Out-tasking AR Activities [AR practitioner question]

question-mark-graphic.jpgInquiry: After posting The Prospect Profile Form, we got a call from a client who said it was a great idea, but she did not have the bandwidth to use this technique. The AR manager wanted to know what she could do in order to have time to do more for the sales team. 

AR departments are frequently short staffed and under hiring constraints. One method for overcoming this resource limitation is to out-task certain activities to contractors or PR firms.

In this particular case, we were discussing how an AR program could free-up the time needed to reach out to their company’s sales organization. It turns out that while our client understood the strategic impact and value of helping to drive sales by leveraging AR’s knowledge of the analysts, there was a major hurdle to overcome – not enough hours in the day. The company was and continues to be under a hiring freeze, so requesting additional AR headcount was out of the picture. However, during the conversation we discovered that there was limited budget to hire contractors or other outside resources. This turned out to be an underutilized resource as our client was not contracting out AR activities as aggressively as she could.

It is very important when considering this route to understand the difference between outsourcing and out-tasking. Outsourcing is traditionally associated with turning over operational responsibility for an entire business or IT process (e.g., outsourcing payroll management or mainframe datacenters). In this context, we are definitely not talking about outsourcing all of AR (usually appropriate only for startups). Rather, we suggested that our client take a serious look at all of their regular tasks and pick which ones could be turned over to an outside resource – thus the name out-tasking instead of outsourcing.

The types of tasks that are most suited to out-tasking are those that are non-strategic, repetitive, and easily understood. Following are three examples of what can and cannot be out-tasked:

  • Doing the logistics of setting up a series of phone-based briefings or a roadshow can be out-tasked. The actual interactions with the analysts should not be out-tasked.
  • AR staff should decide which articles should be included in the analyst newsletter, and determine the messaging and positioning of each article. Writing the articles, laying out the newsletter and sending it to the analysts can be out-tasked.
  • Gathering a database of analyst quotes in the press and published analyst research can be out-tasked. The AR staff retains responsibility for determining the relevance and accuracy of those quotes and research.
  • Providing training about the analysts and AR best practices can be out-tasked. The AR team retains control over what topics will be taught, what company policies to include and what issues to refer to the internal AR team.

There are many sources of outside labor that AR can leverage. For logistics support AR can turn to a contractor (see AR Contractors Directory). Research summaries and analytics can be turned over to AR services firms like Analyst Strategy Group. Training can be out-tasked to SageCircle (see 3/ Training). Of course, PR agencies can do logistics and press quote gathering as well.

SageCircle Technique:

  • Review the AR team’s activities to identify tasks that could be handed to an outside resource
  • Inventory available resources both new and companies who are already an established vendor in your procurement system (e.g., press clipping service used by PR team)
  • Develop processes for how outside resources will be managed
  • Negotiate contracts that out-task activities while retaining control

Bottom Line: AR staff has to be ruthless about managing its time. If budget is available, activities that are not strategic should be turned over to contractors or your PR firm. However, monitoring and supervising these outside resources is a critical success factor for out-tasking.

Question: What to you out-task at this time? What are the barriers to out-tasking more activities?


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