Conquering the 12-Step Insourcing Transition: A Guide to Success

By Allan Watton on

insourcing servicesAs the complexity of a particular service delivery increases, if there is no internal capacity to manage it or if specialist expertise is required to deliver to expected standards, organisations have, for decades, looked to outsource.

However, the natural evolution of some outsourced services is for them to come home to roost – if outsourced partners have not delivered to expected standards, or internal capacity and capability have increased, or simply if organisations have decided to go a different way.

This is when those organisations need to think long and hard about the relative benefit of bringing those services back in-house – insourcing them – and to recognise the full complexity of the task ahead of them.

Understanding Insourcing

As most of those who read our articles are likely to already be fully aware of this, insourcing refers to the practice of bringing previously outsourced services back in-house. This strategic decision allows organisations to regain direct control over their operations, often with the aim of improving service quality, reducing costs, or increasing operational flexibility. I did say that this is an organisation’s desired ‘aim’ because often they will discover that the process of insourcing can be far more complex and challenging than was previously thought and lead occasionally to having to tweak or completely realign those aims.

From a business perspective, insourcing requires careful planning and management to ensure continuity of services, successful transfer of knowledge and assets, and effective integration into existing operations. Potential challenges include the need for upskilling or hiring new staff, making substantial changes to business processes, and investing in new infrastructure or technology.

Your supplier may not be particularly excited at the prospect of the termination of an existing outsourcing contract so they could add to the complexity of the process, which may often be fraught with legal intricacies and relationship management issues and the need to ensure a smooth handover of responsibilities, especially if they are leaning towards a hostile attitude. A well-structured and meticulously executed plan is, therefore, essential to navigate these challenges and realise the potential benefits of insourcing.

The 12-Step Insourcing Transition

Terminating a complex outsourcing relationship and transitioning services in-house, or to multiple contractors, involves several key steps.

Here’s a general outline of what is required, albeit, the order of these steps may change and/or overlap according to the services being considered for insourced delivery:

Step 1: Determine your ‘Future State’
It is important to be clear about what the insourced service is likely to look like once it has been transferred from your outsourced partner and is operating in a BAU capacity. This will then inform the order of your next steps and the degree to which some of those steps will overlap with one another.

It is, therefore, critical to define your ‘future state‘ or new ‘target operating model‘ before reviewing current outsourcing contracts. The reason for this is that your future state sets the direction and requirements for your insourcing initiative. By clearly articulating what the desired state of your in-house operations should be, you establish a vision and a framework for the subsequent steps in the insourcing process.

Without a defined future state, you lack a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve with insourcing. This can lead to inefficiencies, confusion, and potential gaps in your transition plan. It becomes, therefore, increasingly challenging to assess the suitability of existing outsourcing contracts, as you may not have a clear benchmark or desired outcome to compare them against.

Step 2: Define your delivery strategy: Defining your delivery strategy involves making a strategic decision on how the services will be delivered, determining whether they will be brought in-house, outsourced to multiple providers or a combination of both. This decision has significant implications for the transition plan and the overall success of the insourcing initiative. It affects resource allocation, operational processes and the level of control and flexibility you have over service delivery.

It is important to provide clarity and direction for the transition plan. It helps you determine the most suitable approach for delivering the services based on factors such as cost-effectiveness, expertise availability, and operational requirements.

This informed approach ensures that the transition plan is tailored to the chosen delivery mechanism, enabling a smoother and more successful transition of services. Ultimately, defining your delivery strategy helps set the stage for achieving your desired outcomes in the insourcing journey.

Step 3: Review existing contract(s): Examine the current outsourcing contract(s) to gain a comprehensive understanding of the terms and conditions associated with termination. This entails assessing factors such as notice periods, potential termination fees, the process for returning (any) assets and the obligations for both you and the supplier that exist during the transition period. Conducting a thorough review of the contract(s) is essential as it provides crucial insights into the legal and financial implications of terminating the outsourcing agreement and transitioning services in-house.

Understanding the termination clauses and associated costs allows for informed decision-making during the insourcing process. It enables you to determine the appropriate timing and approach for transitioning services. Consider any financial implications and plan for a smooth handover of assets and responsibilities.

Additionally, reviewing the contract(s) helps establish a clear framework for engaging with the current outsourcing provider during the transition, reducing the potential for disputes and ensuring a transparent and efficient termination process. By following these steps, organisations can navigate the complexities of terminating the outsourcing arrangement and effectively manage the legal, financial and operational aspects of the transition.

