The Company that Outsourced Itself to Death

A short story about bad ideas, based on 10 years and a variety of work places.

At the company that outsourced itself to death, it had been time to make one of those rare but important international phone calls. It was a desk phone type of call, the kind you want to make in private, preferably in a conference room.

The problem was this, ‘telephony’ was outsourced four years ago.

The company was by then paying £25 per phone per month, yet none of those phones seemed to work. As it was nearing the end of that particular outsourced contract, no one could be bothered making a fuss about the service level agreement.

Did those desk phones ever work? someone asked.

dark glass is the suspcious beard of the office building

dark glass is the ‘suspicious beard’ of office building design

If they did, they were impossible to understand and no one ever learned how to use them. The lights flashed constantly with backed up voicemails no one could retrieve.

‘Hope none of those are important,’ someone always said. Others always laughed, a sort of dead-inside laugh. A laugh that said: of course some of those were important.

‘I’ll just use my own mobile,’ people always ended up thinking. Except with those important international calls you don’t want to do that. So that call always got postponed.

It used to be that you could just call in on Terry in Ops. Terry and his team used to sort that stuff out, until his side of the business was outsourced. The guy that oversaw all that, Pete, saved the company thousands. Then Pete left.

Our funky windows set us apart from the rest

Our funky windows set us apart from the rest

We would have brought all this stuff with the phones up with Pete were he still with us. Every company has a Pete. Or rather, every company used to.

Now even the food is outsourced. Any army marches on its stomach, and Race-to-the-Bottom Catering certainly understand that. They have the contract for our canteen and all our vending machines.

Do you remember when it was Sally’s retirement day. Everyone loved Sally and we all wanted to bring in that cocktail making guy we’d read about. Sally certainly loves cocktails!

Only RTB Catering said it was all there in their contract that no food or drink was allowed to be made on company premises, except by them.

So we had their Argentinian Sauvignon Plonk and vacuum-packed nibbles. There were red paper tablecloths and everything. What an atmosphere!

I'm the office block equivalent of a beaten wife

I’m the office block equivalent of a beaten wife

The lack of variety, imagination, and indeed nutrition, RTB offer hits morale every lunchtime. Why did we ever go with them? staffers ask. Think it was Pete’s idea. Or that guy that came after Pete.

The company that outsourced itself to death got more bad news last week. Bottleneck Tech Ltd, the firm that covered the outsourced back end of the company website went bust! It happens.

This was something we all argued about, back in the day. ‘We should keep that stuff in-house, just in case..’ Terry in Ops warned us.

Just in case what? ‘Just in case they go bust!’ But just look at the money we could save by outsourcing it! We could fire all those dreary unwashed guys in the web dev team.

Leave your soul in reception

Leave your soul in reception

So now the company that outsourced itself to death needs to find another web company. There are plenty of them out there. Only now they’re asking ten times what we used to pay Bottleneck.

They say its because their engineers need to unravel the last five years’ worth of mysterious bolt-ons, shoddy work-arounds and borrowed code.

The new firm, Squid-Lickers (quirky name, true, but cut-throat people…beware!) said it’s such a monumental headache they’re not even sure they want the contract. So we’ve had to offer them even more.

Let’s all go to the RTB canteen, buy one of their dull, pre-packed, half-filled sandwiches and mull this over, someone suggested.

Hey! What about the Head of Comms’ idea about getting that blue chip consultancy firm in? Audit the crap out of the whole business. Get a bright, fresh perspective!

I demand your respect, this is a serious place of work.

I demand your respect, this is a serious place of work.

It was a lot of money and a big gamble, but since none of us had any faith in our own perception of things, or wanted to learn anything the hard way, we got in this firm of firebrand Alpha males called Ker-Ching! Inc.

They gave us a new company logo and a big, thick ‘style guide’ no one here can understand.

They used the word synergy in ways good grammar shouldn’t allow. They wore expensive clothes that somehow made us all anxious.

As we suspected, it turned out we’d been doing everything wrong. Ker-Ching! Inc. told us sticking to their style guide would ensure the world saw us differently.

Unfortunately half the Marketing guys resigned over Ker-Ching! Inc.’s assertion that our approach to ‘paid media’ belonged in the same bin as the shake’n’vac ad. They accused our guys of ‘channeling the ghost of Victor Kiam.’

Can a building feel loneliness? This one can and it's weeping.

Can a building feel loneliness? This one can and it’s weeping.

Ker-Ching! Inc. are going to find us a company to do all our social media. Bad news for the team that used to do that. And the thing is, staff turnover is already pretty high, especially now we sold off and moved out of our quirky old red-brick Victorian building and into this shared, rented glass tower built on reclaimed toxic brown-belt.It’s not that people don’t like the space, it’s just the outsourced car parking company has us by the collective wrinkly sack. Ker-Ching! Inc. and Purple Pants (creators of heat-seeking Social Media!) always make excuses when we invite them over.

It’s almost like they can smell death.

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