Optus’ decision to outsource –and offshore - more of its back-of-house work is in line with trends that have dominated many sectors in recent years, especially finance and communications.
Initially driven largely by the search for cheap labour, the trend has, if anything, become more marked as the handling of certain functions has also become more specialised and intensive as a result of technological changes such as cloud computing.
In its recent outsourcing move, for instance, Optus says it is seeking not only cost savings but better feed-back from the data it can now collect from customers ie better analytics based on “big data” technologies and systems.
Enter the global giants such as Infosys.
Interestingly though, Optus’ approach has been questioned by at least one outsourcing specialist as being a little old fashioned – not because it destroys local jobs, but because it doesn’t automate them quickly enough!
According to Sydney-based Mohit Sharma, quoted in the Australian Financial Review, Optus should be “looking into advances in automation technology to do the same thing faster and cheaper”.
Communication workers are no strangers to automation but the coming wave is set to provide sharp challenges. Retraining is part of the answer, but it is surely time for the shorter working week to play a larger part in the labour movement’s agenda if current technological advances are to benefit the many, not just the few.