Darren Grayson Chng reviews an accessible book for lawyers and project managers handling outsourcing projects.
Outsourcing is a book I wish I had when I first started practising in the area. It is aimed at practitioners, and is produced by DLA Piper’s technology and outsourcing team. It covers not just outsourcing contracts and clauses, but also a range of practical and operational matters including the different stages of an outsourcing project, due diligence by customers and service providers, services schedules and service levels. What I did not expect to see in the book, and found interesting, was a section containing case study examples of what could go wrong in outsourcing, and “lessons learned” from them.
The book is written plainly enough so it should not pose a challenge to a non-legal audience. Project managers and procurement staff could find useful both those case study examples and the chapters relating to project management, such as business case preparation and budget allocation. The book goes as far as to give tips on the planning of timelines for each stage of the procurement process, which I find in practice is oft overlooked by project managers.
What might make the book more attractive to lawyers with some experience in outsourcing (especially those in-house), is much more page space spent on observations gleaned from practice, and practical considerations and recommendations. For example, where the book had identified the intriguing trend of customer-service provider relationships taking a different approach to profit and risk sharing, and being structured as joint ventures or a collaboration, I would have liked to know how the authors’ clients had framed such activities internally. This is because different narratives would attract different Procurement, Finance, and internal approval requirements.
And while the book’s extensive section on services schedules and service levels already consumes many pages, it could have been helpfully elevated with some views on when the customer or service provider would want to take the lead in setting service levels, matters in respect of which disputes frequently arose, and the pros and cons of accepting service credits in place of liquidated damages and how common this practice is.
The final part of the book contains a mini international comparative legal guide. Ten countries are covered: Australia, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates / Middle East, United Kingdom, and United States. Each country has its own section, covering at minimum the state of the outsourcing market, key legal differences, and what the market practice is. I would have liked to see more Asian countries here such as India, Indonesia, and Singapore, where outsourcing revenue is high or there is heavy dependence on outsourcing.
Overall, I think that Outsourcing would serve as a useful guidebook for lawyers, project managers and procurement staff new to the area, as well as those who learned about the topic on-the-job but need to gain some more formal insight.
Darren Grayson Chng is our International Associate Editor for Singapore
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