According to a recent research, spending on outsourcing of Federal IT jobs in the United States will boom in the next four years – growing from $11.7 billion in financial year 2004 to &17.4 billion in the 2009 financial year. The driving force, it has been revealed, is that a significant number of the current workforce will be lost to retirement thus leaving the Federal government of the US with no choice than to resort to outsourcing as a means of dealing with the shortage.
But what is outsourcing? In simple terms, it is the contracting out to another manufacturer or supplier work that would otherwise be done by a company's employees. In other words, outsourcing is the migration of services to an external provider. Closely associated with Business Processes Outsourcing is Offshore outsourcing which encompasses manufacturing, information technology and back office services. Outsourcing however includes call centres, finance and accounting, human resource management and transaction processing.
In my last article “THE GHANAIAN PROBLEM; A GENETIC PREDISPOSITION? I mentioned this global phenomenon in passing. Outsourcing has worked wonders for several other countries like ours. At least a glowing example is India. Today it is estimated that about 24% of outsourcing software manufactured in the US are sent to India.
Infact about two-thirds of all Fortune 500 companies are outsourcing to India. This is because companies have come to see the benefits associated with this concept. For example through outsourcing, these companies are able to cut down cost on application development and maintenance; boost efficiency and deal with the peaks and valleys of demand. In addition to that outsourcing makes it possible for management to get their staff to concentrate on more business related tasks i.e. strategic issues.
One lesson I have come to learn in life is that procrastination is certainly the thief of time. When opportunities avail themselves, you have to grab them. In other words it is important to make your hay while the sun is at its very crescendo. Perhaps it is this belief and thinking which propelled India and other Asian countries to grab the phenomenon of outsourcing. And today it has helped in no small measure towards helping to deal with the unemployment situation in the country. Someone may ask “what is it about India that has made it the bellwether of this global business phenomenon?”
India has one of the largest English-speaking populations in the world. This makes communication very easy. There is no denying the fact that one of the cardinal prerequisites in every human endeavour is the ability to communicate. This is especially significant in the business environment of which outsourcing is a constituent. For example someone working in a call centre will not only need to speak impeccable English, but must be decorous in dealing with people on the phone. This requires a good understanding of the fundamental principles of communication and etiquette. India apparently has this calibre of people.
For a country to be a favourable destination for outsourcing, the infrastructural network must be up to a certain standard. Most of the operations in outsourcing are carried out on the phone and on computers. This means that the telecommunications system must be very good. A good communication system enhances the speedy transfer of files and makes it possible for customers' queries to be dealt with with the urgency and speed they deserve. There is nothing more heart-rending than you having to sit behind the desk forever to transfer a file that will normally take only a couple of seconds. In business cycles this is certainly unpardonable and tantamount to great losses in man-hours. That is why a buoyant and effective telecommunications system is a sine qua non in this equation.
Above all these, a dedicated and self-motivated workforce is very important. You will need people who will attach a sense of importance to all calls; people who will not sit behind their desks and watch pornographic materials; people who will not sit behind their desks and work lotto; people who will not sit behind their desks with a mirror in hand applying make-ups when calls are coming through; a workforce that will genuinely apologise to customers when the need arises.
Where can we juxtapose Ghana in this seemingly cumbersome equation? Do we have good telecommunications systems? Do we have a good human resource base? Do we have the people who can speak the impeccable English? Are our roads in good condition? These are the questions we need to ask as we embark on this voyage. According to figures culled from the CIA world fact book, Ghana has a literate population of 74.8%. Even though other parameters come into play, on the face of it this figure is very commendable. At least with this figure, we can get a good percentage that will speak the so-called impeccable English. Our time zone is also quite favourable. We can also mention our self motivated workforce. However, I have some reservations about this very last factor which I will dilate on in a minute. Be it as it may, the above factors put Ghana on a better pedestal to accept this global business phenomenon.
The last time I went home, things were somewhat not in the very best of shapes mainly because of the numerous projects embarked upon by the government. The road from Accra to Kumasi was under serious construction. So we had to go through some long meandering road, through some villages to Kumasi. It was a horrible experience but placatory when viewed against the background of the concomitant results of the projects when completed. As usual all I wanted was to get to my destination. And I did. At home in Kumasi, I needed to make some calls to London. That was where the nightmare started. All the lines were not in good form. I combed every nook and cranny of Kumasi just to make this call but I could not. Finally I had no option than to use my “roaming service” to make the call. Never mind the bills accumulated as a result.
Well I made the call using my international roaming service .It was dry and very hot. So I decided to go back home to take a quick shower since I was soaked in sweat. To my utter surprise, the taps were not flowing. They had been like that for the past week. The only time the taps are “opened” is in the middle of the night. And unfortunately, my auntie's maid overslept so she couldn't get to wake up to get some of the water in a reservoir. Well to cut a long story short, we had to buy some “pure water” from a nearby kiosk. That was how I got some water to take my shower.
After that experience, I managed to go out to greet families and relations. I came back home after a very tiring session. As if what happened during the day was not enough, we had no electricity. It was a terrible experience for me. I had to submit an assignment the following day and I needed the lights to do some finishing touches to my work. The deadline for the submission of that assignment was the following day and I dare not fail to submit that assignment. Unfortunately the situation is not like Ghana where you can apologise and get away with it. You have to be penalised for failing to do what you are expected to do. I was shattered! I kind of cursed my stars. Fortunately for me the battery for my laptop was half way charged. So I managed to go through the work ready for submission the following day.
Early in the morning the following day, I woke up and dashed to a nearby internet café to email my assignment. Could you believe that I had to go through the length and breadth of Kumasi looking for a place? At some places the server was down; other places the response was “ya ma light off” and yet at other places the cafes were closed. I hope readers are seeing the picture in their mind's eye. From the deplorable state of the Accra-Kumasi road, through the terrible telecommunications network to incessant power outage.
As an individual and as someone who was borne and bred in the squalors of Ghana, this may be understandable. Initially, I will complain like every rational human being, but the next moment I brush it aside and carry on with the day to day activities. However from the investment perspective, this cannot be tolerated. Obviously from my calculations, I spent well over ten hours doing something that should have taken me only 30 minutes. No investor worth his name will want to lose these man hours just for the reason that the infrastructure is not in good condition.
Back to the issue of outsourcing, in order to have our fair share of the manna falling from the heavens of outsourcing, we seriously need to do a lot about our infrastructure. During the NDC days I heard talks about work being done on Bui Dam. This, when completed will supplement our electricity needs and reduce the rather incessant power outages. It will be in the national interest to pursue this project vigorously since preliminary feasibility analyses show that the potentials are high. It is also important for the government to encourage further competition in the fields of telecommunication and energy supply. It will be realised that with the coming of other mobile phone service providers like One Touch and Spacefon, the competition to improve services has been very keen. We want to see more of that.
It is commendable that this government has continued with some of the brilliant programmes initiated by its predecessor government contrary to what used to pertain in Ghana where very good projects were abandoned by succeeding governments. That in itself is a great achievement. GOD BLESS GHANA!!
TO BE CONTINUED Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.