Thursday, 19 July 2012

Outsourcing Work

What do I mean by "Outsourcing Work"?

It refers to any process which is controlled and/or paid by one organisation, but given to another to actually carry out the process in question.

That does not necessarily mean privatisation. There are government departments, local and national, which carry out work but is centrally managed by another.

The Olympic security contract is an example of outsourcing. The Government has overall responsibility for security, but G4S have been tasked to carry out the actual process.

The main problem with outsourcing work is the monitoring of it. I've got several years experience in that field, both in the private and public sector, including a couple of jobs carried out on a personal basis.

The key problem is to identify problems before they arise; not two weeks before the outsourced company is expected to deliver. OK, politics are involved with the Olympics, but the same principle applies no matter how important or how large a project is.

I don't have the details of how G4S planned their recruitment, but having spent a few year in the recruitment industry, I do have some sympathy for them. I've been involved in staffing call centres, and that is hard enough.

But the Government / Locog should have had a more effective monitoring process in place, including their own staff working directly on site with G4S. Now we have a situation where everyone is trying to cover their backsides. No doubt there will be an investigation following the Games, but that is really irrelevant considering the Olympics will be unlikely to return to the UK in our lifetimes.

There are lessons to be learned, and by the Scottish Government with regards to the Commonwealth Games, as well as other projects.

Monitoring and auditing processes is a critical function in business, most especially when you are paying someone else to carry out your work. It's a tricky job doing such monitoring. You need a thick skin, supreme diplomatic skills and the skill of a politician when fielding awkward questions. Oh, and you also need to provide solutions to problems that are identified or arise.

(If anyone from the Scottish Government is reading, I'm available at a reasonable rate!)

Let's hope that the Scottish Government has effective monitoring processes in place. A failure to ensure that public money is being properly utilised is not a good way to be re-elected.

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