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Out and Proud
by Kerry Hallard, CEO,National Outsourcing Association
Thursday, April 17, 2014

Time for the Outsourcing Industry to Shout Back.

So Accenture decided to change its strapline from ‘Consulting Technology Outsourcing’ to ‘Strategy, Digital, Technology, Operations,’ and the word “outsourcing” has apparently got less than a year to live. But in an industry where calling a spade a spade is both an endearing trait, and an essential skill (from a buy side perspective) hiding the actual nature of your wares behind some nuances of language is wandering into Chris n Gwynnie’s “Conscious Uncoupling” territory; just a little bit pretentious.

But I’m not suggesting for a second that this is what Accenture has done. Their new strapline brings greater transparency, if anything. After all, B2B marketing 101 tells us that people buy benefits, not features. So tagging themselves as ‘Strategy, Digital, Technology, Operations,’ actually provides a clearer view of what they can offer a customer in terms of value adding activities, because it describes, very plainly, the areas where outsourcing helps companies improve capabilities.

Make no mistake, clients will only actualise these benefits by outsourcing to Accenture (other outsourcing providers are available!) so the term will live on for as long as organisations need help with their strategy, digital, technology and operations. Don’t forget, BPO is a service they proudly offer still, you don’t have to drill down far to find that out. So fairplay to Accenture, for shaking up their marketing effort.

Our industry does need to get better at marketing itself, to both talent and customers. In much the same way that an author doesn’t merely promote their own book, most of them speak out for the intrinsic joys of reading per se - the outsourcing industry needs to present a unified front on the added-value nature of outsourcing.

We all know outsourcing can save customers money, as an industry, we need to get extremely vocal about the benefits of bringing in better talent and technology to help with strategy and operations and end the culture of sweeping the positives under the rug.

That anyone should even have mind to suggest a company is rebranding to distance itself from what it actually is, stands as testament to the rough ride our industry gets in the media. I’ll bet the Guardian journos leapt out of their seats with glee when presented with the op. of the “Secret Serco”, which alludes to morale being low and profitability top trumping customer service every time (if it is an authentic snapshot of what is happening in that particular deal, it’s not only poor form, but extremely poor contracting, which highlights the short-termism we need collectively avoid).

The entire sum of client experience, business benefits and supplier staff satisfaction is the reputation of outsourcing: the real, factual one, not the sensationalised hearsay you get in the papers.

When we conducted a poll at the NOA Summit 2012, 85% of members were proud to be part of the outsourcing industry, and happy to be associated with the O word. So let’s band together and proudly showcase the benefits outsourcing brings, and take collective responsibility for the reputation of our industry. Because however you choose to describe your company, if you’re adding long-term value to a partner, you’re an outsourcer.

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