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Is Automation Putting The Human Workforce on Auto-Pilot?

Outsourcing Center, Patti Putnicki, Business Writer

July 6, 2013: An Asiana Airlines flight carrying 307 people from South Korea to San Francisco clipped a seawall and crashed, killing three people. Although all of the causes of the crash are still being investigated at this writing, reports indicate that one big contributing factor was the pilots’ reliance on automation. They were so used to flying on auto-pilot that they didn’t notice or respond quickly enough when the auto-throttles (controlling the airspeed) failed—until it was too late. Now, let’s look at corporations today. With the proliferation of automation and the rise of smart machines, are we all going on auto-pilot—unable to function if systems are down, attacked or an application fails? No one is arguing the great benefit of automation. No one is questioning how machine learning can transform business as we know it today. But, because of automation, are we forgetting to train and retrain on the fundamentals, just in case? More importantly, how can we best adapt to this brave, new automated world without running the risk of crashing and burning? Most agree it’s all in the approach. Rethink How You Think About Automation “I believe in labor automation coupled with labor intelligence. That means using automation to free your employees from manual, repetitive tasks so they can use their time to solve bigger problems,” explained Jonathan Crane, chief commercial officer for IPSoft. “The real value of automation is not in labor reduction but in empowering your workforce to focus on your strategic business goals.” So, it’s not always about eliminating a step in the process or an employee but shifting that step from man (or woman) to machine. “I think it’s important to understand what automation can or cannot do, and how the automation best supports the human need,” Crane said. “For example, I can’t get excited about sitting in the back seat of a Google car and having it drive me around. However, I can get excited about driving a vehicle with automated intelligence systems that will stop the car to avoid an accident. I still have to know how to drive the car; automation gives me a way to do it more safely.” Document, Document, Document But, human nature is human nature, often functioning on a “need to know” basis. The longer something’s handled for us, the less likely we are to remember how to do it the “old” way. The best way to ensure the basics aren’t forgotten? Document, document, document. “You have to remain diligent with your process documentation and system documentation,” said Patty Hatter, CIO and senior vice president of Operations for McAfee. “You have to continually keep these up-to-date as things change. So often companies find themselves in situations where only one or two people know how a specific process works or how to maintain old legacy systems, because no one has written it down. They’re putting themselves at risk.” Always Have a Back-up Plan Although most companies are diligent about their disaster recovery plans, and test these periodically, many business continuity plans fall short. Contact phone numbers aren’t updated, employees aren’t properly trained, and no one knows until ‘the moment of truth’ that their staff knows how to respond. “It is critical to make the time to conduct periodic business continuity exercises so your staff knows how to keep the operation going if something goes wrong. Going through these drills is a real opportunity to make sure everything’s up-to-date and to confirm that you’ll still be able to take care of your customers when something unexpected happens,” Hatter said. “And the odds are, something is going to happen—your POS systems are going to shut down on the busiest holiday weekend, your accounting system is going to have a problem at quarter end—if you have a viable plan B, you’re going to survive the crisis.” Different drills at different levels ensure employees know exactly what to do when someone pulls the “emergency” trigger, from the number they call to the step-by-step contingency process they follow. “These drills have to occur at all levels of the organization, on a consistent basis,” Hatter said. “So often, the business continuity plan is created by company leadership and never communicated to the people who actually have to execute the plan. If you don’t test it out, if you don’t do the drills, you really have no way of knowing if your plan is going to work. You can’t wait until you’re in emergency mode to work out the kinks.” Expect Some Setbacks Along the Way As with any type of change, things will not always go smoothly. “If you think back to the early days of farm automation and manufacturing automation, there were always some injuries during the learning process,” Crane explained. “So we got smarter, developed better training tools, and now, worker safety has improved.” As the use of automation increases, expect some bruises along the way. Like anything, we learn as we go. “Automation is an economic reality for corporations, just like it was in the farming industry and the manufacturing industry in years past,” Crane said. “We can’t go back to yesterday’s status quo any more than we can go back to the pitchfork and baling hay manually.” Recognize the Potential without Giving Up Power Without question, the world is changing. Smart machines and virtual personal assistants become vital parts of the workforce, changing the way companies operate and human beings work and live. Soon, our machine pals will be grading papers, filling medical prescriptions and taking care of the more mundane, repetitive tasks—streamlining processes and reducing costs. But the message is clear: use the new technology tools but don’t give these tools the power. Don’t become so reliant on automation that, if they fail, your organization shuts down. Just as important, understand that there are some things that technology just can’t replace, no matter how efficient. “Here in New York, they’ve decided the horse-drawn carriages in Central Park are antiquated, so they want to replace these with electric …

