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Say goodbye to the hype, Robotic Process Automation enters maturity
by Mina Eckard, Researcher & Analyst, UiPath
Tuesday, June 28, 2016

It feels like there is less and less time these days to pause and ponder what’s going on inside the RPA market. Things are moving so fast and transforming so briskly that it seems hard to pinpoint where we’re at. Clearly, RPA has permeated a visible portion of the business world. There is general consensus of this, with actual numbers - sparse as they may be - to fall back on.

While many organizations are already climbing the RPA tree after having harvested its low hanging fruit, the reality is also that just as many, if not more, potential buyers are still barely becoming familiarized with the technology.

If we look to assess RPA’s current status by examining the standpoints of vendors, buyers, outsourcers, analysts, and media representatives, the perspective inherently varies. Even the definitions and nomenclature lay out a rather protean landscape. The marketing behind RPA keeps adding different terms to the technology, often leaving a trail of confusion for everyone to feed on.

Despite the difficulty in obtaining an accurate snapshot, there are several questions we could ask to help us identify what cultivates RPA’s maturescence.

Is RPA product-ready?

Virtually all technologies follow an S-shaped growth path in which accelerating advances ultimately mature into a plateau. RPA product acceleration has mainly been driven by sustained improvements in information technology and by the intensive competition in the business environment.

From the early days of ERP systems back in the 90’s, the historical path followed by business automation technology has been to keep specializing so that more and more transactional work instances can be addressed.

Automation operating at task-level, otherwise called desktop automation or single point automation, was where RPA stationed for several good years and built its case by helping employees to rapidly automate specific repetitive tasks.

But something was missing. Robotic efficiency was not being leveraged optimally. Work volumes could still be maximized even more, and business activities could be more successfully streamlined in an end-to-end fashion, across the entire organization, with security and compliance in check.

This is where RPA’s S-curve made a significant leap by moving off the desktop onto server-based platforms. And this is where RPA technology is now at its most mature.
No longer just about automating work, RPA has become the means to automate more efficiently in large volumes and with centralized solutions for the entire organization, both back and front office.

A full scale automation product should deliver unlimited scalability, uncompromised precision in integrating with other systems, centralized robotic management, full monitoring, and complete governance protocols for security and compliance. Anything less than that would not pass the maturity test.

For buyers, it’s crucial to be able to cut through the marketing sophistry to find an RPA product that does what it says and is implemented without headache. And the good news is that most vendors are finally starting to align their discourse with their products, ready to deliver on the promise.

Does it have enough traction with BPOs and service providers?

According to a Mindfields report from 2015, 90% of surveyed service providers intended to invest in robotic technology during 2016. More than half of them (64%) were already involved in partnerships with RPA vendors.

After having been labeled as menacingly disruptive to the BPO and shared services market, RPA became part of a genuine ambition, especially for large service providers with global delivery capabilities, to not only adapt and maintain competitive advantage but also to evolve strategically. BPOs and shared service providers are currently transforming their service models and embedding RPA into their engagements, determined to exit the linear growth model. And by building dedicated RPA Centers of Excellence and establishing governance frameworks for managing, implementing, and measuring RPA efforts, they are pushing forward the development of RPA and helping the market advance.

Is it positively endorsed by analysts and validated by the media?

This is an easy one. After many proof of technology projects and sufficient RPA implementations, embedded both within early adopters from the BPO and shared service markets as well as by standalone organizations, analysts and advisors are ready to acknowledge that RPA has gained sufficient heat. Not only that but that RPA is now quickly proliferating across an extending array of industries beyond the several already consecrated like Finance & Accounting and Insurance. Forrester actually predicts that by 2019, 25% of tasks across every job category will be automated.

Less conflated and more nuanced, the media discourse has managed to move past the prologue about what RPA is and what benefits it delivers. Instead, the tendency is now to address the more practical concerns that organizations have, like how to build an RPA project from scratch, how to choose the right vendor, whether to develop the solution in-house or partner up with third parties, and so on.

What next?

There is still massive growth potential for RPA, and a lot of it will come from the increasing adoption by large organizations. These will serve RPA a significant variety of business processes to feed on and build its muscles. Right now, there is a lot of work underway to settle another hype, the one involving the cognitive and artificial intelligence S-curve. We’re not quite there yet, so don’t let the marketing fool you. But it won’t be long before all of these digital technologies will ripen and reach maturity, complementary to each other. Let’s imagine the possibilities. And think of the responsibility that comes with maturity.

