The enterprise of the future looks something like patchwork. In a good sense. Patchwork quilts can be beautiful, blending diversity into a coherent whole – and uniquely distinctive. Often it’s collaboration by a group of quilters that creates them. And they’re not just great art. They keep you warm. They deliver.
Outsourcing is becoming ever more pervasive as globalization drives further specialization. In the villages of our forebears, people came to specialize in baking bread, or working with leather, or shodding ploughhorses. It’s the same in our global village. It doesn’t make sense to do in-house what someone else can do better or cheaper.
Outsourcing may once have been confined to ‘non-core’ activities. Now everything – from R&D through manufacturing and supply chain to customer experience analytics – can be outsourced, and increasingly is.
In this patchwork future, successful enterprises will mirror the best quilting groups: a clear vision, creative collaboration and the means to make decisions. In other words, a well-defined operating model and a framework for effective collaboration that brings everyone’s creativity into its execution.
Of course patchwork has another, negative, meaning: ‘a hodge podge’.
I worked with a multinational client once, leveraging Nimbus to bring multiple HR outsourcing contracts into one coherent whole. That end-to-end perspective exposed the multiple gaps between the expectations of the service providers and the retained organization. Non trivial gaps too. One was an immediate threat to the entire expatriate payroll.
That’s the hodge podge kind of patchwork enterprise, and it has a very limited future. No-one’s going to want to work with, or buy from, a patchwork enterprise where the patterns and colors don’t match, and you can see the stitching – even worse, the gaps.
Some organizations are trying to stitch their multisourced reality together, buying in ‘managed governance services’ and the like from the Big 4. But ultimately it demands holistic thinking, discipline and a platform to support it. Much like quilting.
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