To outsource or not to outsource...

29th of October 2014
To outsource or not to outsource...

Nico Lemmens of ISS Facility Services brings news on Dutch government policy to insource cleaning services.

In the November 2013 issue of this journal we discussed the Dutch cabinet’s remarkable plan to insource cleaning services for the central government. This policy contradicts the findings of a recent White Paper on the Future of Public Sector Outsourcing by ISS and the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies (see

According to this study, outsourcing as a strategy is increasingly regarded as a solution to many of the strategic issues the public sector will be confronted with. This is especially true as the private sector experiences growth in trust, the need for developing measurement systems for added value (instead of traditional output) is growing, and the desire to do ‘more with less’ increases.

New models or approaches to outsourcing will largely be reflected in the parameters of future contracts, and mirror the present ideological inclinations of society and government.

The central challenge in public sector service provision is overcoming the assumption that outsourcing contracts should be static, one-directional, and time-limited. Effective outsourcing for public sector organisations requires the use of smart contracts.

Public sector outsourcing in the future is expected to further transcend the boundaries of the practice set forth today. The models of outsourcing used widely today will change to include innovative arrangements between new and existing actors. The public sector will take greater steps towards extra-institutional outsourcing, which includes outsourcing directly to the individual through self-service, or by way of the not-for-profit or voluntary sector.

In order to keep up with demand and capitalise on resources, the public sector will need dynamic infrastructure that can scale accordingly and accommodate the increasing flow of people and information. We need highly sophisticated Facility Management (FM) or infrastructure management – network hosting, people coordination, help-desk services, messaging, security
and database administration, among other things – rooted in precision and measurement, process discipline and operational excellence.

The primary challenges faced by the public sector in the coming decades will be related to infrastructure. FM is infrastructure in the most basic understanding. There are more things today that can be considered FM than ever before, offering unparalleled opportunities for FM providers to take control of the fourth industrial revolution. The role of FM in the future is absolutely central. There are three key roles FM will assume towards 2020 in support of the evolving public sector:

• FM providers as strategic partners: the crucial step for FM providers is to develop tools for engagement that can be used for strategic alignment, and to bridge the gap between
customer and partner.
• FM providers as consultants and educators: the value of FM in the future will be on knowledge.
• FM providers as investors and co-creators: the demands of public sector organisations will further exceed their capacity to deliver in-house.

The challenge in all this, however, is in aligning the interests of multiple stakeholders. As for the Dutch cabinet’s insourcing plans: it’s always interesting to see people swim against the tide.


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