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Changing IT Service Delivery to Bring Business Transformation
by Anuj Bhalla, Vice President & Global Service Delivery Head, (Global Infrastructure Services) Wipro Ltd
Thursday, June 16, 2016

Today’s business environment is becoming increasingly complex. Performance is now heavily dependent on technology, and that technology being the best there is and working properly. Customers want ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to their IT resources.

For service providers, the challenge of meeting modern businesses’ needs is no small feat. Not only is the world getting faster and more competitive, but the way in which their customers are managing and deploying their IT infrastructure is changing from a “plan-build-run” model to a “plan-procure-manage” model. Coupled with this, SLAs are becoming a thing of the past as business outcome-based models take the fore.

In order to keep up with these changes, service providers must transform themselves offering the latest and most competitive technologies and methods of delivery to their customers. But what are these?

Automation and Self Service

Automation enables the implementation of repeatable processes in business operations increasing efficiencies, minimising costs, and mitigating risks. Automation allows IT staff to move away from mundane, repetitive tasks and focus on innovation. Self-service enabled by automation will speed up internal business processes and boost productivity. Automation can also help in conducting proactive checks on the IT infrastructure to prevent incidents from ever taking place thus ensuring customer satisfaction.

Delivery Centre Transformation using Emerging Technologies

The adoption of new and emerging technologies such as Software Defined Infrastructure, DevOps, Hybrid Cloud, IOT and so on has changed the way IT services are being delivered. Data centres are being reimagined as a scalable suite of services that sit on top of the IT infrastructure and are delivered to businesses in the most flexible manner possible. Open Source hardware and software has also become an attractive proposition for enterprises and has now become a standard requirement for service providers.

Specialised Teams for New Delivery Frameworks

Service providers will need to have future-driven service delivery frameworks that are resilient, flexible, cost efficient, and aligned to business objectives. The frameworks will need to encompass technology landscape management, skills management, and incident management.

Implementing these frameworks within service provider organisations will require specialised teams tasked to drive these initiatives. These teams will carry out proactive assessments across various technologies and cross functional areas, identify key improvement areas, and provide recommendations to mitigate risks.

Cross Skilling

System Integrators will need to train their engineers in these emerging technologies so that they can deliver new infrastructure technologies and models to their customers. Being proficient in only one technology silo is no longer an option. A comprehensive framework that empowers delivery staff to enhance their skills will be required to implement the cross skilling programme and build a highly competent delivery team so that customers’ needs are met.

Analytics

A strong analytics setup enables organisations to respond rapidly to sudden changes in market conditions. It also helps them use insights to set future strategy, build competitive advantage, and improve customer experience. However, organisations find it a daunting task to manage the data and derive actionable insights from it. This is where their IT Partner can help. With the knowledge of the organisation’s current setup, a service provider can recommend and implement the right solution that delivers maximum value.

Adapting to the As-a-Service landscape

We are in the age of “As-a-Service” in IT Delivery. Customers want to consume IT on-demand to make their business more agile and dynamic. Service Providers will have to collaborate with their customers extensively so that IT services delivery becomes an end to end process of value enhancement. Design thinking will have to be used to build solutions that are the right fit for the customer’s requirement.

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Stay of execution
by George Davies, CEO, MooD International
Thursday, December 10, 2015

Research published earlier this year showed that 52 per cent of IT directors’ spend with outsourcing suppliers is focused on reducing the cost of IT, rather than achieving business benefits.  This is despite the fact that only 21 per cent of IT directors and their teams cite cost reduction as the most important way in which an outsourcing partner can contribute to the business’ success.  The same research indicates that the most important initiatives of the client’s business are revenue generation and growth.

There are several likely reasons for this disconnect, but the lesson for outsourcers is clear: understanding the whole gamut of business challenges faced by their customers and prospects is what is going to allow them to win and retain business.  Being able to demonstrate with complete clarity how the outsourcing relationship contributes to the strategy via the operational achievement of specific business outcomes will make an outsourcer a critical strategic partner.

