Knowledge Workers Can Make Your Day

In the blog posts Necessary Evil Time and Experts: 25% More Output a Dayexperts were identified as people invested with specialist skills and knowledge involved in core business processes: planners, designers and inspectors; engineers, technicians and scientists; analysts, editors and technical salespeople; and so on. I set out the underlying arithmetic behind Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), which liberates experts in businesses where data is primal to products and services, and to market position. In summary, what a company needs to do is:


  1. Identify the mundane, preparatory, or background tasks, those “necessary evils” within its experts’ day that they do — the ones that set them up to do the important, revenue-generating tasks that are their real reason for being in the business, their “raison d’être”;
  2. Outsource those necessary evils to a knowledge worker;
  3. Use the freed-up time to allow experts to do more of what they love doing, and what directly creates wealth;
  4. Let the business enjoy not only its experts’ increased daily output, but also the reduced cost of their necessary evil time — knowledge workers don’t get paid as much as in-house experts.
  5. In the example shown, the arrangement reduces cost per unit output by 15%. The cost benefit will vary according to circumstances.

This is KPO. How is a knowledge worker qualified to pick up the necessary evils of an in-house expert? The knowledge worker is not trying to be a copy of the expert, but to pick up clearly defined tasks that are not best use of the expert’s faculties, yet which do require intelligence and induction into those tasks through knowledge transfer. This provides a clear scope to the competency required that is not the same as saying: give me another expert like him or her. In general, knowledge workers are people of the right calibre who can understand the context of the tasks they do while applying documented procedures and rules, and sound judgements. The Philippines as a pool of knowledge workers My own interest going back to the early ‘90s is with knowledge workers in the Philippines — a developing nation but one with first world office spaces and intelligent, English-speaking talent. The Philippines outsourcing industry is well-respected and growing. It expects to create 170,000 new jobs in 2015; reach estimated revenue of $20–25bn in 2016; and, contribute 11% to Philippines GDP by 2020. The KPO workforce is powered by over half-a-million graduates a year coming onto the labour market, and here’s a picture of what they graduate in:


This graduate talent is supplemented, in my experience, by practicing professionals such as doctors, engineers and scientists who bring the highest level of capability to the KPO market. Experts find that knowledge workers in the Philippines can take up the mantle and liberate them from necessary evil time. And, once they’ve tasted the reality, they start looking for other tasks they can delegate. Filipinos are diligent, caring people. The good news is that giving KPO a go does not involve heavy funding or adverse risk to a business, only a commitment to the outsourcing relationship. Business managers and developers may hesitate to adopt KPO for various reasons, one of which is a concern over the ability of external knowledge workers to live up to the standards of in-house experts. I have indicated here that a clearly-defined scope of outsourced tasks, with the right labour pool, not only allows KPO to happen but also for it to effectively solve the necessary evil problem. Next time, I shall look at a real case, illustrating KPO being first adopted and then evolving to support business growth.