Merriam-Webster to remove the term Outsourcing for IT and Business Services


Pressure from buyers to create more accurate terminology for what we commonly, but incorrectly, term as “outsourcing” for IT and business processes has spurred dictionary publisher, Merriam-Webster, to remove the term from their next edition.

Instead, when firms purchase services from technology or business services providers, these engagements will be termed as “expertise augmentation” services.  The heritage dictionary publisher, which has provided language information since 1806, finally made the decision to remove the term, based on the latest survey conducted by HfS Research, where three-quarters of buyers emphatically declared their wish to drop the term:

HfS Research has been agitating to ditch the term since 2008, with our now-famous post “Is it time to dump the term ‘outsourcing?’” which first caught the dictionary giant’s attention.  However, it was our recent piece accusing the whole outsourcing industry of being a “sham” which finally forced the issue.

“When HfS first raised the issue back in 2008, we didn’t feel it was the right time, but that last piece, coupled with their latest study, finally forced the issue”, commented Ashley Webster, President and CEO for Merriam-Webster online. “The HfS team has been really helpful advising on these terminology changes with their research and insight into what people want to do with that awful word.”

And the exciting news is that we can give you a sneak-preview of the following changes, to be published for common use in the English-speaking business world:

As you can see, the term “augmentation” has been widely adopted for most of the major business functions that have endured “outsourcing” in the past, with the exception of HR.  “When we looked at the data, we found that most companies didn’t want to augment HR, they just wanted to get rid of it”, added Webster.  “So we felt it more appropriate to stay with the term “HRO”.

Ashley Webster is President and CEO, Merriam-Webster

We felt this move may be a bit of a political hot-potato, so we managed to catch some time with Republican presidential nominee-hopeful Rick Santorum, while we was canvassing voters in Yankton County, South Dakota.  “This is simply Obama painting over the cracks of his failed presidency as our jobs continue to flood out of our country.  Removing ‘outsourcing’ from the dictionary is not going to solve the problem; removing Obama will.  When I am President, I will make sure these outsourced jobs come back home and the only outsourcing we do will be the current residents of the White House.”

Conversely, Democratic senator, Charles Schumer, whose political brilliance has been frequently lauded on HfS, welcomes the move.  “Removing outsourcing from the dictionary is proof that all my proposed policies have worked.  Now outsourcing ceases to exist, I can go back to campaigning for the 35-hour working week.”

Just remember folks… you heard it here first!

Oh, and by the way….

Please tell us you didn't fall for it again?

And while we’re reminiscing about falling for April Fools’ gags, here is 2011’s classic:

Painsharing exposed: HfS to reveal the worst performers in the outsourcing industry

And 2010’s:

Horses for Sources to advise Obama administration on offshore outsourcing

Oh, and here’s 2009’s which I really hope you didn’t fall for too:

Horses Exclusive: Obama to ban offshore outsourcing

The question I now have is whether we have anyone here who’s been suckered by all three…

Posted in : Absolutely Meaningless Comedy, Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), IT Outsourcing / IT Services



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  1. […] original post here: Merriam-Webster to remove the term “Outsourcing” for IT and … Comments […]

  2. Merriam-Webster to remove the term “Outsourcing” for IT and Business Services – Horses for Sources | Outsourcing Real Estate says:

    […] Horses for Sources […]

  3. LOL! Very good indeed, the question is… will any wire services pick up the ball and run with it?

  4. Thanks Phil. This is an important step. I’m looking forward to sourcing becoming “Goods and Services Augmentation” and Supply chain finance becoming “Treasury Augmentation”.

  5. I hope HfS Research will publish statistics on the percentage of readers who fail to recognize the correlation between the fact content of this article and the circumstance of it being published on the first day of the fourth month. The ratio of wholehearted cheers, wide-eyed skepticism, and hate mail, combined, versus replies containing smileys, should give an accurate assessment. Alas I may have skewed the outcome a bit, but then again how many of us actually scroll down to read the comments? Well done!

  6. Phil,

    This is an interesting development. Do you think providers will follow suit and stop using the term?


  7. It’s great that Merriam-Webster is doing this for American English. Any word on whether parent company Encyclopedia Britannica plans to propagate this change to the U.K. and the rest of the English speaking world?

  8. @Matthew: good call.

    Am sure the Indians have already done a quick “replace” on all their PowerPoint;

    The Brits will probably take offence at being dictated to by an American subsidiary and will insist on creating a similar word, but with different spelling;

    The Chinese won’t care what we call it, as at $1/hour they’ll happily crank out our iPads until we have no more money left to buy them with;

    I do fear for the Australians, however, who’ve had enough struggles just figuring out what “outsourcing” means… this may just be a few syllables too far for them


  9. I’m augmenting this with my comments… what a bunch of rubbish. The providers have done zip to abate the clammer over the term, buyers have been doing under the cover exploration & engagement, and now we step up and decide a simple name change will repeal the bad press… rubbish. It’s more apt to be viewed, once the general public starts seeing the term, that a ‘Horse’ by a different name is still a horse.

    How about a campaign that at least increases public awareness, develop supplier social responsibilities and start utilizing procurement models that fully rationalizes whether it’s a sound business model or not. Or is THAT too much augmentation work?

  10. Merriam-Webster to remove the term “Outsourcing” for IT and Business Services – Horses for Sources - says:

    […] Horses for Sources […]

  11. Phil,
    Your humor is intact. My bit: I think ‘Global Services’ most aptly describes this industry. Nasscom calls captive centers as GIC- Global In-house Centers to give it a fresh look. And all those vendors who claim to transform their client’s business, it should be called Outsorcery.

  12. Whew…honestly had me going there! Being based in China with the timezone difference, I saw this sometime after the 1st and was caught completely off-guard. Almost had me launching a revamp of our marketing collateral. Thanks for the great food-for-thought…’Outsourcing’ is indeed a term that draws mixed emotions.

  13. It took me a while to read this so I also fell to the April Fools effort.

    Outsourcing like all buzzwords (cloud and even big data) fall victim to the ever changing definitions in techno-jargon by those in-the-know as well as those who’ve just been exposed. With each wave of technologies we can change the name to protect the innocent and then denigrate what was novel, just a short time ago.

  14. […] ‘Merriam-Webster to remove the term Outsourcing for IT and Business Services’ this fake news story describes how one of the most popular English dictionaries has decided to […]

  15. April truths about outsourcing, Part 1: Finance leaders are looking to providers’ capabilties more than ever, but are they says:

    […] for their beloved industry.  Unfortunately, some of these people had failed to read the full posting to figure out it was an April 1st wind-up, but, what the hell, it inspired some pretty good […]

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  18. HfS and Blue Prism partner to develop automated analyst solutions : Enterprise Irregulars says:

    […] Merriam-Webster to remove the term Outsourcing for IT and Business Services […]

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