It’s no revelation to say that new trends are reshaping industries at an almost frightening pace.  With them comes the need for organisations to make adjustments to their business operations in short order to keep up – or preferably even to anticipate them, and remain ahead of the curve.  Lean and adaptive is more than ever the name of the game.  Such highly challenging circumstances bring senior managers under the spotlight more than ever before, and the pressure to drive growth and deliver strong results across an increasing range of both internal and external stakeholders has never been higher. Effective implementation is increasingly being seen as the new combat arena because, while exciting strategies, powerful products or state-of-the-art technology can put an organisation on the map, only coherent and consistent execution can assure success. Indeed, we know it matters because, depending on the research, 50–90 per cent of new organisational strategies fail, regardless of how sound the proposal is.

But flawless execution requires a comprehensive understanding of all the moving operational parts of a business’ entire ecosystem.  Outsourcers that are unable to provide a detailed view into their workings are therefore a potentially worrying partner for the C-suite.  The CEO’s “gut feeling” – once given an astonishing amount of respect – is increasingly being challenged by stakeholders who want to see evidence that they’re backing the right horse if they’re going to stay on board. 

Whether they choose to see this call for greater transparency in the assumptions behind strategies as a complication, or as an opportunity to create greater freedom to innovate, CEOs in increasing numbers and across all industries are asking themselves how they can demonstrate the soundness of both their strategies and their operational prowess.  Any part of the business that remains a black box, including the partners that make up the wider organisational federation, should be prepared for severe scrutiny: change is coming.

But the problem with execution is that it is difficult.  A recent survey of more than 400 global CEOs found that executional excellence was the number one challenge facing corporate leaders.  The challenge of supporting this for outsourcers has not been made any easier by the trend towards companies eschewing single, large outsourcing contracts and instead opting for a more agile approach focused on smaller, flexible contracts.  More suppliers means it’s harder to get a clear view of what’s happening across the business in a joined-up way – for both the client and the outsourcing partners.  Because of this, outsourcing suppliers need to understand inside and out what their clients need to deliver and exactly how the service they provide to those clients impacts upon that.  Moreover, all of this needs to be explained to and understood by a large number of stakeholders across all levels.  It requires a common language for agreeing and describing what they are doing and, more importantly, providing clear evidence that they are delivering what really matters – the business outcomes.  It might not be easy, but it represents an opportunity to change the very dynamic of the outsourcer-client relationship from a fundamentally two-dimensional management of pure service performance to a three-dimensional view that concentrates on the execution of business strategy.

This extra dimension, and its sharp focus on business outcomes, allows both parties in the partnership a much greater amount of flexibility to react to changing market circumstances.  After all, no plan can anticipate every eventuality, so it’s important to be agile when implementing strategies.  The entire execution team needs access to real-time information that will help them come up with smart, creative solutions that keep the strategy on track. It’s no use persevering with a strategy that will fail in a couple of years’ time, after all of the resources and time that have gone into executing it.  Having fulfilled service level agreements (SLAs) will be meaningless if those SLAs are no longer relevant – even, unfair as it might be, if those SLAs were never changed.

The worrying reality is that most strategies at the organisational level take years to come to fruition, and certainly months or longer before key performance indicators (KPIs) will suggest things are going in the right direction.  For the CEO and her stakeholders, monthly and quarterly earnings (and maybe things like data centre uptime percentages) are used as a proxy for knowledge of the strategy’s execution.  How much more powerful would it be to understand exactly what every operational action the business or its partners make supports (or detracts from) the strategy in real time?

A supplier that is able to understand the business landscape that enables people, processes, systems, services, and their interconnections to be aligned with business objectives, outcomes, benefits, KPIs and budgets, is going to be invaluable in providing the competitive edge for the purchaser when it comes to achieving critical business outcomes.  This is for the simple but unarguable reason that even the very best of strategies is at the mercy of its execution.  Outsourcers looking to move up the value chain therefore need to focus on automation and digitisation as the driving force behind their activities.  If client and suppliers can access the same information to give them the same view of the status of the business – in real terms, not garbled data reports and non-contextualised SLAs – they will improve processes, drive out cost and, vitally, accelerate innovation and line-of-sight to business value.

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Encryption Ensures that Outsourcing Partnerships Don’t Put Data at Risk
by Trent Telford, CEO, Covata
Wednesday, November 04, 2015

When it comes to safeguarding data, third-party partners, such as business process outsourcers (BPOs), have emerged as de facto extensions of the modern enterprise organization.

In today’s modern enterprise, intangible assets such as intellectual property, customer information and other critical data account for more than one-half of the organization’s value worldwide, according to Brand Finance, a consultancy specializing in the valuation of intangible assets.

