By Michael Cowley
Maintenance & Operations Article Use Policy
Directly or indirectly, all of us in the facility maintenance and management profession have experience with outsourcing. Many have found great success with outsourcing endeavors, but even more have found problems — even serious failures — with outsourcing contracts and contractors.
Even after all these years of turning over work to contractors, outsourcing maintenance and engineering duties in institutional and commercial facilities is still a small percentage of the total work departments perform. Organizations tend to travel down the maintenance outsourcing path when their existing maintenance departments fail them or appear incapable of keeping the facilities in service, or when labor problems become unbearable to the management team and owners.
Outsourcing can be an effective tool to help managers and organizations make progress toward productivity and effectiveness, but outsourcing is not always a less-expensive or even successful alternative. And there is one common mistake managers make most often that is fatal to the process.
Over the years, I've been on both sides of the outsourcing coin. I've been on the customer side and for many years on the contractor side, with successes and failures in both roles. Outsourcing can fail for a number of reasons. The most common ones involve:
Any of these problems can ruin the relationship between the contractor and the manager and lead to outsourcing failure. Good outsourcing contractors perform an autopsy after the death of an outsourcing contract to determine the reasons it failed and steps the parties involved can take to prevent future problems.
But here is the single most common cause of outsourcing failure: Building owners and managers fail to understand the existing scope of work and do not offer a vision for measurable maintenance performance.
It might seem difficult to believe that most managers or owners are clueless about the details of the scope or statement of work for the existing job or workers, but it's true. Then they hire a contractor to do the work and expect that company to understand the organization's needs or wants, based only on a one-hour bid meeting and a ten-page document.
Ten Reasons for Outsourcing Failure
Guidelines for Outsourcing Contracts
How to Measure a Contractor's Performance