How to make outsourcing work and ensure outside firms are ‘on brand’

But there is always one proviso and that is the company must live that mantra at every single touch-point, day in and day out. Consistency is key.

For example, on the Eir website I found this: “Everything we do is built around our customers. You’re an essential part of our vision of a brighter, modern and more dynamic future together”. This is what Eir claim they do today. If you’ve had any contact with Eir over the years, you can decide if it lives up to this promise.

Now I know that’s tough and delivering perfect consistency is a Holy Grail for most. Even the great Superquinn back in the day, suffered occasionally from out-of-stocks which of course annoyed some customers. But we know that the culture in Superquinn that drove this agenda, came from the top and delivering consistently great customer experience was core to the business.

The Hidden Hearing Challenge

When Hidden Hearing embarked on a culture-change programme in 2015, it put the patient at the heart of all decision-making. Processes changed, resources were beefed up where necessary, internal and external communications changed and most of all, the behaviours of its people were recalibrated.

Obstacles to becoming a customer/patient were identified and efforts made to eliminate those obstacles. For example, the 30-day refund policy was extended to 90 days. Warranties were increased from two to four years. A patient can now get free batteries for the life of the device and Hidden Hearing will keep talking to patients every few months to re-adjust devices for free.

But they have to find those customers in the first place. The marketing business model is designed to pull big numbers of relevant people into a funnel. When those customers engage they become part of the CRM system and are contacted by the contact centre to make an appointment for a free consultation. This is where a gap emerged.

Because of the specialism involved in running a contact centre, which includes high-tech telephony, IT systems, data reports and skilled people, Hidden Hearing outsourced this service.

After some time, service levels dropped and so did sales. Managing director Stephen Leddy is rightly very protective of the brand DNA, as articulated through the mission and values. The evidence was that customers were not getting the quality of care and attention at this critical first point of contact. “Simply put, the contact centre just wasn’t ‘on-brand’,” he said.

At considerable capex and ongoing operating cost, the contact centre is now a fully functioning department in its Citywest head office, fully integrated and managed by the management team. The decision was taken to bring it back in-house so that the company can control it fully and ensure a seamless customer experience at all touch points.

Change Tips for Outsourcing

Despite this, I believe in the outsourcing model. However, I also believe that it is critical for an outsource provider to ‘be on brand’ or suffer the wrath of demanding clients in a changing marketplace. This is what I advise when considering outsourcing:

1 Is outsourcing appropriate? If the project requires a specialist set of skills, technology or capex that is not within your current parameters, then outsourcing is worth considering.

2 Build a plan with clear metrics: Be very clear on what your objectives are, what is essential and what is desirable, and what are the measures of success. This will enable a proposed partner to bid effectively and agree a strong service level agreement (SLA).

3 Select a provider that can deliver on your brand promise: The partner should take time to really understand your business and display that they have similar values to you. They should illustrate how they will integrate seamlessly with your people and your customers.

4 Don’t let price be the main criteria: The adage, ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ will show its ugly head here if you select a partner on price only. I saw it with an in-house caterer who won the bid on price alone. Within weeks, the morale of the workforce dropped dramatically. Be sure the metrics in the SLA also reflect qualitative measures such as customer feedback, etc.

5 Get a dedicated team: If the provider insists on being able to rotate their own people across different organisations to cover peak trading times, watch out. This may enable the provider to manage their own costs, but not without risk to the quality of the service.

6 Communicate regularly: Don’t let time zones or language prevent regular, structured and effective communications. Clear metrics and flashy reports are not enough. There is nothing to beat sitting down on a regular basis and chatting through the detail. Continue to own your own project.

Turning now to the service provider: You may be a contact centre, logistics provider, caterer, R&D specialist, contractor, IT or HR practice providing services to your clients. But if you are not offering a seamless service both to your clients and their customers, cracks will show eventually.

Customer experience in my view, is becoming the next great battleground for business. As a service provider you already know the steps outlined above. But as the market continues to change, the need for seamless integration with your client has never been more acute.

  • Alan’s debut book ‘Premium is the New Black’ will be launched in October.
  • Alan O’Neill is managing director of Kara Change Management, specialists in strategy, culture and people development. Go to http://www.kara.ie if you’d like help with your business

Source: Independent.ie-How to make outsourcing work and ensure outside firms are ‘on brand’

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RPA Is a Bigger Threat to White Collar Jobs Than Artificial Intelligence

Independent analyst firm, rpa2ai has released RPA50™, the first in a series of in-depth research reports on Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA50™ is the industry’s most comprehensive listing of RPA vendors to-date.