The Impact of Wearable Mobile on MDM Strategies

Outsourcing Center, Patti Putnicki, Business Writer

Move over, Rolex. Step aside, Armani. If the predictions hold true, tomorrow’s corporate climbers will all be ditching the designer accessories for the next big thing: namely, wearable computing devices. From smart watches to augmented reality glasses and contact lenses, today’s emerging tech toys have the potential to become tomorrow’s most valuable business tools. These will have an impact on MDM strategies. You think these wonderful wearables are just a lot of hype? That no one really wants to walk around looking like Dr. Science? A glance back at recent history may just change your mind. “When Bluetooth® headsets first came out, no one thought they would last. They looked silly, and when you used them, you looked like you were walking down the street talking to yourself,” explained Craig James Johnston, mobile strategist for NTT DATA, and a “Google Glass Explorer,” currently using version two of Google Glass. “But, the headsets were so useful, the sales took off. The usefulness of not having to search out your phone outweighed the initial resistance.” And new, smaller, cheaper, lighter weight headset designs soon began to follow. Johnston expects the same phenomenon with wearable technology. “I think adoption will start much like it did with the BlackBerry and iPhone. The technology is expensive, so early adopters will be high-level executives who can afford the high price. They start asking how to get financial data, dashboard information and access other company information through these products,” Johnston said. “Then, Apple jumps in; prices eventually fall, and wearable devices become affordable and accessible to everyone.” All of a sudden, the criteria for choosing a phone changes. “When wearables go mainstream, individuals will start choosing their smartphones based on the compatibility with their wearable,” explained Chris Fleck, vice president of Mobility Solutions and Alliances for Citrix. “For example, Google Glass works better with Android, so current iPhone users could migrate to a high-end Samsung phone. If Apple hits the market with a great iWatch, some Android users could migrate to an iOS device.” That’s when the fun begins. The Upside Take Google Glass alone. These amazing things let you see information like you would on a smartphone and interact with the Internet via voice command. You see something, you get the information you need about that something, and you can ask for more if you need it. Think doing the old-fashioned Google search but without the manual process of typing in the information. See it. Collect data on it. No fuss, no muss, no keystrokes. “I’ve used the first version of Google Glass since August (2013), and I’m impressed at what it can do. These devices have the potential to revolutionize all types of business processes,” said Fleck of Citrix. “Doctors in surgery could see patient vital signs without turning their heads and looking at a monito; warehouse workers could use them to find then right box in the warehouse, then scan that box by looking at the bar code.” The use cases go on and on. A technician working on a piece of machinery could access machine schematics while working on that specific machine. A clinician could pull up patient orders or see drug allergies when he or she enters the hospital room. A remote worker could connect with a supervisor to solve a problem, and instead of having to describe the issue, that supervisor could “see what he sees.” And let’s talk about the smartwatch, which acts like a wearable smartphone but with more convenience features. A subtle vibration alerts the wearer that it’s time for a meeting, time to take a blood pressure reading or that an email or text from the boss has come through. With smart features like Google Now, it can tell you to leave early for a flight if highway traffic backs up. According to Fleck, the rumored iWatch could even cut down on the incidence of lost phones and tablets. “Apple’s current ‘Find my Phone’ feature is useful but usually too late” Fleck said. “I want to be notified before I lose my phone or leave my tablet on the plane. A wearable device would give me a gentle reminder notification when I get out of range, so I can retrieve it without leaving the area. The Challenge with MDM Strategies But, every great innovation has its downside, and wearable devices are no different. There’s a privacy issue, just as there’s been a privacy issue since the invention of the camera phone. There’s a worry that the creeps of the world will use these tools for evil. No surprise there—particularly if the devices support a facial recognition application. While Google Glass developer policies expressly prohibit using “the camera or microphone to cross-reference or immediately present personal information identifying anyone other than the user, including such use cases as facial recognition and voice print,” there’s no guarantee that other vendors, or rogue app developers, will follow suit. If someone integrates a smartwatch with a fitness device or health monitor, how does he or she protect this confidential personal health data from Bob in IT and still use the watch at work? From a business standpoint, how does a company incorporate these wearable devices into its MAM/MDM strategies effectively—balancing the need to protect intellectual property, secure documents and proprietary data, yet enable employees to gain the value these new tools could provide? “Today, wearable technology, like smartwatches, have no passwords or no biometrics. Company data could be accessed with the push of a button, but it’s not secure. Google Glass, when it’s launched, may have those same security issues,” Johnston of NTT DATA said. “We won’t know until we see the final product.” Which means companies, and MDM/MAM providers, have to start thinking about how to secure this next wave of BYODs—the wearable kind—right now. Shifting the Focus from the Device to the Apps Themselves “Originally, BYOD solutions focused on securing the device itself but not the applications on that device,” Johnston of NTT DATA explained. “Today, many companies …

