Outsourcing has more than one connotation. In one instance, when we talk about outsourcing, we don’t necessarily mean the letting of an outside third party handle parts of your business, but the kind of outsourcing that comes with using technology to take care of everyday tasks.
Technology is seamlessly integrated into our daily lives. At home, and especially at work, we use technology almost without thinking. Many day to day tasks are automated at work. Marketing departments in particular are developing and executing plans using artificial intelligence to reach out to, engage, sell to and retain customers. Companies with the right tech can gather all kinds of data about customers and prospects. However, as we become more and more dependent on artificial intelligence, we must also acknowledge that ultimately, the responsibility to ensure that this data is used in an appropriate manner, lies with us and not the artificial intelligence.
The recent headlines about the misuse of consumer data should give us all pause. There have been large-scale data breaches with increasing frequency, leaving customers worried about the security of their information. In the midst of these feelings of insecurity, marketers of any kind of services have a responsibility to reassure their customers about the safety of their data. In fact, marketers could take it a step further and educate their customers about how to protect their data and how to seek recourse should that data be compromised.
The fact is, that artificial intelligence is as fallible as humans are. After all, we build the algorithms that are used in artificial intelligence. Some of these fails can be funny, like Alexa’s laugh, but other examples, like the varying accuracy of facial recognition technology based on race can be much more troubling. What all of this means is that, the coders building the algorithms, the companies using the data driven tools and the marketers creating campaigns, should maintain a sense of awareness to ensure that they don’t inadvertently create something that stereotypes, decides unfairly or misuses data. Ultimately, it is the human beings behind the technology that remain accountable.
Now, let’s look at traditional outsourcing, i.e. companies turning over some of their responsibilities to third party providers. It is equally important in this situation for the company to retain accountability, even as parts of their operations are outsourced. The reality is that there are bound to be some gaps between the company’s expectations and what the third party provider is able to deliver. This will lead to angry customers or partners. A key part is to ensure that there are resources internally that are able to exercise effective oversight over the third party providers.
Accountability has to be managed, just like anything else. Think about a project or task that is performed solely inhouse. There is usually a project manager or a department head who is in charge overall, and possibly several other team members who carry out the tasks. When a task is outsourced, there still needs to be someone inhouse who will own the integration of the deliverables back to the company.
It is important to remember that outsourcing, whether to artificial intelligence or to a third party is simply an additional tool to successfully deliver what your company promises to its customers. It does not mean that a computer or third party is accountable to your customers. The final accountability for the customer lies with you and your company.