Many times, business organizations encounter the dilemma of ethical decision making. “If a CIO says ‘I’ve never faced an ethical issue’, they’re not living in the real world,” says Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the Ponemon Institute, a security and privacy research think tank based in Arizona.
Though business relationships are more economic in nature, their moral and ethical dimensions have an equal impact on profitability. When it comes to the ethics of outsourcing, matters become more complicated, as parities involved are continents away. A judicious choice between the right and the wrong person to do business with will determine the future of your outsourcing venture.
Why is it important to do business with organizations that are ethical?
Ethical compliance presents a strong public image and upholds the integrity and character of an organization. Whether personal or professional, not many of us will want to associate with unethical individuals. It makes a lot more sense to do business with ethical organizations as it has a direct influence on the overall functioning of a business.
When things go wrong!
This is the acid test. The way your outsourcing partner reacts during a crisis is the best indicator of whether it is ethical or unethical. When there is mutual trust and responsibility towards each other, a crisis management mechanism will automatically evolve. Ethics creates a space for itself and in ensuring the smooth running of businesses.
Legal perceptions may differ from one nation to the other and ambiguity could arise when a dispute occurs, leaving both parties in a fix. The association becomes easier when the parties have a legal, moral and ethical obligation to comply with the agreement, with due respect to international law.
The core concern of outsourcing ethics is confidential information security. Privacy and security fall under the ‘no compromise zone’. Sujoy Chohan, a consultant at IT research specialists, Gartner Company, says, “If there is any industry which is investing in security tremendously, it is the offshore industry, whether it is India or elsewhere”.
Chief Privacy Officers are highly concerned about proper information security practices. If your outsourcing partner does not have adequate information security measures, it might be wise to stay clear of them.
How does an outsourcer identify organizations which are doing ethical business?
Everyone claims to be ethical. Though a clear definition of the parameters for identifying organizations with ethical conscience will be a difficulty, some factors are vivid.
It is nothing but trust that makes someone want to outsource. Weigh the dependability and reliability of the organizations to which you want to outsource.
A clear definition and practice of the ethical rules and privacy policies of the organization like non-disclosure of trade secrets, secrecy and non-disclosure contracts with staff, third party service providers and visitors is a prerequisite. This will reassure the outsourcer that it is safe to do business with a partner who is miles away.
Information security will largely depend on the people who handle the information. Organizations that implement tough employee credibility measures have a direct implication on its outsourcing ethics.
Clear and open communication channels are another sign of an ethical company. When a project does not go the right way, an ethical partner will always keep you informed of the problem and possible solutions and time needed.
A thorough enquiry should be made about the organization and their nature of work management. Talking to the employees and references will give a clear idea about the professional approach of an organization. Check if the following requirements are met by your outsourcing partner:
oProper information security systems
oAppropriate quality certifications such as ISO 9000 or SEI CMM
oAppropriate programs to protect the trade secrets of its clients, partners and their customers
oTraining and upgrading the security skills and awareness of employees.
oSafety of electronic data storage
oPresence of a whistleblower
oProper arrangement with third party service providers
How does being ethical help in reducing the risks of offshore outsourcing?
You can always find companies that offer services at very low costs. An ethical concern might seem to be a costlier choice. However, the price difference could be deceptive as the variation will only be in the initial cost. In the long run, the overall cost will prove to be much lower when you are working with an ethical partner.
Ethical vs. Unethical partnership
oThe cost of maintaining the project and the relationship will be high
oLack of trust
oNon disclosure of facts
oLack of transparency
oKnowing the risks and managing them together
oProper management systems
Before making an outsourcing decision, the outsourcer should also be clear about the responsibilities that he should share. This will help in building a healthy relationship base.
owillingness to discuss
olast agreed document should be the basis
obuild flexibility to contracts
oopenness to intermediate scope and price review
Make sure that all the loop holes which can disrupt the outsourcing process are dealt with. The benefits of outsourcing are sure to show up with safe outsourcing practices.