How Workforce 2020 Will Change Outsourcing

Outsourcing Center, Patti Putnicki, Business Writer

There’s a reason the term is “outsourcing partner”. We’ve all heard it, or said it, a million times: Our outsourcing engagement works because of the relationship. It is a partnership, not a buyer-vendor arrangement. And for the most part, that statement has held true. Traditional outsourcing typically involved a 10-plus-year contract, along with a real need to make the relationship work. Changing providers meant migrations, downtime and extra expense—and all the ancillary pains associated with switching gears in the pre-Cloud, all-my-apps-are-customized world. Now, let’s look at today. We’ve not only gained the agility and scalability of Cloud computing and a bounty of “as a Service” offerings, but a brand new generation of Millennial (Gen Y) outsourcing buyers and sellers are rising in the ranks of their respective companies, with Digital Natives (Gen Z) soon to follow. The result? A Workforce 2020 weaned on technology that approaches interactions, employment and life in a whole new way. Take relationships, for example. For Baby Boomers, these are built over coffee, lunch and time. Lots of face-to-face and phone contact. For the Millennials (and beyond), social media is the catalyst for staying in touch and interacting with a global network of “Friends.” Pertinent information is posted, pinned or broadcast in 140 characters or less. How will all of these factors transform outsourcing as we know it today? Will relationships even matter, or matter as much, in the future? We spoke to some outsourcing leaders—including Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials—to get their views on what’s to come. Shorter Contracts. More Options. “As more IT services become commodities, the way deals are framed has changed,” explained Tom Signorello, vice president of Global Managed Services for Unisys. “What used to be 10-year deals are now three-to-five year deals, so everything is accelerated. The provider has to be as fluid and adaptable as the technology itself.” What used to be differentiators are now just the basics. “The conversations we have with prospective clients have totally changed. What used to be a week-long presentation on people, processes and tools is now glossed over because those tools and technologies are table stakes—your ante into the game,” explained Michael Marzullo, portfolio-offering manager for HP’s Worldwide Applications Management Services. “Customers expect low price and high quality. It’s the extras you offer, like unique application performance management tools that become the differentiation.” At the same time, new “flavors” of outsourcing are bursting onto the scene, serving start-ups and entrepreneurs. TaskUs, for example, offers a totally virtual solution and an annual contract to newer companies that previously didn’t have an outsourcing option. “In the late 1990s and early 2000s, start-ups had to raise tens of millions of dollars to get the infrastructure in place to start a business. It was too expensive to test out an idea,” said Bryce Maddock, CEO of TaskUs. “Today, it’s a different ball game. With hosted technology and the right outsourcing partner, a start-up can spend $1 million to $2 million dollars to launch a company, or even a couple of hundred thousand dollars to test a new idea.” Relationships Still Rule Every one of our experts agreed that no matter how outsourcing changes, the need for strong provider-client relationships won’t go away. “Today, relationships are more important than ever,” Signorello of Unisys said. “The difference is, with shorter contract cycles, you have to establish that connection from day one. You have to start delivering innovation and value quickly.” From every indication, customers still care about knowing the people who will support their business, whether that support is cloud-based or delivered in a more traditional model. “A relationship is always important when you’re trusting any aspect of your livelihood to someone,” said Marzullo of HP said. “We’re seeing a growing trend of our new customers wanting to not only meet but spend time building relationships with their account heads months before the contract is even signed. That requires more agile transition plans—getting people engaged much earlier in the process.” Even with all of the collaboration technology available, TaskUs’ Maddock, a 27-year-old Millennial himself, spends 60 percent of his time on a plane, traveling to personal meetings with his clients. “Although my generation is adept at using technology, we’re not slaves to it. We understand that no matter how advanced technology becomes, it will never replace the trust that is built by face-to-face contact,” Maddock said. The Role of Social Media Although no one we spoke to was “Friending” their clients, social media is playing a significant role in business development, as well as the ultimate buying decision. “Business development used to be based on ‘six degrees of separation;’ finding someone who knew someone who knew someone. Now, I can go to LinkedIn and in five or six clicks, I can dial into who I’m connected to and reach them through a personal introduction,” Signorello of Unisys said. Clients are conducting due diligence on line as well. “Today, 30 percent to 40 percent of the buying decisions are made before you’re even contacted,” Signorello said. “Our customers are researching providers online, finding their own references and narrowing the field on their own. As a provider, it’s essential to be active online, get into groups and have a strong presence.” Emerging Pricing Models and Measurements of Success If the predictions are right, Workforce 2020 will usher in the freelance era, a time when outsourcing personnel (and those in other industries) will embrace the life of a contractor, working from home or their neighborhood Wi-Fi enabled coffee shop. “If we’re moving to an environment where the bulk of the workforce is comprised of independent contractors, does it really make sense to pay people per hour, based on the traditional time-and-material model?” asked Maddock of TaskUs. “I see a movement to the incentive model, where the service provider is paid per unit or desired result. This aligns incentives and creates a true partnership.” The barometer of a successful outsourcing arrangement will also shift away from the classic SLA. “As buying behaviors …

How the Advantages of Video Interviewing Are Improving Enterprises

Outsourcing Center, Beth Ellyn Rosenthal, Senior Writer

With the insane popularity of selfies, people clearly like being in front of the camera. And that includes using video from their smart phones. Video interviewing is actually more than cool and fun. Its usage is improving the profitability of the enterprises that use it in nine ways: from hiring better candidates faster to actually enhancing an employer’s brand. The service providers we interviewed mention nine advantages of video interviewing. They include: 1. Enhances an employer’s brand. Often, candidates are also consumers of the employer’s products and services, and maintaining customer loyalty is important. “So their candidate experience matters. How they perceive the employer’s brand affects how they perceive the consumer brand,” says Kurt Heikkinen, Montage president and CEO. Video interviewing’s goal is to enhance the candidates’ experience and therefore brand loyalty. 2. Increases the candidate pool. Candidates are not limited by geography. Prospects for one Canadian retailer had to get to the job interview by snow mobile. Now anyone with a computer can apply, notes Chip Luman, COO of HireVue. 3. Improves the candidate experience. It turns the interview process into a two-way dialog, even in the face of all the efficiency gains, by providing the candidate helpful videos and links to review before they answer the questions. Clients can use the platform to share more about themselves and the open job than they do during the traditional hiring process. 4. Provides cost benefits. “Hiring for just one role could cost a company as much as $3,000. But they only paid $49,” says Josh Tolan, Spark Hire CEO. Alison Pruett, marketing manager of InterviewStream, says her company saved one client 86 percent by severely slashing its travel costs. 5. Generates efficiency gains. Luman of HireVue says it’s not unusual for employers to receive one million job applications a year. There’s no way any company can afford to hire enough staff to assess numbers of that size. “It was like trying to find a needle in a hay stack. But now everyone gets to tell their story in a video interview,” he notes. Tolan of Spark Hire says one customer was able to screen 1,000 people in the time it used to take its recruiters to screen just 50. 6. Provides a standardized interview process. Luman of HireVue points out “there’s no way to guarantee recruiters are all asking the same questions. With video interviews, the questions are identical. This is a fairer, more standardized way to assess candidates.” 7. Allows employers to actually hire better candidates. Tolan of Spark Hire says, “video interviews help companies gain greater insight into their candidates earlier in the hiring process, allowing them to make better decisions about who makes the cut to the next round and who fits better into their culture. Fewer hiring mistakes mean a more prosperous company.” Once companies find that hard-to-find person, they have a better chance of actually adding them to the payroll. Adds Luman of HireVue, “Now the final interview becomes a sales meeting to close the candidate. Before the candidate had to answer the same questions to different people. Video interviewing eliminated that. Now the meeting is about getting the candidate excited about joining the company.” 8. Fills jobs faster. Luman of HireVue says “video interviewing shortens the time and distance between the candidate and hiring manager by eliminating a lot of manual processes. Recruiters share videos with hiring managers who can engage with the best candidate. This fills openings faster with the best quality candidate,” he says. 9. Lessens the stress of finding a job. Tolan of Spark Hire says “interviewing and hiring can be a stressful process for everyone involved. The use of online video streamlines the process by cutting down on pre-screening and eliminating travel.” Pruett of InterviewStream adds, “It’s all about candidate convenience, especially for candidates already employed. They can prepare the video at night in their PJs. And they don’t have to rock the boat at their current jobs.” Concludes Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, “The ease of video interviews can improve the overall candidate experience.” To meet or not to meet? Luman of HireVue reports the provider has clients who hire without in-person interviews. “We believe this is simply another way to hire the best people in an increasingly virtual workplace,” he says. Others, however, say video interviewing does not replace the benefits of an IRL (in real life) meeting. As Hosking observes, “Meeting job seekers in person remains one of the best ways to gather insight about an applicant before making a final hiring decision.” Maybe that’s the real lesson of disruptive new technologies. They can replace the old way of doing things, but they really work best when they become another arrow in the quiver and work in conjunction with the tried and true.  

