Outsourcing services has become more prevalent in today’s business landscape. It involves a client company contracting a service provider to perform certain business functions on its behalf. These professional services include a wide range of professional tasks such as digital marketing, accounting, legal, website development and design, IT support, as well as administrative and virtual assistant services.
The outsourcing trend is a response to a number of key workplace trends. One significant factor is the decline of permanent employment, together with the rise of the gig economy. In addition, the ‘side hustle’ trend has also grown significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic. Many South Africans are looking to supplement their income, or create additional sources of income. Consequently, more individuals are engaging in remote work as independent contractors, freelancers, part-time, and temporary workers, which is a growing segment of the workforce.
Similarly, many businesses are looking to reduce costs and to make the shift to remote work arrangement, which includes outsourcing certain services. This shift is supported by the growing use of cloud technology which offers various benefits. Cloud-based services such as data storage solutions, VoIP phone systems, digital marketing and collaboration tools, all support remote working, regardless of geographical location.
Businesses stand to benefit massively from outsourcing tasks and services. However, before making the leap, there are a number of factors that small startups must consider. The first is the business’ staffing needs. Most small businesses start to consider outsourcing at a time when the business is growing. This is because business growth often means an increased workload which requires business owners to outsource some business tasks and processes in order to manage the growth.
For most small businesses there are also cost implications to consider as many are dealing with budget constraints. While it can be costly to get outside help, it can be even more costly to go without specialised help. Some examples of this are business operations such as marketing, accounting and bookkeeping or administrative services, all which can lead to increased revenue.
Furthermore, outsourcing certain services can help business owners with their compliance requirements. Functions such as IT, tax and law are critical to seek the help of a professional as a mistake in any of these areas can be expensive.
Ultimately, it’s important for small business owners to assess their unique needs, assess the potential benefits, and carefully consider outsourcing partners to maximise the advantages of outsourcing for their specific business.
While outsourcing is growing as a trend, having full-time staff still holds some benefits. It’s important that business owners consider factors like cost, flexibility, expertise requirements and business objectives, before making a decision.
Below is a guide to the pros and cons of outsourcing and hiring in-house.
Contracting out services can be more cost effective than hiring full-time staff. This is because it enables them to avoid expenses such as salaries, benefits, and legal compliance, associated with in-house employees. Additionally, there is less administrative burden since business owners don’t have to handle recruitment, training, payroll, and other related administrative tasks.
Moreover, outsourcing provides companies with increased flexibility and scalability. Business owners have the freedom to easily adjust their staff levels as needed, such as during peak seasons, without the hassle of hiring and training new employees.
However, the most significant advantage of outsourcing, particularly for small businesses with limited labour budgets, is the ability to focus on core competencies. By accessing specialised expertise through outsourcing, businesses can allocate more time and resources to activities that contribute to their bottomline, such as product development, strategic planning and enhancing customer experience.
Outsourcing your services to an outside partner means your business may have less direct control over its workforce. This can have an impact on overall company culture as outsourcing partners are not required to align with your company’s values or goals. Remote can also negatively affect collaboration which is essential for team work, communication, more efficient workflows and greater innovation.
When you outsource your services to an external partner, it’s important to consider that your business may have less direct control over its workforce. This lack of control can have an impact on the overall company culture, as outsourcing partners are not necessarily obligated to align with your company’s values or goals. Additionally, remote collaboration can be negatively affected. In-house teams have been proven to foster close collaboration, which is essential for effective teamwork, communication, streamlined workflows, and fostering innovation. Furthermore, having in-house employees readily available can be advantageous. This may not always be the case with freelancers who may take time to source and may not always be accessible for daily operations and quick revisions and changes
While there are less administrative burdens associated with outsourcing, it’s not without legal and compliance requirements. Some of the considerations when outsourcing are establishing clear contracts and agreement, intellectual property rights, confidentiality, and dispute resolution.
According to ‘Outsourcing: South Africa Overview’, there are no specific national laws or regulations governing outsourcing in South Africa. However, there are certain laws and regulations which have an impact on outsourcing.
Below are some legal considerations for agreements between client companies and service providers from the Thomson Reuters guide.
Below is a guide to specific areas of a small business that are commonly outsourced, such as bookkeeping and accounting, IT support, customer service, marketing, or social media management.
More businesses are taking advantage of tech solutions to grow their businesses. This includes everything from fibre that enables them to get online, web hosting to run their websites, as well as cybersecurity to protect their business’ data. As a result, it is important that businesses have access to professional IT services which can provide technical expertise and support.
Outsourcing these key tasks can benefit a business in a number of ways, specifically cost savings. IT service providers also provide businesses with access to experienced IT experts and cutting-edge technology, they otherwise would not be able to afford in-house. Additionally, data security is a growing concern among businesses. Well-designed IT outsourcing services provide added security which ensures businesses to remain compliant with the applicable government rules and regulations, including the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA).
Below are key IT-related tasks SMEs can outsource:
In today’s digital age, customers expect businesses to be available 24/7. For small businesses with limited staff, this can be daunting. This is where outsourcing of customer service functions can be beneficial.
According to Zendesk, customer service outsourcing is the act of outsourcing some aspect of your customer service operations to a third-party vendor or service provider. With outsourcing small businesses can provide efficient and readily available customer support without having to hire or manage an in-house team.
Key customer service functions to outsource:
Financial management is an important part of any successful business. A typical business needs to monitor their books, manage payroll, budget and manage their tax obligations. This can be a lot for small business owners who typically do not have any financial training.
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Many small business owners opt to outsource their financial management tasks to free up time so they can focus on core operations without any of the administrative burdens. Outsourcing managing your business’ finances can also help you meet your compliance requirements and ensure that their financial records are accurate and error free.
Key accounting and bookkeeping functions to outsource:
All businesses have legal obligations that they must meet. The three main legal issues most business owners will have to deal with are ensuring business compliance, safeguarding intellectual property, and managing contracts and taxes.
It’s critical that small business owners seek out the help of professionals to avoid costly mistakes. The good news for SMEs is that there are more commercial law service providers that offer legal services and packages specifically suited for the needs of small businesses, such as on-demand legal services for SMEs.
Key legal functions to outsource:
SME owners are beginning to wake up to the benefits of marketing their businesses online and the importance of having a digital marketing strategy. Marketing enables businesses to advertise to their customers, build a brand and create a community of dedicated supporters.
Outsourcing marketing tasks to marketing specialists gives small businesses access to marketing expertise that gives them the competitive edge. It also solves the challenge that many businesses have with regards to marketing such as not having enough time and a shortage of in-house talent and resources.
Key marketing functions to outsource:
Administrative duties such as data entry, scheduling, travel arrangements, email management can be repetitive and time consuming. This can be a massive drain on a business owner’s time. For small businesses that cannot afford to hire full-time office support virtual assistants help to fill the administrative gap. Virtual assistants operate remotely and provide flexibility and administrative support without requiring physical office space.
Key administrative functions to outsource: