Outsourcing: Its time may have finally come

Outsourcing always seems to be on the verge of becoming the next big thing. Time and again, we hold our breath and wait for the opportunities to surge forth, only to be left merely breathless.

But this time could be different. As staff writer Roseanne Gerin explains in her front-page story, there are many factors at play today that finally could put that opportunity engine into high gear.

The effects of pending retirements of many government workers, as well as the reluctance of new college graduates to make government a career, are well known.

But also at work is the personnel squeeze caused by the war on terror. That vise tightens as increasing numbers of civilians are shifted into defense jobs left vacant by uniformed personnel taking on combat roles. Tight budgets also are forcing agencies to look for more efficiencies.

Outsourcing IT operations is nothing new, but increasingly, agencies are asking contractors to take on more sophisticated jobs.

At first glance, these tasks don't seem like IT jobs. Perot Systems Corp. runs a women's health Web site and call center. Serco Inc. does recruiting and career transition services for the Army. Pearson Government Solutions Inc. provides customer service for the Education Department's Federal Student Aid system. To do these jobs, companies hire health care and human resources experts, not network engineers.

But IT is far from superfluous. Its role is vital. Technology ? and that includes keeping pace with changes in technology ? is a crucial tool for companies bent on making their operations efficient and cost conscious.

In her story, Gerin also cites a report from new consulting firm Government Futures Inc., founded by former Office of Management and Budget official Bruce McConnell.

The report predicts that typical IT spending will drop by between 10 percent and 25 percent by 2010. In that same time, it said, mission support services will grow by double digits.

Even if the report, based on a survey of government and industry officials, is only half right, the IT contracting industry is facing a watershed event. To survive, companies need to look beyond selling networks and services and instead focus on mission and results.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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