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Blog: When did “Uber” become a dirty word?

uber, sourcing, outsourcing

Outsourcing is sometimes described as “Uberisation” – so when did this become a bad word?

French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen came out with an insult to her rival Emmanuel Macron yesterday (actually she came out with several) – she said he represented the “Uberisation” of society. It’s a word we’re starting to hear often. Here’s a piece from last month about how legal offshoring in Canada will soon be Uberised.

Which leads me to wonder: when did “Uber” become such a byword for insults when it comes to business?

There have been controversies about Uber itself in the past, of course. Its treatment of its drivers and sometimes passengers was criticised very publicly earlier this year, and few business leaders and even negotiators would want to be caught in that sort of storm. It’s also a truism to say that by definition, a new company’s sustainability can’t be proven until it’s been around for a fair few years. Plus nobody should expect existing taxi drivers to be too delighted about Uber; like all transitions, it’s inevitable but painful for the current incumbents.

Disintermediation

For the sourcing professional, however, something like the Uber business model at scale must surely be a good thing in a partner. Uber has replaced the old model of calling for a taxi and wondering whether you’re carrying enough cash (in the UK particularly you can’t be certain that a cab will accept a card), or going out onto a street and taking a chance on a driver being available. It’s a classic case of disintermediating the service provider and the buyer, which is in most instances is seen as a good thing.

In the business world things have started to move in the same direction. Service providers often operate through a selection of marketplace-style apps. In this respect there is the Amazon-isation or Apple App-store-isation than Uberisation of business at the moment, but the trend overall has to be to push costs down by taking out layers of margin-absorbing management and infrastructure.

And yet Uber gets tarred with the brush of negativity. If you’re the existing supplier that’s reasonable enough. Personally I’ve found the Uberisation of some of my journeys home or around on holiday to be quite beneficial and I suspect a lot of organisations will find the same disintermediation will work for them as well.

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