Should CIO Be a Part-Time Job?

Outsourcing Center, Patti Putnicki, Business Writer

Forgive me if the title of this article elevated your blood pressure or caused undue anxiety. The goal here is not to discount the role of the CIO in today’s business environment but to point out the fact that, in many companies, that role has significantly changed. Almost every company is becoming technology-centric, with digital solutions driving their supply chains and revenue streams. As IT moves front and center in all functions, the CIO must now not only have technical knowledge but true business DNA. Going forward, that need will alter org charts, as well as the backgrounds of those who occupy the CIO seats. Some progressive companies have already shaken things up—transforming their traditional organizational structures, based on changing business objectives. The result? A new breed of hybrid CIO, otherwise known as the CIO “and” position. A fresh approach that’s delivering big benefits to companies who dare to step outside of the organizational box. CIO and Operations: The Chocolate and Peanut Butter of McAfee “Every company goes through different phases and levels of change,” said Patty Hatter, CIO and senior vice president of Operations for McAfee. “I’m a big believer in the scope of the change dictating the kind of organizational structure you need to enable. It all comes down to two simple questions: What is it we want to accomplish and how do we have to organize to make that happen?” For McAfee, it was single position responsible for both IT and operations. “When I came to the company, it was difficult to get things done. The business processes across the organization were flawed, and because of it, the IT department struggled and was often blamed as the sole source of the problem,” Hatter said. “I think many companies have the same issue. They implement a lot of technology, but because that technology isn’t aligned to real-world business processes, it doesn’t get them anywhere.” By combining the role of CIO and SVP of operations, the same person accountable for how the company works is also responsible for the infrastructure that supports it. The potential for turf wars and hidden agendas greatly decline. The result? Real progress. “With this organizational structure, we don’t have one person focused solely on the details of technology. Instead, we look at what we need to do as a company and how we want to spend our money to realize our business goals. Then, we align our technology to those goals,” Hatter said. “It sounds so simple, but it’s the place where a lot of enterprises fail.” And those process changes that come with implementing new technology? With her combined role, Hatter is accountable for that, too. So, things don’t fall through the cracks. If you’re still not buying into the premise, take a long hard look at what McAfee has been able to accomplish in the two years Hatter has held these dual roles. “In the past two years, we have been able to drive down IT spend per employee by 7 percent, which exceeds the Gartner FY13 peer average. We’ve achieved a 20 percent increase in operations productivity and we’ve increased the percentage of IT spend on new capabilities by 20 percent,” Hatter said. “I have to say, those numbers even surprised me.” More Winning Combos Emerging Everyday McAfee is not the only company where the CIO takes on dual roles. Different and successful combinations are emerging every day, including: CIO and SVP, Operations CIO and Group Head, Global Business Services CIO and SVP, Specialty Business CIO and SVP, Customer Care Shared Services CIO and Head of Business Transformation CIO and Chief Innovation Officer CIO and SVP, Customer Service CIO and Supply Chain Officer The combinations are not as important as the shift in corporate mindset they represent. The island of IT is reconnecting with mainland corporations. The car body is merging with the engine that takes it where it needs to go. We’re even seeing new, rather unexpected career paths emerge. Most notably, CIO Michael Relich of Guess Inc. recently accepted the role of COO for the company. His appointment and others underscore the fact that the lines between technology and the business processes they support are finally beginning to blur. For real. Articulating without the Acronyms Of course, not every CIO has the qualifications, nor the desire, to take on a dual role. But this much is certain: the days of the pure tech-head, acronym-slinging IT exec are numbered. Why? Well, the rest of us aren’t so scared of technology anymore. Although business’ reliance on technology has grown exponentially greater and the issues solved with technology more complex, users are far more comfortable with technology than ever before. Today, almost everyone, from five-year-olds to Great Grandma Perkins, can log in, search, post and process information with relative ease. We don’t know how it works. We don’t care how it works. At work or at home, we all focus on one thing: How can technology make our lives better, more efficient, more productive and more successful? The business-savvy CIO who can articulate that answer and who is as invested in what the business does as the technology that supports it is the CIO of the future—whether he or she plays a single role or dual role.  

