Is your job at risk from outsourcing or automation?


Change is the only constant.

This is applicable in spades to our jobs.

Changes in corporate strategy, new innovations, globalization, automation, and regulations constantly impact our jobs.

Let us explore the impact of outsourcing and automation on different job functions.

Outsourcing

Activities within a company fall into two sets. The first are those which are company unique and/or low volume. The second set is those which are performed similarly by peer companies or even by those in other industries.

Activities which are company unique, low volume, or differentiate one company from another are likely to be retained in-house.

  1. Business strategy and planning

  2. Product / service conceptualization, formulation, testing, and branding.

  3. Production, sales, and customer care for complex products / services

  4. Human capital management, especially for firms originating complex products / services

On the other hand, the functions which are less likely to differentiate one firm from another, and are performed similarly by most companies in an industry or across industries are very likely to get outsourced to a specialized external provider which will offer benefits of scale, specialization, and productivity. Think Solectron, UPS, Accenture, Wipro, Deloitte, PWC, Cushman and Wakefield

The functions likely to fall in this set are:

  1. ​Information on market trends and customer behavior

  2. Production, sales and customer care for low complexity products / services

  3. Logistics and fulfilment

  4. Finance & reporting

  5. Physical and technology infrastructure​

To de-risk your job from the impact of out-sourcing consider one of these three tracks

  1. Specialize and align with roles which have high likelihood of being retained in-house.

  2. Be the bridge between an organization and its out-sourcing partner – in a role translating company goals with outsourcing objectives and then overseeing performance of external partners

  3. For roles likely to be outsourced, switch employers and work for the outsourcers. They bring scale, specialization and investment into those roles and will offer rich careers.

Automation

Automation will impact all jobs. It is a driver of productivity, consistent quality, and often a blessing since it eliminates the need for humans to perform dull / repetitive work.

Activities most amenable to automation are those which have been performed

  1. Over a period of time

  2. Are repetitive in nature

  3. Have clear rules and processes

  4. Tend to be hazardous to humans

Within a workplace, the areas which then are likely to get impacted by automation are:

  1. Tasks involving repetitive gathering and processing of data on consumer behavior/trends, product formulation and testing, corporate reporting and accounting.

  2. Repetitive tasks in production, logistics, and fulfilment.

  3. Simpler processes in customer care, and corporate functions like IT, finance, and HR.

All of these are candidates for automation using robotics, process automation, self-diagnostics/ healing, or IVR's.

Which are then the roles for human workers?

Roles which create something new or those which are complex and have few rules and defined processes. Also those which need engagement with diverse groups to create, solution, sell, make, and fulfil.

This is where human ingenuity, creativity, and initiative will be best used.

  1. New product / service conceptualization, trials, launch and scaling

  2. Production, implementation and customer care for complex products

  3. Innovative processes for human capital management.

  4. Conceiving, and implementing new technology and physical infrastructure

In conclusion

Two trends which all professionals need to contend with are outsourcing/out contracting and automation of their functions & roles.

Work which is not company unique and is performed similarly by many peer firms will tend to benefit from outsourcing/out contracting to an entity which can provide the benefits of greater scale, efficiency and quality.

If you are engaged in roles which have a likelihood of getting outsourced consider re-skilling to roles which are company unique and specialized, bridge company strategy into outsourcing goals, or even working for the outsourcer.

Automation, on the other hand eliminates jobs. Be vigilant and continuously assess if the work which you do is becoming repetitive and routine. That is a trigger for automation so aim to re-skill and repurpose your efforts towards areas which are newer and are helping a company build new solutions, markets, or better ways of working.

Keep swinging!​


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