Outsourcing Fun?


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There truly is no end to the possibilities of outsourcing. Management guru Tom Peters recently picked up on a reference to a New York Times article “Ogre To Slay? Outsource it to the Chinese”, about how affluent western children are paying their Chinese counterparts to complete the first levels of video games that they find monotonous. Peters comments: “The ‘factory’ is in Fuzhou, China. The workers are youngsters logging 12-hour shifts. Their clientelle? Fellow youngsters from ‘Seoul to San Francisco … who want to avoid the pain and time associated with those first few levels … Yup! I thought I’d seen it all! Goes to show you …”

What is most eye-catching about this startling trend however is author Dan Ward’s observation that “this (is) an opportunity to provide commentary on the video game developers who clearly aren't satisfying their customers. If the games were really well designed (Design is everything in an experience economy, no?), they would be compelling from start to finish. No need to outsource level 1-3 to China … these kids aren't outsourcing their entertainment - they are outsourcing the boring / easy / introductory parts they don't care about. . . and they are sending the video game industry a message. I wonder if anyone is listening. ”

There is a lot of talk about how services are outsourced because they are more cost-effective, but the points raise an interesting question about how firms might consider using outsourcing as a measure of their product and service effectiveness too. Specifically, they reveal a serious potential danger in management thinking: that business leaders begin to accept the process as a natural extension of globalisation rather than see it as a specific comment on their own business.

An article on bizhelp24 makes the point pretty precisely under the heading “What do Businesses Outsource?” suggesting; “Basically, anything that you may consider a business ‘process’ can be outsourced, ” from Marketing to Accounting down to Editing. And in light of the above, down to entertainment now, too.

There has been a lot of whining about outsourcing by, in particular customer service firms over the past few years. Giving the bog standard reply “Margins are being squeezed due to outsourcing” every time profits are suffering may not be acceptable soon as the flattening of the global playing field becomes a standardization itself: sometimes Chief Executives have to look honestly at the service they are providing their customers and just plain admit that what they provide, their customers don’t want. After all, value, as the expression goes, is not just the bucks you pay for something, but that bang you get for them.

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