“From certified caretaker to facility manager” – a while ago this was how the FAZ described the continuing success story of probably the most famous outsourcing of our age. This fame is partially due to the fact that the industry faced great difficulties and massive prejudice in its early days. What started as outsourcing of cleaning and caretaker tasks in the 1970s has developed in recent years into a business model that is worth billions and is highly efficient, meaning it is still blessed with growth that is far above average.
Major manufacturing companies in particular focus solely on developing and manufacturing high-value goods and leave the management of the facilities surrounding this production – from energy management to real estate management – to other companies that are specialised in these respective fields and are therefore better at them than the producer, themselves.
What does that have to do with us? Actually quite a lot. Because this is where the smart information life cycle can be partially or wholly outsourced. And: no, we are not talking about eliminating jobs – quite the opposite. But first things first.
There are two types of outsourcing: The first variant is one that we do not want to do and will not do, but that should come first in order to explain the terminology. During “hard” outsourcing, an entire department is outsourced with the aim of separating from it entirely. The German Civil Code calls this process “Betriebsübergang”, or transfer of business. This procedure can work, but it can cause job redundancies in the long-term; it is not clear what the company taking over the department will do with the outsourced employees once the warranty period has expired.
Business process outsourcing as a win-win scenario
What we do is different: BPO stands for Business Process Outsourcing. We focus on the objectives and requirements that will apply to user information in three, five, or ten years. The current situation: The requirements, complexity and digitalisation of user information is advancing at pace, and we are hearing from a number of mid-sized companies that their documentation departments are currently not able to meet these requirements in time and in full, either for staffing reasons or due to a lack of (IT) expertise.
This is where a highly successful cooperation between manufacturer and service provider can begin: Manufacturers outsource the processes, tasks or projects that, by the very nature of things, specialists are better at, while keeping those parts in-house that add optimally to their value chain and that their staff can perform better than any service provider. It is even possible for manufacturers to scale the outsourced work at will and to request services when they are needed. This provides manufacturers with access to future technologies and competences that would require a lot of money and time to set up in-house. So we are talking about a classic win-win scenario: Everyone does what they do best, and with the best possible utilisation.
That means that outsourcing can be an all-out blessing, as long as it is interpreted and set up correctly. It has taken a good 30 years for facility managers to banish the curse, but they have succeeded. And that is how we see it too.