it really a threat to law librarians or is it an opportunity to elevate our position and influence knowledge strategies by representing the firm's commitment to knowledge excellence, translating into a competitive advantage?" From the conversations I've had with people I'd say yes. Certainly there are some opportunities for Law Librarians, but there will also be some pain and having read this blog post in full it looks like for some there may be more pain to come as the market for outsourcing grows and continues to develop.