IP or commodity skill?

One of the trends that started at the end of the 20th Century and gathered pace in the 21st is the move to outsource certain parts of IT in the business to low costs providers.

This seemed a great idea at first as you could reduce, or fix your costs, for the more commodity skills. These included the provisioning of machines and desktop support of operating systems.

This also took its place in running data centres where support for standard machines and OS’s was seen as an off the shelf skill.

As the pace to outsource gathered more and more tasks were deemed to be commodity skills and candidates to outsource. Resources with many years’ experience if the various tools and there usage in the organisation were let go and replaced by these type of deals.

This is where the problems started to arise. Many of the skills that were chosen appeared to be a commodity skill but management failed to realise that once you deviated from the standard usage of the product you were in fact moving into the realms of intellectual property.

Take for instance support for ERP systems like SAP or Oracle amongst others. These are deemed to be fairly standard applications that you can churn skills out of training camps in a standard manner and then get them supporting business.

However we all know this isn’t true it isn’t what they are using that is important it’s the how they are using it that really matters. Company A and B both may have inventory and financials but the chances are they use the same package in totally different ways and on top of that the chances are they have both modified the core system in different ways.

So the concept of being able to get resources at the turn of a tap becomes increasingly more difficult because they also need to have knowledge specific to the particular company they are working for.

One of the major trends currently in business is the concept of nurturing your talent and the fact that those business that develop their talent will be the winners in the future so decision makers need to be very certain that anything they consider for outsourcing in the future is a real “commodity skill” to avoid losing all their Intellectual property.

As we move more and more toward the future and the true knowledge economy of high skill; high paid employment the distinction between the two will be more important than ever.