Through-Sourcing: How to Outsource Key Business Functions with Confidence

March 9, 2018 Terry Arnold

What happens when a brand overextends itself beyond its core business competencies? It fails. That's usually where outsourcing as a solution comes in. But some brands worry about how a strange new outsourcing partner could ever possibly know their business well enough to do take over vital functions like, say, inside sales. 

This is where through-sourcing can save the day.

Through-Sourcing: What is It and How is it Valuable?

Think of through-sourcing as the homegrown alternative to outsourcing. Company A partners with an outside vendor to take on non-core—yet necessary—operational functions. The outsourcing partner retains individuals previously employed by Company A to work in-house at Company A's location.

The top benefit of through-sourcing is maintaining important inside knowledge and expertise while allowing the client company to maintain a high degree of control over the outsourced program. A through-sourced team can encompass a variety of backgrounds including training and certification, sales and quality training. They bring their skills and knowledge of the brand and its core processes with them. They work for the outsourcing partner but still identify (often right down to their name tags) as employees of the brand.

Because they often use existing office space, computers, phone switches and other resources, turnover is low (which is a challenge in outsourced environments), and costs are kept to a minimum.

Beware of the Fishbowl Effect

Through-sourcing can be an ideal, win-win scenario. However, there were some challenges to be managed.

The fishbowl effect is one such consideration. In most outsource environments, there is a physical distance between the vendor partner and the client. This can be beneficial because smaller issues can be addressed more easily before they become full-blown problems causing the client concern. When a team is housed, literally and figuratively, inside the client’s setting, small issues can potentially and more readily be viewed as major problems. The outsourcing partner loses the ability to adapt and change to meet client needs behind closed doors.

In this new through-source environment, it is vital that the outsourcing partner and the client closely monitor and communicate expectations among the on-site teams: 

  • Be aware of culture of the client company
  • Be cognizant of the fact that they are actually “remote” workers for the vendor
  • Manage all relationships diplomatically
  • Set clear boundaries regarding roles, responsibilities, corporate culture, shared resources and relationships
  • Provide candid feedback
  • Modify strategy based on results of tactical executions

Tech Company Gets Help from the Outside-In

As an example of this process, let’s look at an actual case involving a global technology company specializing in the networking field. Their primary goal was bringing innovative new technology to the market, much to the benefit of their customers and shareholders. There were significant operational functions using up resources in the company that were not directly related to this goal—namely maintaining and operating an inside sales department to generate leads.

Through-sourcing allowed this tech company to outsource the inside sales function while ensuring the process was still effective. They created a disciplined approach to management that included an inside sales team made up of on-site employees redeployed from the tech company. Because they had been previously employed with the technology brand, the team had the necessary knowledge to generate quality leads to support the primary business functions, while reducing the cost per employee. The brand was subsequently able to focus its internal resources on innovating in the networking space.

Both the tech company and the through-sourcing partner—in this case, Harte Hanks—were able to measure and manage as they worked to meet specific goals and achieve continuous improvement.

A Winning Strategy

Through-sourcing can create a uniquely successful partnership between a brand and vendor. By utilizing a knowledgeable team of employees already familiar with brand practices, it presents the opportunity to reduce costs, increase efficiency and maintain a level of comfort and control on processes—a complete strategy for success. 

About the Author

Terry Arnold

Terry Arnold, Senior Director and Solution Consultant, has extensive experience guiding customers in the design and development of inbound and outbound contact center programs in a wide range B2B and B2C markets. With over 28 years of experience in the development, execution and management of integrated direct marketing programs, Terry has filled an ever-widening array of roles related to managing customer engagements.

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