For years articles forecasting “this year’s business trends” (Forbes- 12/2015)  mention more employees working remotely.  Each year many of the same examples were given; attorneys, accountants, consultants, sales, marketing and IT professionals— all bringing specialized skills to your location, or on call at any time.  Recently many more U.S. workers received a baptism by fire in the best practices of those individuals (State lock-down map). Aside from the IT, and connectivity headaches another series of important issues arose.  Who will remain on-site to handle tasks that cannot be handled remotely- and what other functions can they cover? 
  • “How do I get the folder I left on my desk?”
  • “Did the check from our biggest client arrive- how is it being processed?”
  • “Are our heating cooling and security systems still operational?”
  • “Where is my mail being delivered?” 
  • “How do I get a box from file storage?
  • “Who will water my office plants?”
  • “Can you copy those files and deliver to a partner’s house?”
  • And many more…
          The issues that do not drive revenue production, but can certainly derail or delay it are the ‘essential’ tasks traditionally outsourced.  These jobs cannot be performed remotely, but the tasks must be reconciled to ensure the productivity of the firm.   As technology allows for greater decentralization, location will become less relevant to the employer and more driven by employees .  This should decrease the financial burden of office space, but also increase the importance and quality of on-site tasks.  Focusing on centralized support services, and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) arrangements are an important consideration that can benefit firms in many ways specifically: operational control, innovation, insulation and flexibility.
Operational control:
          Often a lack of control is listed as a downside to outsourcing. However, this more often applies in overseas or off shoring arrangements.  When outsourcing a centralized service co-located with your firm the opposite is true.  Every outsourcing relationship should be defined by the process model and goals; operational control is inherent in understanding both. When evaluating a BPO check references regarding their adherence to process and ability to manage it as an ongoing project.  Also remember, the happiest customers of BPO’s outsource repetitive and compliance driven tasks.
Your BPO should bring good project management and leadership skills.  The start of the relationship should detail expectations, responsibilities, limits and overall goals.   Regular (monthly/quarterly) meetings will be set to review output, trends, issues, and forecasts.  Especially when outsourcing a centralized service; once the course is set- only slight corrections should be needed along the way.  
          Your outsourcing partner should have experience across multiple industries and regions across the country. They should bring you a diverse application of best practices  that can be leveraged to your benefit.  Tools provided can range from basic hardware and software, to other specific industry technologies. They should be able to assist in industry benchmarking efficiency ratios and discussions on overall productivity.  These tools can have applicable value to not just in understanding more about the outsourced function but also have great value to your firm’s IT, Marketing, Finance and Human Resources departments. 
          Professional Employment Organization (PEOs) exist because there’s a benefit to outsourcing payroll and benefits. However their focus is purely there; reducing your payroll and benefits costs.  Most BPOs provide the same payroll and benefit value, while adding another layer of management to add more risk insulation. Additionally a good BPO’s focus is their function’s impact on your firm’s operational results; not simply a narrow focus on payroll.  BPOs can reduce the burden on your HR team, as outsourced personnel report up through their own organization for all HR issues.  Payroll, benefits, withholding details, workplace accommodations, conflicts resolution, and every other aspect of managing the personnel belongs to the BPO, so does maintaining the operational tempo and goals you have set.  
          This shifting of management comes with additional benefits to your firm. As the outsourced group are no longer your employees and eligible for benefits through their employer, your benefits plans will experience a corresponding decrease in burden.  This includes less time and dollars spent on: plan eligibility testing, medical experience rating, workmen’s comp. ratings, 401(k) audit testing, open enrollment tracking, and potentially many more.   Through a properly outsourced arrangement your firm is insulated from many of the legal risks inherent thru direct employment or co-employment. Additionally you receive the benefit of a service model that views management like a concierge service handling all aspects of the outsourced function.  
          One thing all outsource professional should understand is the dynamic nature of your business environment. Specifically, BPO’s can help from scaling up or down personal strength, to taking on new tasks. If customer service is anywhere in the pitch it should mean flexibility. The bottom line is you are the customer in the outsourced relationship reinforces this. All service providers should crave your feedback to improve the overall experience. From operational complexities to adapting to your firm culture – you are the boss. So set the bar, and if they are doing their job right- expect them to keep increasing its height.  
          As the business world continues to adapt and change with the world around us tactics may change but the principles always remain. Recognizing the structure, and value that a trusted partner can bring has proven to be an important tool in the past, and should continue. No emergency, amount of social distancing, or quarantine can change that dynamic-- only how solutions are implemented.
Stay Safe, and Think Productively!