Enterprises are increasingly entrusting these assets to external partners, with 57 percent of those studied sharing critical consumer information with third parties or BPOs, according to research from the Ponemon Institute. Further, global IT outsourcing now amounts to a $287 billion market that’s growing at a compound annual rate of 6.5 percent, according to Gartner.

However, businesses are encountering significant risks. Nearly two-thirds, in fact, have repeatedly experienced a breach of consumer data that had been outsourced to a vendor, according to the Ponemon study. In 56 percent of the cases, companies discovered the breach by accident, in contrast to just 27 percent of cases that were revealed by security/control procedures.

Overall, 28 percent of threat incidents are attributed to third parties, up from 20 percent in 2010, according to PwC. Despite the trend, less than one-third of organizations require third parties to comply with their policies. Three-quarters have not developed a complete inventory of all third parties that handle personal data relating to employees and customers. Roughly one-half say they do not or are unsure whether they monitor the security and privacy practices of the vendors with which they share sensitive or confidential consumer information on an ongoing basis, Ponemon reports.

Meanwhile, only 43 percent of vendors can demonstrate proof of reasonable security practices and a mere 21 percent continuously train their security teams. Vendors are also falling short on encryption, as only 43 percent of those studied encrypt sensitive data in motion and at rest. That could stand out as the most glaring of lapses, because data-centric encryption, particularly as it applies to the sharing of data and intellectual property, is proving to be business-critical.

Encryption solutions exist that enable companies to maintain full administrative control over the files and data they share with their partners, outsources and network of stakeholders. Outsourcers need to leverage object-level, data-centric solutions that ensure shared data is secured whether on-premise or in the cloud, accessed by a desktop or mobile device. Indeed, BPO partners can gain a distinctive advantage over competitors by effectively deploying object-level encryption. In doing so, BPOs will convey a more substantial security posture by locking down vulnerable data at the cross-border and network level.

To be clear: BPOs should not abandon traditional, perimeter-based tools such as firewalls, endpoint-protection products and anti-malware solutions, but their mindsets should transform from perimeter-centric to data-centric. Through object-level encryption, security follows the flow of data instead of the flow of the network. Thus, when hackers gain access to third-party systems (and they will), they’ll conclude that the “plunder” within – the data – is useless due to the advanced key management, identity oversight and policy implementation characteristics of object-level encryption.

With proper key management, teams designate a unique key for every data file with on-device encryption. Then, identity oversight determines who receives the key, to verify that the users in question merit the access. The policy component of this three-layer “cake” imposes authoritative control over any and all data. Security teams and business leaders define access controls down to the smallest details – including what can be printed, what can be called up on “view only” and whether copy-paste restrictions apply. These teams and leaders can view file history and – if it’s necessary for data protection – immediately revoke availability.

One simply has to read the most recent headlines about breaches to comprehend the urgency at hand. The 2013 Target hack, of course, stands out as a textbook example, as cyber criminals stole network-access credentials from a heating, air conditioning and refrigeration contractor hired by the mega-retailer.

That’s why encryption must play the leading role in safeguarding the enterprise’s data. Adversaries, after all, aren’t plotting their next network attack in the interest of a sporting challenge. They want to grab the data inside of the network and exploit it to its maximum potential. When the strategies of outsourcers and their client organizations focus on object-level encryption, hackers discover that the data is as worthless to them as Monopoly money – paving the way for the partnership to endure in a productive, secured manner.

Sources:
- Brand Finance information
- Ponemon study
- PwC study
- Gartner outsourcing forecast

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Five tips on how to avoid outsourcing risks
by Patrycja Dobrowolska, Inbound Marketing Specialist, Future Processing
Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Nowadays more and more companies decide to outsource. This trend can be easily observed and comes as no surprise, since outsourcing can offer a myriad of benefits. If your organisation lacks specific expertise, outsourcing IT skills can be a smart business move.

Therefore, you would hope that suppliers and customers alike have learnt from the mistakes of previous deals. However, reading the trade press, this is not necessarily the impression one gets. On both sides of the outsourcing relationship companies seem to be making the same mistakes again and again.

That is exactly why we decided to offer some advice on how to avoid the most common risks and make outsourcing a success.

#1 KEEP COMMUNICATION LINES OPEN

Successful outsourcing is more than just pure cost-savings, which is often listed as the main benefit. However, on its own it is not enough, as projects can still fail. It seems that the key to successful outsourcing is open communication on both sides, therefore you should establish not only frequency but also a clear method of communication and use it.