BPO for the Next Generation

Outsourcing Staff

How analytics, insights and innovation are revolutionizing the outsourcing industry. Take a look at the next generation of BPO! Since its mainstream inception in the 1990s, a comprehensive and successful business process outsourcing (BPO) program has consisted of three main elements: cost reduction, transaction processing of non-core functions (such as human resources and finance and accounting), and offshoring. The entire concept was built around cutting costs and the only way providers could truly differentiate themselves was through pricing. Success was measured by costs savings and reliability. These parameters and value proposition are no longer good enough to solve the client pain points of today. BPO clients want more than a cheap and efficient service provider to cut costs on the peripheries of their operations. They want a partner who delivers sustainable innovation and value. They want a provider that can transform back, middle and front offices, to deliver improved business performance and to provide the kind of business flexibility that enables an organization to make those quick and efficient directional shifts that have become essential to maintaining a competitive advantage. Low cost is still an important goal, but strategic business impact is just as important if not more so. The modern parameters for evaluating a successful BPO program are measurable business outcomes, such as increased speed to market, increased revenue and improved customer satisfaction. A major key to achieving these objectives involves using information that is accumulated through the BPO provider/client relationship to deliver improved outcomes, and being able to use and implement solutions in ways that promote efficiency and grow business outcomes for clients. Today’s BPO providers and their clients are sitting on a mountain of data and untapped potential. The most successful BPO programs give providers the power to deploy analytics to extract usable insights from the immense stores of transactional data amassed during transaction-to-transaction, day-to-day client engagements. These insights are then used to generate new kinds of business outcomes – outcomes not commonly associated with BPO that deliver top and/or bottom line results. Results can include accelerated speed to market, optimized spending for significant, sustainable reinvestments back into operations, enhanced innovation, stronger customer service, improved talent management and top-line growth. Effective use of analytics in BPO environments – through sophisticated tools and techniques for statistical surveying, root-cause analysis and process optimization – paired with focused industry expertise has a major impact on organizational performance. Providers should use descriptive analytics to help C-level executives gain an immediate understanding of what is happening with their businesses. And predictive analytics can provide these same executives with a clear picture of what might happen in the near or even distant future. The next step is to craft the right strategies, incorporating the vast volumes of transactional data a provider accumulates through its management of a client’s business processes, and the performance of those processes, over the long haul. Helping to bolster analytics, technologies such as software-as-a-service and mobility are catalyzing BPO’s further evolution. Characterized by on-demand services applied across multiple clients through flexible software platforms and commercial contract structures paired with standardized processes, the modern and innovative BPO solution is emerging process by process. As these technologies mature and clients increasingly embrace process standardization, value creation and efficiency can only improve. The new frontier – the next generation of BPO – involves online social networking. Individuals are increasingly using social media to build communities where members share best and worst practices, and discuss strategies for overcoming tough business challenges. People are constantly learning from one another. Social networking will become an extension of next generation platforms, helping to build networked communities centered on BPO-based processes. These platforms will be supplemented by integrated online communities linking client users and BPO provider staff. Through participation in the community, clients will be able to exchange ideas and benefit from each other’s insights about how BPO can help to achieve new business outcomes as well as shape the ongoing evolution of the on-demand platform and standardized processes. Solutions that deliver business value beyond cost savings will only accelerate in 2014 and beyond. Companies are finding themselves part of or competing against highly networked systems of partners, customers and suppliers. Multi-company systems are able to innovate rapidly, leap frog the experience curve and quickly attain market leadership. These future networks will be enabled by cheap bandwidth, computing power and online collaboration platforms. Advances in technology provide the flexibility to quickly assemble processes and services that leverage business networks. Companies that choose to ignore the business network and attempt to do it on their own may find themselves increasingly isolated and vulnerable. The ideal BPO provider is a partner, not a service provider. That provider will be able to take those mountains of accumulated data and turn it into an efficient and essential weapon that helps to fine-tune decision-making and grow a company’s bottom line. Those who do not take advantage of this next generation of BPO will find themselves being left behind in the highly competitive digital age. Michael Corcoran is the Growth and Strategy Lead for BPO at Accenture  

