Saturday, 23 March 2013

A risk in outsourcing: (Not) Embracing Digital Procurement Strategy

I have been discussing Digital Procurement Strategy over the last few weeks. I thought I had said as much as I was going to until I read Thursday's report in The Guardian on the gagging orders allegedly placed on probation staff during the current outsourcing process of 70% of the work. This provides lessons for all those involved in outsourcing and change management.

As I see it, some stakeholders affected by the outsourcing decision aren't happy - should that be a surprise when your job is at risk, particularly in the current economic climate. They have not been won over during the change management process. They assumed they had freedom of speech and social media provided the channel. The main champion of the proposed outsourcing (the Justice Secretary) doesn't like what is being said using social media, so has chosen to effectively issue a gagging order on any dissenting voices. The gagging order isn't restricted to the disgruntled workers criticism but also applies to their 'retweeting' of others views (potentially this blog too). Seems like a strange view of justice but then perception counts for a lot. There also seems to be more than a little contradiction between the MoJ's view of the world and the proposed NHS Duty of Candour!

Of course we also need to remember that there are more stakeholders than the staff - there are the other potential providers (as I discussed in Probation's Dilemma a few weeks ago).

We are currently in the outsourcing process, what will happen when the contracts are subsequently awarded - will social media turn the process into another West Coast Rail debacle, will contract management become a target of social media, etc...?

My suggestion is that:
  1. Recognise social media is two way - you may see it as part of external communications but it is also market communication about and to you;
  2. Digital Procurement Strategy needs to reflect the risks of stakeholder engagement, misalignment and criticism;
  3. Any potential discussion, yes, even a discussion, on outsourcing needs to be viewed within the context of a change management programme, even if it may not lead to outsourcing;
  4. Trying to stifle social media is unlikely to be productive.

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