For outsourced relationships to really succeed, the clients should clearly express their expectations, which will empower the supplier to deliver the best service. Be specific about what you want. This essential point is so often forgotten, especially by companies that are under pressure to quickly deliver something they don’t have the internal resources for.

#2 DEFINE THE SCOPE OF THE CONTRACT

Appropriate business agreement can be crucial to the success of your software development outsourcing. The contract must reflect what was agreed on during the negotiations - specify the scope of the project and focus on business outcomes that both sides want to achieve.

Make sure that your outsourcer understands your business needs. Provide a detailed plan and discuss it beforehand. However, remember that sometimes your initial requirements change along the way, so be open to suggestions.

#3 MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE

How to choose the right supplier? It is important that you look for someone with knowledge and expertise, who will always try to deliver software developed according to industry’s best practices. Look for outsourcers with vast expertise, who have similar goals and will understand your business.

Last, but not least, pay attention to time difference and location – they say that travel broadens the mind, but in case of software development outsourcing, trust us, the closer the better.

#4 BE AVAILABLE

Despite the common belief that outsourcing will free you of additional workload, this is not the whole truth. No matter how good your vendor company is, no matter how much expertise they have, you still need to remain involved, because nobody knows your business as well as you.

You should be responsive and always have up-to-date information on what is currently happening in your project. Your commitment can have very tangible effects on the outcome. It is certainly easier to achieve if you base your cooperation on partnership rather than just client-vendor relationship.

#5 LET GO

Allow your outsourcing company to implement their own way of working. Trust that they are the ones who want what’s best for your business. Concentrate on what you want to achieve with outsourcing software development, not how you want it to be done.

Try not to get caught up in micromanaging, let them work according to their processes and leave the room for your outsourcing provider to define the “how”.

This, of course, is not the end of the list. One thing you should keep in mind though is that outsourcing, as with any other business venture, comes with risks. In order to avoid them you should keep an open mind, adapt to changing requirements and, last but not least, hire the partner you trust.

Successful outsourcing requires commitment from both sides, unless you want your recipe for success to turn into a recipe for disaster.

If you want more tips on how to make outsourcing a success, download Future Process’s catalogue.

Future Processing is an experienced Polish company that specialises in providing offshore software development services.

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Are Service Providers Sufficiently Concerned about Cyber Security? If not, They soon will be.
Thursday, June 25, 2015

At the Analyst Outsourcing Debate at the NOA Symposium 2015, many key topics were touched upon: new technology, automation, new skills requirements and catalysts for change.

Security, however, was one topic that was somewhat neglected. This was pointed out by outsourcing analyst and panellist Phil Fersht, CEO of HfS Research. Most are aware that security is a huge concern in this age of new technology, but it often takes a significant data breach close to home to really grab the attention of company executives.

Are the majority of service providers sufficiently concerned about cyber security? If not, it is likely they soon will be. A recent report from Frost & Sullivan has found that managed security services are “taking off like wildfire” due to a severe shortage of security professionals, making online security a potentially lucrative market for ITOs.

When asked why they outsource operations involving security, 49 per cent of those surveyed cited “a lack of in-house skills,” 30 per cent a “temporary need for flex force capacity” and 26 per cent “recruitment limitations.”

Find out more about the report here.

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Why sourcing could be the perfect option for high-growth firms
by Mike Hughes, Managing Director, PeopleTECH
Friday, April 24, 2015

When you are the founder of a start-up, addressing future contact centre strategies would barely merit a thought in the early days of business. An entrepreneur is always going to be focused on coming up with the right idea for their business, securing funding, creating a product and building a customer-base.

But as they set about establishing their business, what do they do when things start to grow quickly? One of the areas that seemingly gets neglected is the customer experience. And ironically, this is one area that really should be at the heart of any business, whether a high-growth company or established FTSE 100 firm. What can start-ups do to protect the customer experience that is so integral in modern business?

Most start-ups (and subsequently, high-growth firms) are based on the vision of the founder. That founder has a fairly fixed idea of what the business should be, what the product should feel like, who the customers are and what type of service those customers will receive. If the business idea is a sound one, then there won’t be too many customer experience problems at the outset.

On a smaller-scale, a business can manage the customer experience itself fairly easily. They are controlling each element and there aren’t sufficient numbers of customers for problems to emerge.  The phone is answered on time and any issues that a customer may have can be addressed promptly and efficiently.