On the Edge-Disruption in Big Data Analysis and Business Models

Outsourcing Center, Patti Putnicki, Business Writer

It’s 2014, and Big Data analysis is still big news. Businesses in every market segment are scrambling to use this insight to create “right-time” experiences for their customers and internal staff. When done well, Big Data analysis gives companies a clear competitive advantage. However, for many organizations, Big Data efforts have gone awry, transforming the Big Data buzz into a buzz kill; derailing initiatives before they even get off of the ground. According to recent studies, more than half of Big Data analysis projects never get completed, with many others falling short of their objectives. All that’s left of these efforts are corporate leaders shaking their collective heads, wondering where things went so wrong. So, why do so many analytics efforts fail? What’s the best way to capitalize on the Big Data opportunity while navigating the potential roadblocks that could slow progress? We spoke to some industry experts to find out the answers. Their insight could save you some time, cost and heartache as you embark in your own Big Data journey. Identify Your Goals Before You Jump In Our experts all agreed: One of the biggest causes of Big Data disasters is jumping in too soon without clearly defining what it is you want to accomplish. “In a typical scenario, the CEO pings the CIO and says, ‘we need to be doing something with Big Data.’ The CIO runs out, buys the technology tools and delivers analyses that have little to no value to the business,” explained Anand Sahay, head of IT Services for IGT. “Big data analysis cannot be an initiative of the CIO. It has to be a business initiative executed by the CIO, based on a well-defined business case.” And we’re not talking “gain customer insight,” “increase productivity” or “reduce operating costs.” “While many companies have the big themes right, to be successful, they have to connect those big themes with the granular idea of how to add value to the business,” explained Vikram Duvvoori, corporate vice president for HCL America. “If you want to increase productivity, define where—in what areas. Gain customer insight to accomplish what? Companies often get caught up in the process of collecting and analyzing data, instead of focusing on how that insight can help the company do business in a different, better way.” Although creating a strong business case is fundamental, it’s only step one of an effective analytic process. Block and Tackle First “Jumping in to analyze large volumes of diverse data without first having a true business use case and some level of data governance in place – what I often refer to as part of the basic blocking and tackling – is a recipe for disaster,” explained Scott Schlesinger, senior vice president and head of Business Information Management for Capgemini. “Once you establish your business case, you have to identify what data you need to grab, how you’re going to bring that data into the organization, what tools are best suited to capturing the type of data you need, and how are you going to store all of this data.” One of the biggest obstacles is the way companies currently manage their data. Previously, companies organized data in siloes. Now, they not only need to manage that data but also weblogs and feeds from Facebook, Twitter and other social media sources,” said Guru Shashikumar, director of product management for Oracle Managed Cloud Services. “For companies to take advantage of the Big Data opportunity, they have to tear down the walls—both in the way data is organized and in the way insight is shared.” They also need to put strong governance processes in place; a critical factor too many organizations currently ignore. “So many companies buy a solution but don’t have a data governance process in place or the expertise to set it up,” Schlesinger of Capgemini said. “You have to create a strong control framework so you know that the data you’re analyzing is good; that your models are sound, and that your processes adhere to privacy standards, which vary from country to country. Big Data analytics is such a hot topic that it’s easy to get caught up in the technology, but without the process, program and the right people, you’re going to spend a lot of money and not get the outcome you want.” If you’re new to Big Data Analytics, don’t try to go it alone. The right partner can help you create an analytics playbook, set up a formal governance program and train your people on how to manage that program going forward. Integrate, Analyze and Pay Attention to Context Integration of data, both in collection and how insight is dispersed among your various communication channels is essential—lest you irritate the very customers you’re trying to delight. “Imagine going to a specific resort and having a fabulous time. A week later, you get an offer from that same resort for the same vacation you booked for $5,000 for $4,200. You’re going to be angry and probably demand an $800 refund,” Schlesinger of Capgemini said. “All of that does more to damage the relationship and eradicate what should have been a good customer experience.” Context is also critical. “Creating a right-time experience is more than customer relationship management. By applying contextual information—what is the customer doing right now, what does he or she need, what is his or her attitude at this moment—companies can truly transform how they interact with their customers, prospects and employees,” Shashikumar of Oracle said. A handful of data sources, and one or two internal departments using the insight, could lead to disaster. “You don’t want to send an offer to buy jewelry for your wife to someone who has recently changed his Facebook status from married to single,” Sahay of IGT said.” At the same time, you don’t want a customer to get multiple offers or communications from different departments in isolation. If a passenger is stranded at the airport, you want to send an apology, with up-to-date flight …

Criminals Turn to Outsourcing to Launch Distributed Denial of Service Attacks

Outsourcing Center, Beth Ellyn Rosenthal, Senior Writer

Here’s one sign that outsourcing has become an accepted global business strategy: the criminals have adopted it! Yes, friends, neighbors and countrymen, criminals are hiring IT experts to perform distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which effectively bring down Websites. NSFOCUS, Inc., a company that provides enterprise-level network security solutions and services, tracked 168,459 individual DDoS attacks in the first half of 2013 among its customer base, according to its Mid-Year DDoS Threat Report 2013. The report said a major DDoS event broke out every two days on average. NSFOCUS detected one common DDoS attack every two minutes from its own monitoring networks. “Those numbers are mind-numbing,” says Vann Abernethy, senior product manager at NSFOCUS. “Can you imagine the global number?” he asks rhetorically. Even worse, the report found 68 percent of the victims suffered multiple attacks; that percentage was only 49.3 percent in 2012. Abernethy explains DDoS attacks keep IT professionals up at night because they can: Damage back-end infrastructure Affect applications Destroy databases Upset paying customers Cause the loss of sensitive information Why now? DDoS attacks have been occurring since the late 1990s with the wide use of routing networks, Abernethy noted. “Ten years ago DDoS attacks were an annoyance at best,” he recalls. IT experts simply emptied the IT pipe with all the bogus traffic and “simply forgot about it.” Today cloud computing has changed the landscape. The perpetrators are “taking advantage of server level power,” he says. How are the criminals getting involved? Abernethy says historically the perpetrators were “hacktivists,” people who wanted to get revenge, make a political statement or impress their peers. “Now we are seeing more criminal activity,” he reports. Abernethy says the criminals even advertise on the Internet! The criminals are also using DDoS attacks as a camouflage. The NSFOCUS executive says a DDoS attack “drives the IT security team nuts.” While they are “going crazy” trying to deal with the attack, the criminals are quietly extracting data. Abernethy says the IT administrators often don’t know the data has left the building until they review the data logs, sometimes days later. For example, back in 2011 there was an attack on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Law requires all listed companies put their financial statements online. The Exchange itself is remarkably secure but the Website hosting the financial statements was not. The attack caused the stocks of seven companies, including HSBC and Cathay Pacific, to suspend trading, resulting in millions of dollars of lost trading profits. The attacker, a supposed businessman who was trying to promote his company’s security services, used a botnet comprised of infected computers from all over the world to launch the attack. In another case, the criminals infected the computer of a salesman for a distribution company. He then logged into the company’s secure computer system with his now compromised computer. The thieves retrieved the necessary codes to break into the warehouse, which they emptied. “Criminals are not only interested in IT threats,” explains Abernethy. “They want to steal physical goods, too.” NSFOCUS expects criminal activity to continue to grow during the back half of 2013 for two reasons: Botnet rentals. The criminals are hiring IT experts to create botnets. Botnets can be comprised of PCs, tablets or smart phones. The criminals infect the device with malware. The infected devices can then make repetitive attacks over short periods “more effective and less expensive,” according to the report. Corporate willingness to pay ransom. Once the media reports you paid a ransom (however reluctantly), your site becomes a priority target for other cyber criminals. HOW NSFOCUS fends off attacks Website owners of all stripes want to ensure that their online businesses remain operational no matter what. Products like NSFOCUS’s Anti-DDoS System can help service providers and customers find and fend off these attacks while letting legitimate traffic get through to critical systems. For example, NSFOCUS charts each botnet’s characteristics. This is a constant job “because they have spoofing abilities,” he explains. The company grey lists these botnets; when its software spies a suspicious address, it shuts down the attack. Like anything else, the only way to protect yourself from any criminal activity “is to be hyper vigilant,” says Abernethy. My advice: Protect your computer and Website and get a guard dog.  

