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“Outsourcing” Gets Ousted

The cover of a recent issue of The New Yorker features a Rockwellian take on a chastised Mitt Romney having one more entry in a column of arm ink struck through by a tattoo artist. The latest rejected brand, at the bottom of a crossed-out list that includes “47%,” “Romneycare,” “pro choice,” “tax cuts” and “immigration,” is “outsourcing.”

Score one more point for the gathering movement that would have the word abolished from the language all together.

The controversy over the once benign term has been swirling for a few years, with employees in its earshot becoming increasingly defensive about the icky associations it’s amassing with job losses and the use of low-cost labour from external service providers. But it got fresh energy over the course of the US presidential election, as the candidates flung it around like a curse.

The word’s been overused and abused for too long, say its detractors, and now it has no place in the business vernacular. Merriam-Webster sanctioned the idea this year when it decided to eliminate “that awful word” altogether (and replace it with “expertise augmentation”).








The dictionary publisher had teetered on the fence for a spell, but finally made the decision when a survey conducted by American outsourcing analyst firm HfS Research found that 63% of IT leaders and 68% of IT service providers are emphatic in their desire to lose the term.

In other lexiconic “outsourcing” news, KPMG published a report earlier this year called “The Death of Outsourcing” in which the author argues that the term has not evolved in harmony with the services it describes, and so has outlived its effectiveness.

Whether this is all just semantics talking, or if there’s a legitimate case to be made for revisiting the concept and all of its connotations, remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: call it “out-tasking,” “co-sourcing,” “right-sizing” or even “resource-optimizing” to your heart’s content; the rose you hold beside the “O word” is still going to give off the same whiff.

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