Step 4: Build a transition team: Establish a team comprised of representatives from all areas of your business that will be affected by the insourcing process in order to capture diverse perspectives, gather necessary expertise and foster collaboration and effective communication throughout the insourcing journey. It’s important to ensure that all relevant stakeholders are involved and their interests are represented. This multidisciplinary approach allows for comprehensive planning and consideration of various factors, such as operational requirements, resource allocation, process changes, and stakeholder expectations.

The transition team acts as a central point of coordination, working collectively to address challenges, resolve issues, and maintain a clear line of communication throughout the insourcing initiative. Ultimately, the team’s collaborative efforts help to streamline the transition process, foster employee engagement and increase the likelihood of a successful insourcing implementation.

Step 5: Develop a transition plan: Create a comprehensive plan that outlines the specific steps required to exit the current outsourcing contract and transition services effectively. This plan should encompass critical areas such as staff transfers (including TUPE if you are based in the UK – there are also international equivalents), asset transfers, knowledge transfer, and ensuring continuity of service throughout the transition period. Developing a robust transition plan is essential as it provides a structured framework to navigate the complex process of terminating the existing contract and smoothly transferring responsibilities in-house.

The importance of a well-developed transition plan lies in its ability to ensure a seamless and efficient transition while minimising disruptions to operations. By detailing the necessary steps and timelines, the plan allows for proactive management of resources, coordination of activities, and identification of potential risks and challenges. Addressing areas such as staff transfers ensures a smooth transition of personnel, facilitates knowledge retention and maintains employee morale. Key points include:

    • Asset transfers involve the proper transfer and allocation of physical assets, technology systems, and intellectual property rights.
    • Knowledge transfer, including capturing and documenting critical information, expertise and processes is vital for preserving institutional knowledge and facilitating the effective onboarding of in-house teams.
    • Continuity of service during the transition period is crucial to minimise any potential impact on customers, clients, or stakeholders.

Overall, a well-developed transition plan provides a roadmap for successful insourcing implementation and sets the foundation for a seamless transfer of services.

Step 6: Risk assessment: Conduct a thorough evaluation to identify potential risks associated with the transition process and develop appropriate mitigation plans. These risks may include operational disruptions, loss of knowledge or expertise, potential legal disputes and other challenges that often arise during the insourcing initiative. Performing a comprehensive risk assessment is crucial as it allows organisations to proactively identify and address potential pitfalls, minimising the impact on operations.

By identifying risks early on, organisations can develop mitigation strategies to minimise their impact or prevent them from occurring altogether. This includes establishing contingency plans, implementing proper knowledge transfer mechanisms and ensuring legal compliance throughout the transition process.

A thorough risk assessment also helps organisations prepare for any operational disruptions or challenges that may arise, allowing them to allocate resources, plan for contingencies and maintain service continuity. Ultimately, by proactively addressing potential risks, organisations can increase the chances of a successful insourcing implementation, safeguard their operations and protect their reputation and relationships with stakeholders.

Step 7: Stakeholder communication: It is crucial to develop a well-structured communication plan to keep all stakeholders, including employees, customers and new potential service providers, informed about the transition process. Effective communication plays a vital role in ensuring transparency, managing expectations and fostering stakeholder engagement throughout the insourcing initiative. By developing a comprehensive communication plan, organisations can provide timely and accurate information, address concerns, and maintain trust and confidence during this transformative period.

By keeping employees informed about the insourcing process, organisations can alleviate uncertainties, reduce anxieties and maintain morale and productivity. Communicating with customers ensures transparency, allowing them to anticipate and prepare for any potential changes in service delivery.

Additionally, engaging with those who will be the new service providers helps to establish relationships, clarify expectations and facilitate a seamless handover. A well-executed communication plan enables organisations to address any misconceptions, manage potential resistance and build trust and collaboration among stakeholders. Ultimately, effective stakeholder communication contributes to a successful insourcing initiative, enhances relationships and supports a positive transition experience for all involved parties.

Step 8: Negotiate termination with current provider: It is crucial to inform the current provider of your intent to terminate the contract in accordance with the terms and conditions specified in your agreement. This process involves open and transparent communication to ensure a smooth and mutually agreed upon termination. It is important to engage in negotiations as per the agreement to maintain a professional relationship, manage any potential legal implications and facilitate an orderly transition.

This allows for a clear understanding of the termination process, including notice periods, obligations and potential penalties or fees outlined in the contract. Following the agreed upon termination process helps maintain legal compliance and mitigates the risk of potential disputes.

Also, engaging in negotiations enables both parties to discuss and address any outstanding issues, concerns or dependencies that may impact the transition. This allows for a more comprehensive and collaborative resolution, ensuring a smoother handover of responsibilities and minimising disruptions. By negotiating termination with the current provider, organisations can foster a cooperative environment, preserve professional relationships and facilitate a successful transition to the insourced team.

