If Tom Sawyer had been a business owner, he would be the poster child for outsourcing he clearly mastered the art of delegating chores. Are you following his example to improve your own business or are you leery about jumping on the as-a-Service bandwagon, choosing instead to hang on to your proverbial paint brush?
Everywhere you turn, a new as-a-Service offering is available that promises you and your business the moon and stars. Often, outsourcing sounds too good to be true; after all, if all of the claims outsourcing companies made were true, then you would be able to run a successful business without doing any work! Even Tom Sawyer would see that as fiction.
Smart Business learned more from Mark Swanson, the CEO of Telovations, a Communications-as-a-Service provider, about how to choose what activities to outsource and what the real benefits of utilizing these types of offerings are.
How can businesses make the most of the as-a-Service type offerings that are available to them?
While I was in the army, I was part of a unit that consistently outperformed all other units. It was amazing to me, because my boss always seemed so calm and honestly never seemed to be doing any work. And in fact he did very little work. What made him successful was his unique ability to get other people to do the work for him and, in turn, our unit excelled because of it.
As-a-Service offerings today are no different because they are really designed to support your organization by replacing ‘chore’ work, making it easier for you to do what you do best, which is lead your organization instead of manage it. They give every business the chance to excel the way my boss in the army did. By letting others take the weight off his shoulders, he was able to focus his efforts on one or two key areas that really let him shine, focusing on the forest rather than the trees by leading our efforts rather than managing every detail of our work.
Is it possible to outsource everything?
I wouldn’t recommend outsourcing everything because every business needs to have a unique story, something that sets it apart from the competition. As-a-Service offerings should never replace your company’s core strengths. You have to take the time to really analyze the things that you do best. What defines you as an organization? Do you design winning strategies? Bake the very best cake? Build the better mousetrap? These are the things that you should never consider outsourcing, the crucial things that should take the lion’s share of your attention.
As-a-Service vendors with whom you develop trusted relationships can often manage the other stuff, the ‘chore’ work. It usually turns out that relationships with such vendors serve more than one purpose: they are specialized in the very activity you’re outsourcing, which means they will do a better job than you could have done. Also, they may expand your business by promoting you to their networks as you all add value to one another’s offerings.
For example, one of our customers sells refurbished IT equipment. When we meet with a new client who needs this type of equipment, we pass the value of this knowledge on to them. Everyone wins because our existing customer gets more business, our new customer gets a huge savings and we solidify our reputation as a trusted adviser and partner because we helped make it happen for both of them. When it comes down to it, no business exists completely on its own. Relationships with vendors and partners do play a key role in how successful your business becomes.
What are examples of ‘chores’ that could be passed on to an as-a-Service offering?
As I said, anything that contributes to the value of the company’s offering or to the overall culture of the organization should never be outsourced. This means you have free reign to objectively assess any activity that costs time and money that isn’t core to your business. Payroll is a great example, as is IT support or your company’s phone system. It just doesn’t always make sense to have a full-time employee on staff to make sure everyone’s anti-virus software is up to date, or a telecom engineer who can re-load your company’s phone server every time it goes down. With offerings like Communications-as-a-Service, if you are having trouble with your phone or simply need to make changes to your system, like adding an employee or new lines, you just pick up the phone and say, ‘I need this done.’ That is the beauty of as-a-Service: in addition to the flexibility it offers, you have the support of an entire team of experts who are accountable to you to handle issues and support your business, and it is properly staffed to do so.
How do as-a-Service offerings make your business better?
Your customers don’t know or aren’t concerned with the fact that you are using an as-a-Service type offering when they receive invoices or that you have a hosted phone system when they dial your phone number. Their only concern is that the service they are receiving from you is good and is what they expected. To them, it is implicit that all the other stuff works seamlessly in the background. By utilizing as-a-Service type offerings like Communications-as-a-Service, it frees you and your resources to allocate your valuable time to focus on your core offering and to build a better, superior service experience for your customers.
Mark Swanson is CEO of Telovations Inc. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.