Performance Resource Partners


91 South Street • Holbrook, MA 02343 • O: 781-885-7245 • C: 978-836-7103 •



Will you repeat the mistakes of the past?

Among senior leadership and high-level management staff this question comes up more frequently than many industry insiders might imagine. A recent discussion on an industry networking site asked related questions about the "pros and cons" of outsourcing.

While the notion of pros and cons is interesting and has a place in decision making, the real decision process should be centered on analysis of the specific organization's strengths, weaknesses, goals, and core business needs. These other kinds of considerations will almost always override the pros and cons approach to decision making. Examples of why this is true include:

  • If the organization does not understand the current strengths, weaknesses, goals, and core business needs, then it lacks the basis to determine how the pros and cons items might improve or exacerbate problems.
  • If the organization is not good at managing facilities services functions, it makes little difference if the services are outsourced or in-sourced.
  • If the organization does not understand the current mix of staff skills and how that aligns with skills requirements, then it cannot determine appropriate sourcing strategies.
  • If the organization's culture does not enthusiastically embrace major changes, switching from one method to the other, in either direction, is not likely to succeed.
  • If the organization does not embrace the value of historical knowledge and data, it will be very difficult to succeed when changes are made.
  • Organizations often have strategic goals that will override tactical advantages and disadvantages; for example, total employment goals or community outreach goals may be very strong decision drivers.

For these types of reasons, the best answer to in-sourcing or outsourcing is not likely to rest in the generic pros and cons list. Rather, the more strategic needs of the organization should be established, and then the decision process can focus on making a decision that is most likely to support those demands.

The following are some of the prevailing thoughts that have merit for specific situations in the industry, but there is more to consider before selecting the right facilities services strategy for any given organization.


There is often a perspective suggesting that service providers or business partners place more importance on profit than on doing a great job. Many believe the organization loses control of facilities services if they turn it over to others. All of these experiences are valid, but not necessarily a major reason for change.

Whether services are in-sourced or outsourced, the focus should be on making the organization profitable. Typically, maintaining proper control has more to do with the quality of management and having proper control processes in place. In both sourcing scenarios it is necessary to have strong standard operating procedures, appropriate policies, performance measurement and control processes, and other service programming processes in place to ensure proper control.

Workforce Loyalty and Skills

Many facilities managers place a high value on a trusted workforce that is loyal to the organization. It is true that an excellent workforce should be trustworthy and loyal, but that boils down to the character of individuals, how they are managed, and leadership skills. All these issues are still relevant in both in-sourced and outsourced scenarios; the only difference is who the players are.

Some managers look at in-sourcing and outsourcing decisions as a strategy for finding the right mix of skills to ensure better service delivery. Workforce skills and experience are about finding the right people for the right job. The root causes for the perceived lack of workforce skills should be examined before concluding how to solve the issues. Approaches to training, recruitment, and succession planning are often the true core issues.

Loss of knowledge Assets

Staff knowledge and the organization's data are precious knowledge assets that the organization has spent a lot of money to develop over a period of years. Many worry that these knowledge assets will be lost if they change their sourcing strategy. The core issue is that management needs to take positive action to ensure that information is retained by the organization - even in an in-sourced scenario. Yet, many organizations do not have methods to capture tribal knowledge and manage it as an intellectual asset. Nor do they do a good job of making sure all information in their CMMS software (just one example) remains the property of the organization. Organizations need to apply core business security principles to their knowledge assets. The fact is that there are ways to accomplish this in either an in-sourcing or outsourcing services scenario.


Changing the sourcing strategy in either direction is a complex, difficult challenge – no matter how prepared and experienced the management team may be. Understanding the organization's culture is a prerequisite for making a good decision because the culture will determine a lot about how difficult the change will be. The culture is a mix of intangible concepts such as attitudes, flexibility, values, beliefs, and work ethics. The following are a few examples of cultural attributes:

  • What does the organization value more, saving money or customer satisfaction?
  • Does it believe that training is a good investment?
  • Is there sufficient trust between staff and management?
  • Do people show teamwork when faced with complex challenges?
  • How much resistance is faced when major changes to work processes are required?
  • Is the group proactive by nature, always looking for better ways to get things done?
  • How close is the alignment of the services provided with the needs of the organization as a whole and its core business?


When facing potential changes as challenging as in-sourcing or outsourcing services the most important early step in the decision process is to articulate clear goals for the outcome. Often it is the goals for the change that are absent from the pros versus cons approach to decision making. Yet, understanding how the change either supports those goals or undercuts those goals is really the core aspect of making a great choice.

  • If the main goal is to simply reduce cost, then consider the cost of transition, cost of protecting knowledge assets, changing of or restating policies, regulations, procedures, and confidential considerations.
  • If the main goal is to obtain a more skilled, experienced service staff, then the organization needs to consider how to transition existing knowledge and experience to ensure the work history and critical data is transitioned to the new staff.

There are other important judgments to make as well. For example:

  • Is the current organization in proper alignment with the overall organization, its goals, and its core business? If not, how does this affect the decision?
  • Is the service function currently managed in a way that is integrated with the organization's profitability goals? If not, why not? If so, then how will a change affect the integration?
  • Is the service function's performance measured against key metrics that are tied to the overall organization's goals and core business success? If it is, how will these measures be applied in a new sourcing scenario? If they are not, how will the organization know that the change is actually improving things?

Leadership is pressed to make very tough decisions and many times the departments they misunderstand or see as a potential drain on the overall core business is typically one of the first targets for change. Changing the sourcing scenario is complicated, costly, and time-consuming. Both the overall organization leadership and the facility services department management need to invest in figuring out what the real issues are that support and undercut achievement before making big decisions.


The purpose of this article is not to identify whether in-sourcing is better than outsourcing or whether the only way you can change an organization's facility services department or group is to do one or the other. Change can be good, but only if it's implemented with the full knowledge and understanding of what the impact will be. The key is asking the organization and the facility services department to honestly answer the hard questions. Will you repeat the mistakes of the past?

Is your organization effectively managing facility services? The right consultant can help you confront the dynamic challenges that arise along the road to implementing high-performance facilities management programming and processes. They will listen carefully, analyze your concerns, and bring clarity to complex issues.


About PRP:

Performance Resource Partners is a collaboration of talented consultants with extensive experience solving complex operational and organizational challenges. We help clients make significant, lasting improvements to the performance and profitability of their facilities. As a network of collaborating consultants, we deliver solutions faster, better and more cost-effectively than traditional consulting firms. 

Learn more at or contact us at (781) 885-7245.

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Performance Resource Partners

91 South Street • Holbrook, MA 02343 • O: 781-885-7245 • C: 978-836-7103 •