Step 9: Begin transition: Initiating the transition involves commencing the process of transferring assets, staff and knowledge from the current provider to facilitate the seamless handover of responsibilities. It is crucial to ensure service continuity during this period to minimise disruptions and maintain operational effectiveness. Beginning the transition is important as it marks the practical implementation of the insourcing initiative and sets the foundation for a successful transition.

Transferring assets, such as equipment, software systems or physical infrastructure, ensures that the necessary resources are in place for the continued provision of services. Additionally, the transfer of staff from the current provider to the in-house team helps preserve institutional knowledge, expertise, and relationships, enabling a seamless transition that reduces the inevitable learning curve.

By ensuring service continuity throughout the transition, organisations can maintain customer satisfaction, uphold operational efficiency and minimise any potential negative impact on business operations. Initiating the transition in a well-planned and coordinated manner is essential for successful insourcing implementation and a smooth transfer of responsibilities.

Step 10: Procurement process for new providers: When transitioning to a multi-provider model, initiating the procurement process for new providers is essential. This involves several key steps, including developing the business case, clarifying requirements, engaging with the market early on, determining the procurement and contracting strategy informed by the early market engagement, and executing the procurement process itself. These steps are crucial for securing providers that align with the organisation’s objectives and requirements.

Developing a robust business case helps justify the need for new providers and garner support from stakeholders. Clarifying requirements will ensure that the organisation’s expectations and objectives are clearly communicated to potential providers. Early market engagement enables organisations to gather valuable insights, seek advice and inform their procurement strategy based on market feedback.

Issuing RFPs and evaluating bids allows for a fair and transparent selection process, ensuring that providers are assessed based on their ability to meet the organisation’s needs.

Finally, negotiating contracts helps establish mutually beneficial terms and conditions that protect the interests of both parties involved. The procurement process, when executed effectively, enables organisations to secure high-quality providers, establish strong contractual relationships, and lay the foundation for successful service delivery in either the insourced or multi-provider model.

Step 11: Implement new services: After contracting with the new providers and/or preparing to take the services in-house, it is crucial to commence the implementation process. This phase involves training staff, integrating systems and potentially re-engineering processes that were identified in earlier steps. Implementing new services is important as it ensures a smooth transition from the previous outsourcing arrangement to the new service delivery model, ultimately enabling the organisation to achieve its desired outcomes.

Training staff is vital to ensure that they are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively deliver the new services. This may involve conducting training programmes, workshops or knowledge transfer sessions to familiarise employees with the updated processes and technologies.

Integrating systems is essential for seamless information flow and operational efficiency. This may require aligning different software applications, data migration or establishing robust interfaces between systems.

Additionally, re-engineering processes may be necessary to optimise efficiency, remove redundancies and align workflows with the new service delivery model.

This step allows organisations to streamline operations, maximise productivity and adapt to the new way of working. By implementing new services through training, system integration and process re-engineering, organisations can successfully transition to the new service delivery model and realise the intended benefits of insourcing or engaging new providers.

Step 12: Monitor and adjust: Following the completion of the transition, it is essential to closely monitor the new arrangements to ensure they are delivering the expected results. This phase involves actively assessing the performance, outcomes and effectiveness of the insourced operations or the engagement with new collaborative providers. Being prepared to make adjustments as necessary is crucial in maintaining optimal performance and continuously improving service delivery.

Monitoring the new arrangements allows organisations to track key performance indicators, evaluate service quality and identify any areas for improvement. By closely monitoring the outcomes, organisations can determine if the objectives of the insourcing initiative are being met and if the expected benefits are being realised. In cases where there are gaps or shortcomings, adjustments can be made to address issues and optimise performance.

This may involve revisiting processes, reallocating resources, or implementing corrective measures. Being responsive to feedback and making necessary adjustments demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement and ensures that the insourced services or engagement with new collaborative providers remain aligned with organisational goals and stakeholder expectations. By actively monitoring and adjusting, organisations can achieve long-term success, optimise service delivery and maintain a high level of performance.


In summary, insourcing represents a significant opportunity for organisations to take control of their operations, driving improvements in quality, cost-effectiveness and flexibility. Yet, it is not without its challenges. It requires a strategic approach, meticulous planning and robust execution. The complexity of the process, encompassing everything from managing the exit from existing contracts to onboarding and training staff for the new in-house operations, cannot be underestimated.

However, with a well-defined strategy, a dedicated transition team, and a systematic step-by-step approach, the potential benefits can be substantial. By carefully managing the risks and keeping all stakeholders informed throughout the process, organisations can successfully navigate the insourcing journey.

The end result could well be a more agile, responsive and effective operation that is better aligned with the organisation’s strategic goals.