There are a number of fascinating things happening in the B2B realm that I try to keep on my radar screen. Obviously, the growing momentum behind Net markets and exchanges is at the top of the list. But another area of increasing importance is outsourced services.
Outsourced service solutions for everything from sales and marketing functions to data management and human resources are beginning to flourish. Not only do these services represent a tremendous market, but they can also offer significant competitive advantages to both new and established organizations alike.
The Benefits of Outsourcing
Outsourcing is and has for quite a while been a viable option for reducing overhead expenditure, extending competency into new areas, offering new services, and tapping resource pools not previously available.
For established enterprises, outsourcing will enable an organization to significantly and rapidly increase its skill set while reducing risk and increasing efficiency. Another very attractive benefit is that outsourcing also enables an organization to focus on its core business versus dedicating resources to support the business.
For emerging and developing companies, outsourcing provides similar benefits but can also greatly increase speed to market while controlling capital expenditure, offering distinct competitive advantages in a landscape that has proven increasingly hostile to pure-play Internet solutions.
As the Internet has opened new channels for outsourcing, we are beginning to see a wave of companies coming to market that are providing suites of services or aggregated services. This wave is manifesting itself along two distinct lines: outsourcing hubs and outsourcing service providers.
Companies like eSolo, which provides a single access point to an aggregation of more than 1,000 sales and marketing solutions, represent a new breed of player in the outsourcing realm. Committed to providing the full breadth of solutions necessary for sales and marketing professionals, eSolo is essentially serving as a Net market for outsourced services, providing an arena for the buying and selling of specific services.
Other hubs such as Allbusiness.com are also positioning themselves as comprehensive resource providers focused on the small-business market.
The rise of comprehensive, service-focused exchanges is inevitable as organizations seek to reduce operational expenditure and gain access to resources through outsourcing. This demand for outsourcing and the rise of exchanges as a preferred channel for buying and selling services will position players that are aggregating offerings in a powerful position.
Outsourcing Service Providers
While service-focused Net markets represent significant opportunity, it is the services themselves that are of particular value to organizations. An exhaustive list of outsourcing providers would be impossible to provide in the context of this column; however, it is enough to say that there are outsourced solutions for every facet of your organization.
For organizations seeking solutions to the vexing issues associated with developing B2B solutions, the most compelling of these outsourced options is on the e-business operations front. It is this realm where firms such as Mimecom are providing application and infrastructure-management services to client companies. Mimecom is an obvious solution for companies without competency in Internet infrastructure or the ability to invest in owning scalable and reliable systems to support their businesses.
But infrastructure services are not the entire landscape of e-business operations. Emerging companies, such as TransactPlus, are providing messaging, security, and directory-management systems for companies engaged in B2B commerce. Rather than requiring companies to perform costly integration work to conduct B2B commerce, TransactPlus provides an infrastructure into which companies can easily plug.
So What Should You Do?
Obviously, making a decision about outsourcing should be done only after making a determination that there is clear and tangible benefit in doing so. Outsourcing should be part of an overall strategy for project success, not the main ingredient.
Organizations should maintain focus on their core business and leverage outsourcing providers for functions that help either bolster or complement that core offering or help a company gain access to resources that are simply not available internally. And, as we are all faced with new and sometimes daunting challenges, I suspect there is a series of projects for which we all lack resources or expertise.