How Texting, Veterans and SEO Helped RPO Companies Fill High-Demand Jobs

Outsourcing Center, Beth Ellyn Rosenthal, Senior Writer

Even as the economy has improved worldwide, the unemployment figures are still stubbornly high. But talking to HR and recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) executives, they are working overtime to fill certain jobs. Sometimes the skill set is too much in demand or just rare. In other cases, it is near impossible to reach the right job seekers, so the job openings remain unfilled. Filling the resulting talent gap can become a challenging undertaking. Here are three stories of how RPO and niche outsourcing providers had to think out-of-the-box to get the job done for their buyers. Finding call center workers in Panama City Two of the world’s largest computer manufacturers have call centers in Panama City, Panama. The Central American nation has a highly educated population that speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, making it a perfect place to answer questions from frustrated users in both North and South America. One of these companies had an opening for 100 call center associates in its credit card department. For six months the jobs remained unfilled. The manufacturer realized its competitors made “the fight for talent fierce,” according to Kshitij Jain, founder and CEO of MoBolt, an outsourcing provider specializing in mobility in the talent acquisition space. They knew the target employee was about 25-years-old. And it knew most of its target market had BlackBerries. The BlackBerry technology includes BlackBerry Messenger, an SMS texting application that is free if you text to other BlackBerry Messenger users. This is important because texting “is exceptionally expensive in Latin America,” explains Jain. It’s not unusual for a user to spend a significant sum on monthly texts. “And this age group texts a lot,” he continues. In addition, it is cost prohibitive and difficult to open Web browsers from a BlackBerry in Latin America. So setting up a special Web site wouldn’t work. The company’s HR department came up with a plan. First, they created a lucrative incentive they would award to any current employee who referred a quality candidate. “They knew the only language this young crowd listened to was the sound of money,” says the MoBolt executive. Then, they sent out texts announcing the incentive plan using BlackBerry Messenger. They knew their target market would welcome the free communication and not hesitate to forward the text to their friends. The original text included a special code to track the employee with the leads as they came in. The result: The manufacturer received more applications in a week than it had in the past six months. The manufacturer filled all the seats in 30 days. “This demonstrates the power of mobile in hiring: you can drive the right employee engagement,” says Jain. Veterans were the answer Home building is, by definition, a boom and bust industry. But the housing bust of 2008 hit home builders harder than most could remember. To survive, most laid off all but the necessary people to keep the company alive during the hard times. They certainly had no need for land assessors, whose job is to determine if a plot of land is suitable for development. They are the first people on the scene when the builder thinks about opening a new subdivision. Early last year the recovery began. Since so many existing homes were locked in foreclosures and short sales, many US markets experienced an inventory shortage. Suddenly there were a lot more buyers than homes to buy. Consequently, new home sales soared, because they became the major part of the available housing stock. That meant builders had to ramp up fast. But land assessors were nowhere to do be had. A Fortune 500 home builder turned to ManpowerGroup Solutions for a solution. Jim McCoy, head of US and Canada operations for the outsourcer, says the answer was to hire veterans. The military uses land assessors in a number of ways. “These soldiers were well-trained in many critical aspects but lacked awareness of the commercial environment,” says McCoy. So ManpowerGroup Solutions identified Junior Military Officers who the home builder trained in the commercial aspects of real estate development. It turned out to be a win-win solution for everyone. The veterans found great jobs and the home builder found its much-needed talent necessary to kick off the development process in a timely fashion. Engineering a solution for automobile manufacturers Hybrid cars have become the “cool” car. Who doesn’t like saving money on gas? That’s why hiring battery ion engineers—the ones who design hybrid automobiles—is as difficult as finding an available Prius when they first appeared. “These engineers are really rare, very much in demand and all employed,” says Greg Karr, Seven Step RPO executive vice president. Karr says building a sourcing infrastructure around a skill set that might only yield 300 professionals in the US requires high touch, state-of-the-art technology and expert knowledge to create and nurture a community that drives hires. That included building a battery ion talent community as well as a specific career site. “We want to be THE place for this type of candidate across all channels,” Karr explains. Seven Step Recruitment Process Outsourcing used: Customized search-engine-optimized-job promotion and advertising Automated search strategies to mine job boards and the open Web Manual, non-traditional searches through patent databases, alumni groups and industry journals to find passive candidates “We had to use academic rigor to define where candidates ‘live’ online and then be creative to figure out how best to connect with them,” says Karr. The result: Seven Step RPO places between 10-15 of these hires per year even when there are only 300 possible applicants. How Recruitment Process Outsourcing actually fill these jobs Randstad Sourceright received a requisition to fill a senior accountant job at a wealth management company. The job, based in southern California, is to oversee highly visible investment portfolios. It is not an easy job to fill. The client company had tried for nearly two years to fill the position, according to Chase Wilson, vice president of recruiting and innovation center of expertise at …

