I was struck by two lists I saw this past week. One was in an advertising section in the back of the Fortune 500 issue from the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals (IAOP) with its list of 100 outsourcing leaders (appears primarily sized based though IBM, TCS the largest Indian firm, Cognizant and others were missing). ISS, the firm ranked second on the list, which does facilities management, catering, security services etc had an ad which thanked its 522,835 employees. Yes, 522,835!
In contrast, I saw the Thiel Foundation (related to Peter Thiel the investor in PayPal, Facebook, LinkedIn and a few other not-too shabby companies) list of 20 under 20 – young entrepreneurs who qualified for fellowships of $100,000 each (the list added 4 more after the initial 20 were announced). Peruse the list - amazing what these young folks have already accomplished so early in life. What’s interesting, even controversial, about the fellowship is it requires winners to drop out of school for 2 years. Indeed, the mother of one of the winners who will leave Harvard is quoted as saying “This is a different paradigm from what I grew up with”
Two weeks ago, at Sapphire Jim Hagemann Snabe, co-CEO of SAP hosted a group of bloggers and unsolicited, made the comment he wanted to meet with us because in the last few months he had become even more impressed with the power of individuals (as the Arab spring has shown forcefully).
The Sapphire expo floor was full of large, gargantuan booths of many of the firms in the IAOP list above. Yet, over and over again I heard questions about whether SAP would stick with its traditional larger partner firms as it rolls out its mobile ecosystem or whether it would emulate more of the Apple/Google model of entrepreneur created apps.
Outsourcing in many ways is at the crossroads. While some firms like Cognizant have been innovating and growing nicely (and this year cracked the Fortune 500 list), way too many have just become enamored with size in a world where individuals do seem to matter – and frankly have plenty of choices beyond becoming the 522,836th employee of a firm.
Welcome to a different paradigm than we all grew up with.