by Beth Bacheldor

U.K. Law Firm’s Outsourcing Deal Draws Fire

May 24, 2010
IT Leadership

It appears CMS Cameron McKenna is taking some heat for its more than $850 million outsourcing deal with Integreon.

Just last week I wrote about CMS Cameron McKenna, a law firm in the United Kingdom, that had hired Integreon to manage all of its back-office processes, which include non-billable tasks such as reports, research, accounting, human resources, marketing and communications, library and information services and technology functions. The 10-year deal is worth Ł583 million (about $852 million).

The firm, which is part of CMS, is one of Europe’s top provider of legal and tax services, said the outsourcing arrangement will enable it to better focus on its core competency – providing high-end legal and tax services, as well as handle its anticipated growth.

What it will not do—apparently—is make current employees feel all warm and fuzzy. According to an article in The Lawyer, a Web site and print publication for the legal profession, CMS Cameron McKenna’s outsourcing decision has stirred up a lot of criticism.

In fact, in this article on The Lawyer’s site, it has been reported that The Lawyer’s online message board has received numerous comments and complaints from CMS Cameron McKenna’s staff.

The criticism has not been lost on CMS Cameron McKenna’s executives either. Director of operations Tony Wright acknowledged that not all the employees are happy about the outsourcing decision, and also said that some functions of the business may not move over to Integreon, according to The Lawyer article.

Regardless of how it all turns out, CMS Cameron McKenna is trying to communicate what’s going on; its holding meetings with staff, setting up committees, and publishing regular newsletter updates, the article notes. It’s unclear to me whether the firm began all the communications efforts before the deal was struck, or after. 

Which brings me to this:  in this day and age, when so many are unsure of their job situations and unemployment numbers continue to run high (especially in the United Kingdom, where 2.51 million are unemployed, the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics reported earlier this month), it would seem prudent for companies to talk as early and as often as they can whenever there are major organizational and business model changes.  

Outsourcing decisions are almost always met with some criticism, but that criticism is much louder and stronger now, given the last few years of economic unrest. While discussing outsourcing plans staff-wide may not be feasible early on in the decision-making process, companies would be wise to begin setting up ways to involve employees right before but especially right after any deal is inked. It shows good faith to the people who actually make a company run. 

Moreover, getting input from staff is vital to a successful outsourcing arrangement. After all, the employees – the line managers, IT pros, developers and others – are the ones working day to day with the processes and systems that might be outsourced. These employees hold a wealth of knowledge and information about the day-to-day operations.

I think CMS Cameron McKenna’s response thus far, based on what I’ve read, appears to indicate that they’ve opened the lines of communication and are open to listening. The employees must do their part, too; communicate well and listen. And Integreonneeds to communicate and listen also.