Revitalising outsourcing

The latest issue of Information Today Europe comes with a very interesting piece called "Revitalising outsourcing" The article, which is written by Iain Dunbar from the LAC Group an information management consultancy and services specialist, which has recently established a UK office, looks at some of the reasons behind companies outsourcing Library & Information Services. From the article:

"Organisations considering outsourcing are usually approaching it as part of a long-term strategy or as a result of a sudden crisis.

  • Need for cost savings
  • Outside expertise required
  • Massive cultural/organisational change required eg move from traditional to a digital library service
  • Financial or other crisis
  • Seeking more services for less money
  • Improve storage efficiencies
  • Make better use of/monetise archives
  • Address environmental concerns
  • Implement new technology eg SharePoint
  • Physical to digital migration"
The article then goes on to outline some of the benefits associated with outsourcing either elements of Library Services or an entire service. The benefits of outsourcing should by now be fairly obvious to most people; cost savings, having a wider group of individuals to call upon to undertake work and other efficiencies. However there are two benefits outlined in this article that I struggle to get my ahead around, they are:
  • Improved buying power on aspects from subscriptions to IT 
  • Relevant information to fee earners in a more timely and cost efficient manner
Lets take the latter "benefit" first. The issue I have here is understanding how reducing the number of staff in an organisation will speed up the delivery of information to fee-earners? Yes this can happen with less staff but surely only if the company invests in a new way of delivering information, which will initially come at more cost. The first benefit I'm having to assume means that less people in an organisation means that the company who is doing the outsourcing can pay less for subscriptions to online databases/IT systems etc, these costs will have to be absorbed by the company that is undertaking he outsourcing.

Having said that I struggle with these two benefits I can see to some degree how the first one would make an impact. I'm still not sure about the latter benefit though!

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    # by Mark Gould - Thursday, November 17, 2011

    Not being an outsourcing expert, I can't answer your conundrum authoritatively, but here's a possible way of resolving it.

    If PLC didn't exist, in order to get the same service law firms would have to employ additional PSLs/IS people to create the daily and weekly updates on all the areas of law they cover. Currently PLC can provide a generic service to many different firms (and other organisations), using a fairly small number of people. If all those firms created the same updates separately, the collective cost would be significantly more than getting PLC to do it. So PLC (a form of outsourcing) saves costs.

    As for timeliness, outsourced providers that are located in different time zones can take advantage of that to create updates overnight that a local team would have to do within the normal working day. Even an onshore provider (like PLC) can use their economies of scale to ensure that there is a dedicated team to create updates and save time that way.

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    # by DeanM - Friday, November 18, 2011

    In terms of buying power, I suspect that they are also referring to that fact that if the outsourcing companies have a few firms on their books they will have a greater mass of subscriptions and higher number of users at their disposal. The theory is that this will increase their ability to negotiate and get bulk discounts or better access.