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In business, outsourcing involves the contracting out of a business process (e.g. payroll processing, claims processing) and operational, and/or non-core functions (e.g. manufacturing, facility management, call center support) to another party (see also business process outsourcing). The concept outsourcing came from the American Glossary outside resourcing and it dates back to at least 1981. Outsourcing sometimes involves transferring employees and assets from one firm to another, but not always. Outsourcing is also the practice of handing over control of public services to for-profit corporations.

Outsourcing includes both foreign and domestic contracting, and sometimes includes offshoring (relocating a business function to a distant country) or nearshoring (transferring a business process to a nearby country). Many people confuse outsourcing and offshoring however they are different. A company can outsource (work with a service provider) and not offshore to a distant country. For example, in 2003 Procter and Gamble outsourced their facilities management support, but it did not involve offshoring. Financial savings from lower international labor rates can provide a major motivation for outsourcing or offshoring. There can be tremendous savings from lower international labor rates when offshoring.

The opposite of outsourcing, insourcing, entails bringing processes handled by third-party firms in-house, and is sometimes accomplished via vertical integration. However, a business can provide a contract service to another organization without necessarily insourcing that business process.

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