But business models need to evolve and change as the business itself begins to scale. And the better and more disruptive the idea behind the business, the quicker it will scale. A good UI is easy enough to manage, but getting the backend systems and right people in place is another matter. If the processes and technology can’t support a firm’s growth, then the customer experience will suffer.
Yet with many high-growth firms still having a firm eye on expenditure, an outsourced contact centre can be seen as an unnecessary expense. So founders will often try and manage this internally, conscious of the need to save money and answer to investors.

Keeping customer contact in-house is tempting. It allows the firm to retain control, is straight forward, initially cheaper and there are fewer opportunities for the brand to suffer through association with an outsourced contact centre.

But in fact, sourcing this requirement gives better results and in the long-term is as cost-effective. This is what a high-growth firm should look for when looking to appoint an outsourced contact centre provider:

Transparency – when a high-growth firm trusts an outsourced partner with their customers, they do want reassurances as to the quality of interactions with those customers. This can be provided by the provider being clear and transparent about: call volumes; the number of calls answered; how many calls are lost each day; and providing KPI scores each day to ensure things are as they should be.

A high-growth heritage – although the principals of a contact centre for a high-growth firm are the same as for an established multi-national firm, there are certain nuances that need to be addressed. What kind of customer base does your proposed provider have? Have they worked with other high-growth firms in the past? If you can see firm evidence of success with other high-growth firms, then that is a good sign they could be the right fit for your business.

The right technology – this is an increasingly important element for any outsourced contact centre provider. Anyone working with a high-growth firm needs to be able to demonstrate they can make use of advances like Visual IVR and the Single Digital Channel (SDC). SDC gives a customer service agent access to all media types from their desktop, with all contact interaction taken by customers - voice, email, chat, social media – waiting in one queue to be addressed by the right agent. The ‘right’ agent can mean the next available agent, one with a particular skill-set or area of expertise, or even one with a prior history with that customer.

It allows agents to deliver a much more efficient service and is a real asset to any high-growth firm wanting to deliver true next-generation customer experience. But such advances would not be available should a high-growth firm choose not to outsource its contact centre. That’s why sourcing is the best option for any high-growth firm that wants to continue offering the best customer experience as the company scales and grows.

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Mike Hughes is MD at customer management consultancy, PeopleTECH. Mike has a proven track record in demonstrating a deep understanding of the people, technology and processes required to deliver a 21st century customer experience.

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Are Some Processes Just too Complex to Manage In-House?
by Matt Sims, Executive Vice President Business Development, Teleperformance
Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Do you remember how the business press used to report outsourcing as a strategy about ten years ago? The debate focused largely on the relative merits of keeping processes in-house or working with an expert to outsource them.

Both sides of the debate would fiercely argue the relative merits of ‘retaining more control’ compared to ‘accessing the best expertise in the market’ and the debate often got more complex once access to global resources via offshoring was introduced into the mix.

Over the subsequent years, outsourcing became accepted as a standard management strategy. It’s now just a part of the toolkit for any executive, a way of getting the job done. But I believe that in many industries we have crossed into an environment where the use of outsourcing has matured to the extent that it would be very difficult to even deliver the same level of service using internal teams.

Customer service is a great example and is the area where I am personally focused most of the time. A decade ago we would have been talking about a contact centre supporting voice calls, emails, and possibly some chat or instant messaging. Today the contact centre sits at the heart of a Customer Relationship Management strategy where customer loyalty and engagement are managed. Customers are interacting 24/7 on multiple communication channels, including social networks. The contact centre used to be a post-purchase function that mainly handled questions and complaints, now it is a critical part of the sales and marketing infrastructure in many businesses.

Of course a large company might be able to handle this complexity in-house, but for all but the largest organisations this is now such a complex process that it just makes sense to work with an industry expert. I’m sure this applies to several other industries too, but have you observed the same changes and do you also think that we have moved past the outsource/don’t outsource argument long ago?

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TALENT AS THE BPO DIFFERENTIATOR
by Simon Sammons, Global Offerings Director, Accenture Operations
Thursday, February 05, 2015

As organizations continue to seek more strategic value from their outsourcing engagements, a critical skills gap has emerged. The kinds of skills organizations need internally from their own people to manage the outsourcing projects are distinctly different from those actually available or being developed for more normal operations management. This skills gap could leave the company unable to capture the sustainable business outcomes they are hoping to achieve.

