4 tasks you fear to outsource but should try

To save money, reconsider these ripe outsourcing opportunities you may have never (or were afraid to) put on the table

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Applegate says her initial concerns about handing over regulatory compliance work to an outside entity turned out to be mostly unfounded. By working closely with Vitale Caturano, she could define a strategy that would allow East Coast to comply with the new regulations while safeguarding customer privacy. "We probably would follow the same path if starting over again," she says. "We did not understand the depth of our needs."

Outsourcing opportunity No. 4: Environmental activities
Even as budgets are slashed, many IT shops are feeling increasing pressure to pursue "green" business practices. Outsourcing is a potentially cost-saving way to offload ongoing eco-tasks -- such as environmental audits and hardware disposal -- that lie outside of an IT shop's core competency. Yet many managers are reluctant to pull the trigger on environmental outsourcing, believing that the concept is too amorphous to outsource or because they are skeptical of green issues in general.

Bob Brand has a different view, however. Vice president of corporate security at media giant Cox Enterprises, Brand sees one facet of green outsourcing -- hardware disposal -- as both a potential money-saver and as a way of enhancing IT security.

[ Learn how to green your technology in Ted Samson's Sustainable IT blog. ]

From Brand's viewpoint, routine hardware disposal risks exposing enterprise secrets to recyclers and other unknown parties. By handing the work over to an outside firm -- Redemtech, in his case -- Brand believes that Cox is relieving IT of a time-consuming task, deriving the maximum value out of its IT hardware assets, and guaranteeing that enterprise data is protected as it enters the recycling process. "With Redemtech we will extend the life of computing equipment while ensuring responsible recycling at the end of life and provide secure treatment of customer and company data, which will measurably contribute to this goal," he says.

"In a widely distributed company, [green] outsourcing offers a straightforward means for centralizing, thus simplifying and controlling fragmented practices that represent real inefficiency and risk," says Robert Houghton, Redemtech's president. "Because environmental and privacy laws are proliferating at the state and local levels, a specialist in the field is often better able to protect a company’s interests in such arcane matters than the organization’s own employees, who may lack the essential in-depth knowledge."

Brand notes that Cox's green outsourcing initiative didn't come without effort. "It took us about six months to develop our strategy," he says. "Progress is going well. However, it could be several years before we're able to fully implement our plans across our operating businesses, which are largely decentralized and include nearly 78,000 employees worldwide."

Yet Brand believes that his company made the right decision. "The icing on the cake is realizing the return on your investment that leads to environmental and economic sustainability," he says.

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