The Value of BPO: The Proof Is in the Partnership | Article

Teamwork putting puzzle piece togetherIt’s no secret that customers have high expectations of their BPO service providers, so the Outsourcing Center thought it would be interesting to turn the tables: we asked some of the leading providers for the one thing they need from customers in order to deliver exemplary service. The universal response was: “HELP ME HELP YOU!”

Obviously, in the business environment in which we operate today—aided by emerging technologies that often seem to make our lives even more complex—it has become clear that clients and BPO partners must collaborate to achieve the goal of optimizing processes.

As Maria Allen, Senior Vice President and President, Americas, of BancTec, observes, “A collaboration between provider and client must be a partnership in the truest sense of the word.” Allen notes that, while BPO has become an acceptable practice, it has also become a much more complex undertaking. “The industry has matured and the work has moved up the value chain, away from a model primarily focused on reducing the cost of labor and toward a model of collaboration and shared efficiencies and innovation. This is creating new challenges for providers and clients alike.”

“BPO partners with significant domain expertise actually understand clients’ businesses as well—and maybe better—than clients do, and that is invaluable in bringing about true transformation of processes.”

Keshav Murugesh, Group Chief Executive Officer, WNS Global Services

Providers of BPO services in 2013 face customers who are demanding solutions that help them optimize their operations, transform their processes, seamlessly explore new markets, reduce risk and generate new opportunities for revenue growth. Abid Ali Neemuchwala of TCS, an IT services, consulting and business solutions consultancy, says that, “as business process services partners seek to deliver this value, they expect to be able to work with the customer to significantly influence upstream and downstream processes.  They expect to contribute by leveraging best practices, analytics and optimal technology tools.  Thus customers who engage with providers only on transactional delivery objectives are challenging for providers.”

Apparently, this is more easily said than done, according to the service providers who recently sat down to discuss their wish lists.  NIIT Technologies’ President Lalit Dhingra says, “providers would love to have a higher level of control, but of course, giving control is a function of the level of trust in the relationship.” That trust must be earned. In a perfect world, Dhingra adds, “we’d appreciate having the opportunity to try out new technologies in a no/low-risk way—for example, maybe by co-investing in the process where necessary.”

“BPO service providers who utilize a defined planning and execution framework that is focused on increasing value to clients throughout an engagement should be thought of and treated like true strategic business partners,” BancTec’s Allen stresses. “To be most effective, BPO providers need to understand a client’s goals, strategy and vision for their business,” she says.

Rajesh Sehgal, Quality and Process Excellence Head at Wipro BPO, an innovator in the IT services, BPO and research and development services space, agrees that the service provider and customer should have clearly articulated, shared objectives. “This is where being the single vendor is a huge advantage, because you can evaluate every aspect of the value chain and truly partner with the customer to gain the deepest domain understanding possible.” He notes that consolidating processes enables shared services to have processes that are harmonized across the business.

As TCS’s Neemuchwala points out, “if business process service providers are to help customers create and maximize revenue growth opportunities going forward, they need to invest in customers to understand the value that the providers’ domain expertise brings to their businesses.” A strong collaboration lays the groundwork for the provider to focus on expanding customers’ market footprints, generate new business opportunities and optimize processes. True partnership helps the provider increase business agility through the effective use of scalable analytics, while delivering deep insights across service lines and horizontals.

Keshav Murugesh, Group CEO of WNS Global Services, a respected global BPO company, believes that providers who arm themselves with what he calls a 3D-approach—disruptive technologies, domain expertise and divergent locations—will be capable of forging the most productive partnerships with customers in 2013 and beyond. He explains that providers skilled in the optimized use of disruptive technologies will speed clients on the path of achieving business transformation. “Additionally, BPO partners with significant domain expertise actually understand clients’ businesses as well—and maybe better—than clients do, and that is invaluable in bringing about true transformation of processes.” Finally, Murugesh adds that establishing a presence in divergent locations will sharpen a provider’s global delivery capabilities in 2013 and beyond.

“In our most successful partnerships, our client demonstrates a willingness to make changes that will help optimize the value chain,” believes Rajesh Sehgal. “Ultimately, this not only helps their BPO partner—it also helps them achieve their own goals.” BancTec’s Allen agrees: “Clients who view BPO services as a commodity are not likely to realize maximum value from these services and will not fully benefit from the expertise that experienced BPO providers can bring to their organization.”

In closing, it’s worth reiterating that our BPO leaders unanimously place a high value on creating collaborative partnerships with clients—and not just because it makes the shared working environment more pleasant. In their view, clients will actually derive the best results from their BPO engagements by fostering a spirit of teamwork.

What are some obstacles you’ve encountered in establishing a collaborative working style with your BPO services provider?

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