A recent report from outsourcing analyst firm HfS found that organizations need to do a far better job harnessing the power of their people as a means of driving business value beyond cost reduction and “noiseless” delivery. Higher-level goals require higher-level skills. Companies need to focus on improving their talent management processes to hire, develop, engage and retain the right talent to realize the promise of business process outsourcing (BPO). But how?

Here’s a look at three practical steps that both the enterprise and its BPO provider must focus on to address this talent gap.

• Change the mindset—talent requirements change and it does matter. Employers need to provide meaningful work, personal and professional growth, and clear career paths for all workforces – those delivering the outsourced service, those managing receipt of the service and those benefitting from it. It means instilling in employees a sense of pride in their own organization and the other organisations they serve. It also means monitoring, measuring and taking action on employee engagement. At the same time, leaders need to model the right behaviors and help energize their teams as they embrace a new way of working.

• Develop formal training curriculums, particularly for managers. Skills development for outsourcing managers must focus on skill sets beyond those required to oversee basic operations – it turns out this is as important for the client receiving the service and managing the service contract as it is for the service provider. One company in the HfS study, for example, mandated three hours of weekly training in outsourcing governance for its managers. This approach quickly paid off in terms of increasing job satisfaction and advancing the company’s objectives for its major outsourcing engagements. While most organizations’ training functions lack the depth and scale to develop specialist programming in this area, there are quality programs available from third parties. As an example, the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals offers multi-level certification programs for outsourcing executives, managers and associates.

• Revamp skills expectations and competency models for the retained team. Organizations need to move beyond the older talent perspective that was primarily focused on operational skillsets. Some are looking for strategic skills by redefining the job competency models of those individuals managing service providers. One enterprise client cited in the study went so far as to revamp the retained team before it selected a service provider, knowing that a strong team was a key to success. Existing personnel had been experts in the way things had been done for years – not with a view toward tomorrow’s possibilities – so they made some new hires with proven experience in driving innovation pipelines.

The collaborative nature of a BPO relationship has enormous implications for how talent is sourced, developed and engaged. Enterprise leadership needs to have the desire and capability to transform its approach in developing and managing talent – at the same time that BPO providers must step up to the talent challenge. What’s needed is a leadership commitment to make the investments in time, energy and resources that will turn talent into a differentiating factor in the coming age of BPO.

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Automate without analysis and you could be missing out
by George Davies, CEO, MooD International
Tuesday, January 20, 2015

It goes without saying that new technologies have had a great impact on the workplace and how businesses function at an operational level. The use of automation software and cloud computing are reducing the need for low-cost operatives to carry out business processes. But is automation really contributing to long-term business growth or effective decision-making?
Business process automation is the technology-enabled automation of activities. It is a way to streamline operational processes, by eliminating unnecessary tasks, realigning steps and, crucially, optimising information flow. With the relevant automation system, a company is not only in a position to reduce staff workload, so they are freed from menial activities to focus on critical tasks, but maintain the quality of operations at very low costs.
Although the adoption of automation is widespread in the business world, fewer companies invest in business intelligence to generate the data required to make smart decisions. This means business leaders are not basing their decisions on up-to-date business critical data, but on often out of date reports. They are driving while looking in the rear view mirror.
One of the benefits of automation is that data capturing can be automatic. When analysed this data can offer previously unseen insight into business operations such as identifying opportunity gaps or bottlenecks in business flow.
While business automation can save time and money, businesses are often failing to identify its real impact on stakeholders such as employees, customers and the company’s reputation. It can sometimes have unintended consequences.
For instance, a telecoms company may decide to use automated answering machines that are able to deal with customer queries. They would save money on call centre staff, but if this change results in a more negative experience for the customers, it may actually hinder the business from achieving its overarching business objectives if customers choose to take their business elsewhere. 
Business process automation should focus on business outcomes and how the automated, often outsourced, parts fit into the end-to-end business process. Equally important is recognising what not to automate or outsource depending on the impact on employees or customers.
Critically, automation’s success lies in its ability to understand and communicate how the different parts of the business interact and affect each other using the data generated. Automation without the ability to communicate to different parts of the business could negate whatever efficiency was gained.
By tying metrics to business outcomes and strategic business objectives, it is possible to provide businesses with access to evidence where automation and outsourcing partners are adding value to the business. Analysis such as this is a crucial part of the process.

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