means sharing cost bases, profit ratios and business objectives. To a degree, it alsomeans sharing information you might prefer to keep in-house.What to Outsource?When outsourcing first entered the management arena in the 1980s, it was allabout saving money on essentially manual task; premises’ cleaning was a typical anearly example. The focus is now on access to skills, with outsourcing expanding toinclude areas closer and closer to the centre of business; companies are nowlooking to buy in outside expertise so that they can concentrate on their own coreactivities, and contract with external suppliers to provide many or most of thetactical elements. The shift from those early tasks has seen us move through other administrative andinfrastructure areas, towards innovation: how can the company move further aheadfaster than the competition? Outsourcing today, and the expertise that comes withthe specialist contractors, has now embraced R&D, design, product management,marketing, communications, even personnel supply and management. That development has not finished. Already into strategic functions, it is not unlikelythat outsourcing of core business areas – even the strategic direction of thecompany – could follow. Outsourcing should not be seen as just a money-savingmanagement device or tactic, but considered in terms of the potential value it canbring to a business.It may cost more to outsource, but the job may be better performed, the companyimage may be enhanced and it may release expensive management time for coreactivities. However, the year 2005 saw the possible critical turn of opinion regardingoutsourcing with some high-profile industrial activities. Some companies arereviewing how they define ‘core’ activities, which begs the question ‘are we seeinga start of the move to bring stuff back in-house?’Notwithstanding that development, what, in your specific business, should youconsider outsourcing and what should you retain in-house?Core and non-core activitiesA first assessment in considering whether or not to outsource is defining what youconsider to be your core business activities. Current practice dictates thatcompanies retain control of these areas. The thinking behind this is thatorganization should be left to concentrate on their core business activities withoutthe distraction of providing and managing non-core activities.