A recent editorial in the China Post (online version) titled Outsourcing practice now targeting core jobs in the West comments on what anyone familiar with the business process outsourcing business already knows: high paying service jobs in developed countries are the next target for offshoring, and not just to save money, but to provide quality service.
I learned this while performing a strategic market analysis for a business process outsourcer. The reason is simple. Outsourcers, having successfully moved “non-core” services offshore, need new growth markets. A major growth strategy promoted by outsourcers in a variety of vertical markets is to go after the outsourcing of higher level professional services jobs. Areas like legal process outsourcing are “hot,” for example, with outsourcers now offering not only basic document processing but also document creation services that involve professional judgement and analysis.
As outsourcers move “upscale” in terms of the value and sophistication of the services they provide, the role of the “knowledge worker” will increasingly come under scrutiny and will become subject to the outsourcer’s scope. Since knowledge workers are frequently target users for collaboration systems, social media, and social networking, it makes sense to wonder how such systems might actually perform as “enablers” for outsourcing.
For example, consider the knowledge sharing system discussed in American Medical Association Operates an Expertise Sharing Network for Physicians. Does it matter where these doctors are located?
Perhaps this is just another example of the “flattening” of the world. Perhaps the sooner we realize that any service that can be provided online is subject to outsourcing and offshoring, the more prepared we will be to manage the impact on employment and labor force shifts that such systems enable. It would be ironic were the social and collaborative aspects of new media, initially thought to promote togetherness, to also threaten the income of workers in developed countries!