BPO, or Business Process Outsourcing is the darling of the last few years. Everyone wants to outsource everything, and if you don't outsource some aspects of your business, chances are you are running around like a head chicken fighting fires. The fact is, BPO is good for business as it allows you to focus on your core activities and allow others who are more specialist and focused to take care of the non-core, but essential aspects of your business. In truth, all firms do outsource to some degree. Just having your accounts prepared and audited is a form of outsourcing.

Councils adopted the BPO model in the 80's when many services, for better of for worse, were outsourced and put out to tender. In the last 25 years many of the larger consulting firms have grown substantial and profitable departments dedicated to providing advice and implementation of BPO to all manner of businesses. However, BPO, or access to it has gone through a paradigm shift of late, and with the emergence of websites such as Guru.com, Elance.com and PPH, outsourcing suddenly becomes a reality for the smaller business and allows them to compete head to head with larger competitors.

A good example would be a software platform that I developed in the late 90's. This sophisticated managed procurement platform took a year and a half to develop, cost more than $1m and at it's peak had 12 developers working on it. I can now have a similar, more contemporary solution developed in just 6 months at a cost of $50,000. How ? Well, technology has moved on, so that helps, but mostly because I use freelancers on Guru and Elance. I am then free to architect a solution and work on the strategic aspect, whilst highly experienced and technically able developers make it a reality.

Ok, so this is great if you want a top tier program developed, but what about a brochure, or simple 5 page website for a small business ? Go to Guru, put the job spec in and watch the proposals flood in. The ability of the freelancers on these sites is staggering. The cost of the work is amazing. I recently commissioned a fully operational eCommerce site for a friend in the car parts industry, with graphics, products added and payment integration for just $600. That also included SEO work.

It doesn't stop at websites and brochures. You can get marketing guru's, accountants, secretarial, even calls centres from as little as $4 per hour on a pay by use basis. This allows you to offer the same quality service normally only affordable by larger corporations, for a fraction of the cost. Most service providers now have operatives that speak good English, so don't worry too much about your customers being able to understand what is being said.

Of course, there are pitfalls to BPO. You have to make sure that your job spec is detailed and that you are clear about all deliverables, timescales, needs etc, or you are not being fair on yourself of the freelancer. The key is to think carefully about what you want and articulate this with words and graphics if required. Communicate with your freelancers regularly and make sure you use the escrow tools provided so that you don't lose money, which I have done several times.

The BPO model can elevate your business and allow you to compete at a level that you never thought possible before. You can quickly "E" enable your business and compete online for surprisingly low costs.