CIO Magazine today started a series of articles on outsourcing, including this one on Simple Successful Outsourcing. This article covers the kind of outsourcing that most often works - transactional relationships - with over 90% in the study quoted saying they were happy. The subhead speaks for itself:
CIOs who outsource discrete processes that have well-defined business rules are almost always happy with the outcome
Well this is all lovely, but what about a process you want to outsource because you think it has well-defined business rules but it turns out your business rules are different from anyone else's? Are you out of luck or could you still build a transactional relationship while getting the flexibility to control your business rules?
Well not necessarily. If your business process outsourcer can use a business rules approach to automate the key decision points in the process and give you control of those decision points, you can "customize" the process without changing the basic repeatability so key for cost effectiveness on your outsourcers part. Failing that you could use a business rules approach to automate your decisions and make them available as web services for the outsourcer to call whenever a decision is needed. These rules might cover escalation, routing for manual review, customer outreach or whatever. Anytime the process needs to make a choice before continuing, you need the option to make that choice differently to ensure that your customers feel they are getting the service they deserve and not a "one size fits no-one" process.
Interestingly another article in the same issue talks about ethics and outsourcing - Outsource, Don't Abdicate. A key comment in this article is
Your Partner's Reputation Is Your Reputation
Again business rules offers a potential solution. You can automate your compliance guidelines using business rules and then apply them to every process managed by your outsourcer. You still control the guidelines and you still can demonstrate compliance but you have essentially imposed your expertise on the process to ensure that your partner's reputation is as good as yours. I have more on compliance here.
Business rules and outsourcing make for an interesting combination.