HRO and the Total Cost of Ownership

A top question for buyers new to outsourcing is how much will we save?  A legitimate question and one that can be hard to answer. Many studies have been done over the years tracking the subject, often asking respondents to estimate the percent of savings. In other words, asking for their opinion. Not exactly what senior business leaders are looking for!

ADP sponsors PwC’s Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Study and the 2011 results are in. The research covers the costs of payroll, workforce administration (HRIS), time and attendance, and health and welfare services and compares the cost of in-house managed services to clients that outsource to ADP. The 279 participants compiled a more complete picture of the following costs: systems (e.g., install, upgrade, and maintenance), direct and indirect labor, and direct non-labor (e.g., vendor fees, facilities, and other overheads), the cost of outsourcing was included for those using ADP.   

TCO for organizations managing the four services in-house, with no outsourcing, were $1,403 for larger employers (1k+ employees) and $1,953 for those with 100 to 1,000 employees.

Guess what? Outsourcing saves money. Average savings of outsourcing over in-house is 18%. Employers with more than 1,000 employees save more due to good old-fashioned economies of scale, up to 27%.

Outsourcing clients sometimes feel they do not reduce costs as much as pitched by the vendor or planned in the business case. The ADP-sponsored study also identifies success factors that help maximize TCO savings.

The findings put real data behind what we intuitively know:

  • Adding self-service is basic to reducing cost for HR and time for employee users.
  • Comprehensive process transformation is needed to realize full savings. It takes more than new technology; process redesign, governance, and standardization are also needed.

Another finding confirms what I have long suspected: using one vendor and one service platform (outsourced or even in-house) saves more than using multiple vendors and platforms. There is added cost to using multiple, even “best-of-breed” point solutions for payroll, workforce administration, and time and attendance.

  • Average cost of outsourcing the three services to one vendor on a common platform was $910 per employee per year, compared to $1,020 (+18%) for managing in-house on a common platform and $1,202 (+32%) for managing in-house using multiple vendors and platforms.

To understand total costs look at the “seams,” places where interdependent processes and systems must be integrated, interfaced, up-dated, and even manually coordinated when using multiple platforms and vendors. The cost can be as high as $200 per employee per year.

HRO works and significantly reduces TCO, but it takes time and effort of both the vendor and the client to achieve maximum benefits. I’ll cover more on that topic next time.

Also, I have some good NelsonHall news. The 2011 Targeting MPHRO study has just been released by our HRO colleague Amy Gurchensky, see more information at www.nelson-hall.com.

Linda Merritt, Research Analyst, HRO, NelsonHall

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Explore posts in the same categories: hr outsourcing, hr outsourcing research, hro, HRO Buyers, hro research, multi-process hro, Pricing, TOC, Total cost of ownership

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One Comment on “HRO and the Total Cost of Ownership”


  1. Theyre finding that spreading their application development and maintenance work across say three vendors makes more sense than having a single provider perform all of the work. Moreover it encourages competition among the vendors which benefits the customers bottom line.


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