Harvard Business Review
The Idea in Brief
Almost nothing a company does can't be outsourced anymore—even functions as critical as engineering, marketing, and manufacturing. Yet only 6% of the companies that outsource are satisfied with the practice. Why? Too many managers make outsourcing decisions piecemeal. They focus on incremental cost improvements rather than taking a strategic view of capability sourcing.
With strategic capability sourcing, you don't assume that your company's most vital capabilities must remain in-house. Credit-card giant American Express, for example, outsourced its crucial transaction processing function when it no longer provided proprietary advantage.
To source capabilities strategically, you must also decide which partners can best perform which capabilities. Rather than selecting suppliers based only on cost, for example, Chrysler consolidated component purchases with several suppliers it believed could sustain competitive costs, high quality, and efficient delivery.
And if your company's the best at a particular capability, consider making it an entirely new business—as UPS does by providing logistics management to other companies.
The right capability sourcing strategy can translate into industry dominance: Strategic outsourcer 7-Eleven consistently beats other retailers in same-store merchandise growth, revenue per employee, and inventory turn rate.