The prestigious American dictionary publisher, Merriam-Webster, has announced that the terms Outsource and Outsourcing will be removed from their next edition. Mrs Ashley Webster, President and CEO, said that a recent survey by HfS Research had confirmed the confusion caused by the terms and that the new term “augmentation” will be used in future for when corporations secure services from technology and business support service companies.

According to HfS, the Republican presidential nominee-hopeful Rick Santorum, was relieved and stated “When I am President, I will make sure these outsourced jobs come back home and the only outsourcing we do will be the current residents of the White House”. Charles Schumer, Democratic senator, welcomed the move saying “Now outsourcing ceases to exist, I can go back to campaigning for the 35-hour working week”.


The above was played out as an internet April fool’s joke, but actually sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Behind this American buffoonery there is a serious issue around the term “outsourcing”. It has become an all pervading and intrusive term in every aspect of commercial life. Every business service wants to be known as an outsourcing service provider from printing companies to plumbers, electricians to dentists. “Oh yes, I now outsource my dental care to a specialist in the subject – I find it so much easier than DIY!”.

Outsourcing has over the last decade moved from being a board issue closely tied to strategic enablement; then to senior management who used it as a tactical “cure this year-end issue” or “remove this risk from me”; then to middle management who see the service provider as a good excuse when things go wrong and “someone needs to carry the can”; and finally to procurement who concentrate on price today, tomorrow and forever.

This rapid commoditisation and denigration of a once proud industry in little short of fifteen years has been speeded up by the service providers own idiot salesmen who see the lowest price as the golden key to open the flood gates of very personal and immediate wealth creation. And it worked – for them!

Cumulatively the result today is an outsourcing industry that has no mega deals left in it, wafer thin margins, oversupply and ongoing consolidation, zero investment in developing business knowledge and zero non-technical innovation because the client will not pay for it.

Little wonder that outsourcing slipped from its mantle to become plain “sourcing from the market”, but … augmentation? Will it come to this? It just might!

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