Why ConAgra Foods Decided to Outsource HR Analytics After Doing It In house

Outsourcing Center, Beth Ellyn Rosenthal, Senior Writer

This is the second article in a series on how companies are using Big Data to gain critical business insights. ConAgra Foods, a food maker based in Omaha, Nebraska, started its journey to using predictive analysis in an incremental way. The company, whose brands include Healthy Choice, Banquet, Orville Redenbacher’s, Marie Callender’s and Chef Boyardee, wanted to solve a simple business problem: make access to basic data uniform and easy to access through automation. Mark Berry, vice president, people insights for ConAgra Foods, says a number of corporate stakeholders needed access to the same information—HR, finance and legal staff from each of those departments had to produce every report manually. “But the reports rarely matched because different people prepared them different ways using different information systems,” Berry recalls. Over the course of six months, a cross-functional team of HR, IT and finance built a portal-based, self-service solution using business intelligence reporting software already licensed to the company. This solved the problem simply and elegantly. The stakeholders— from HR, finance and legal—were thrilled. Even more important, it was the first taste these executives had of the power of analytics. “Our people insights initiative got a lot of credibility after this project,” Berry continues. The move to outsourcing Once the analytics genie was out of the bottle, ConAgra Food’s HR leadership had other people-specific questions they wanted to ask. And they wanted a solution that would be more intuitive and provide users with more readily-identifiable insights and actions. However, the project team realized that a next-generation solution would have to require minimal—if any—IT maintenance, low or no development costs and the thought leadership necessary to stay on top of the move to predictive analysis. “We needed to ensure that in deploying predictive analytics we did not compete for resources deployed to address other critical business issues,” Berry recalls. Outsourcing HR analytics was the answer. “We knew that building our own next-generation solution would be difficult to support with the internal IT resources available,” says Berry. Outsourcing HR analytics to Visier solved the business problem. “Now they were responsible for all the development,” he points out. “And their platform could be developed faster.” The Visier solution came pre-built with over 300 answers to key HR questions (for example, what turnover looks like based on role and location), which were designed based on HR best practices and included predictive analytics (for example, top performers at risk of leaving). Also, ConAgra Foods could access visual dashboards and generate interactive slideshows and reports to share insights with business leaders. Berry said he realized in just 60 days after adopting the Visier solution “we were three-to-five years ahead of where we would be” if they had kept this function in house. Outsourcing allowed ConAgra Foods to “dollarize” the costs; that’s Berry’s word coined to determine the true cost of the Visier analytics solution. What’s more, Visier’s solution requires no internal IT support. The outsourced analytics provider set up automated data feeds from ConAgra’s HR (including recruiting, and performance, retention and talent management) and IT departments to Visier daily.” The solution requires no human interaction between Visier and our IT team,” marvels Berry. Berry saysConAgra Foods —leveraging Visier’s capabilities—had an operational solution in 30 days. Question ConAgra is asking Visier has 80 different metrics that allow ConAgra Foods to see relationships between things among its employee base of 36,000 spread across the globe. Other clients of the workforce analytics company include Nissan, Kohl’s and Hyatt. “Our goal is to help our clients manage their employee populations in the most optimal way for their businesses,” says Visier CEO John Schwarz. (SAP acquired his last business intelligence company, BusinessObjects.) The analytics solutions provider gives its customers a cloud-based tool that contains a list of pertinent questions the analytics can answer. “We built the model. Once clients sign up, we collect and cleanse the data behind the scenes,” he explains. Berry adds that—with workforce planning—ConAgra Foods has the potential to save millions of dollars by improving its resource allocation by just one percent. He says Visier’s platform has helped ConAgra Foods answer the following questions: How do we keep our top talent? Are we retaining our top talent? If not, why not? Are we rewarding the right people? How are we managing our people costs? Are we investing in the right people? Are we investing in the right things to maintain the commitment and satisfaction of the employees we have? Are we improving diversity?  If not, why not and what do we need to do to address? To what degree do our compensation systems foster retention, engagement or performance? For example, Berry says ConAgra Foods discovered it was doing a great job of retaining its top talent. The employee turnover rate in this category was enviably low. But this exemplary trend had a down side: it can potentially increases turnover in the successor-level jobs—if leaders aren’t leaving, how do I as an emerging leader get promoted?  “We could never have seen that without Visier’s workforce analytics,” Berry says. “Our customers can look at their history and determine the factors that affect it,” says Schwarz. “Then our Workforce Planning solution shows them how the future will look if they change the parameters. They can run “what if” scenarios to help make better decisions about their workforce.” The key, though, is knowing what questions to ask. “Having access to large data sets is valuable if you approach the data with a clear question in mind,” says Berry. “If you don’t have a definable problem, it’s easy to get analysis paralysis.”  

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