The RPA50™ infographic lists the top 50 global vendors within the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) marketplace. It also identifies eight different vendor categories and provides guidance on when to consider which category of vendors.

In addition to vendor summaries, the research analyzes the RPA ecosystem and marketplace development, examines the impact of RPA, highlights implementation challenges and the role of professional services.

Key research findings include:

  • RPA has a greater potential to significantly automate and change the work of millions of white collar professionals than Artificial Intelligence (AI).
  • The RPA marketplace is attracting a significant amount of venture capital investment, enterprise attention and employee anxiety.
  • While it can be an effective way to improve efficiencies and processes, RPA is regularly mis-sold as Machine Learning (ML) or Artificial Intelligence enabled. In reality, most RPA products have little to no ML or AI capabilities.
  • RPA products vary widely in their provenance, functionality, architecture, deployment options and geographic footprint. One size does not fit all.
  • Business buyers are often avoiding and not involving IT in their decision making processes – resulting in failed implementations.

Analyst Quotes:

“The RPA market is witnessing hypergrowth and enterprise expectations are sky high, so some degree of short-term disappointment is natural,” notes rpa2ai Founder and Chief Analyst, Kashyap Kompella, “but as the technology matures, RPA can change the global services landscape and impact a number of white collar jobs.”

“Enterprise systems and applications rarely talk well with each other,” adds analyst, Apoorv Durga, “so, there is a serious need for software like RPA that can automate repetitive re-keying and other manual tasks. But don’t forget that technology is only one aspect of an enterprise automation strategy.”

“RPA is more of art, than science today,” says Alan Pelz-Sharpe, strategic advisor to rpa2ai, and adds, “aspects such as differing cultures, current state and the tech stacks can be major drivers for success of RPA initiatives.

Source: PRNewswire-RPA Is a Bigger Threat to White Collar Jobs Than Artificial Intelligence

The Evolution of Offshoring and Why it Still Matters

There is a very good reason we are seeing a marked increase in the continued growth of offshore captive operations, they simply make sense. In fact, many of the major 3rd party Business Process Outsourcing players we know today originally started as captive or in-house centers themselves.

Birth of new model

Companies like GE Capital, Dun & Bradstreet and British Airways all established in-house operations offshore in mid to late 90’s. Originally created to support internal operations, they evolved into 3rd party service providers Genpact, Cognizant and WNS respectively. It was apparent that the benefits of economies of scale, and capitalizing on the labor arbitrage principals of supplying high skilled workers at lower costs, was beneficial to not only themselves, but to potential external clients, as well. This allowed the originating firms to realize ROI on their investments at an increased pace. Ultimately, the captives became stand-alone BPO providers, with the originators as initial clients.

Y2K, Crisis in need of a savior

Just as the fledgling BPO model was getting started, the very computers and telecommunications infrastructure that made the industry possible were creating its biggest boom ever. In order to save valuable space in the expensive memory and storage capabilities of the 90’s, the format for date codes represented the year in 2 digits (1999 = 99). When the inevitable year 2000 hit, computers would recognize this as 00, a major problem that many experts predicted. Thus, the need for programmers, and supply and demand laws, dictated the cost of local qualified resources increased. As a result, due to availability and cost, the labor arbitrage model came to the rescue.

High demand for customer service and fundamental IT skills

Now that the proverbial cat was out of the bag, many service-oriented companies were enamored with the potential of qualified workers at lower costs, and the offshore Call Center/BPO industry took off. Call Centers housing thousands of agents in specially designed facilities, operating at off hours in their home countries to support the day-time hours of their client’s customer base, were practically popping up like mushrooms.

Industry begins to mature

The initial CC/BPO model has proven very effective and many customers have enjoyed the significant cost savings. A toddler toddles for a while, but eventually gains confidence, picks up its feet, and walks. The BPO client base began to raise its expectations and soon wanted more.

Combine learned improvements with increased competition, and you now have an industry utilizing many methodologies like Six Sigma and LEAN for ongoing process improvement. Adoption of standards such as ISO to validate proper controls were put in place, and development and incorporation of advanced Workforce Management (WFM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms were expected.

KPO – just like BPO only with specialty skilled workers

The CC/BPO industry has created an entire infrastructure with solid processes and measurements that niche players can capitalize on to provide highly skilled talent in a variety of focused customized disciplines (Medical, Legal, Accounting, etc.). The effects of global aging populations and lower adoption of particular skills in the consumer based countries, allows the often younger offshore CC/BPO provider nations to offer not just the “most cost effective” labor, but more importantly the “needed” skilled labor.

Everything old is new again

As the 18-time Yankee baseball all star Yogi Berra once said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again”. While pioneering captives were the foundation of the BPO industry, technology and infrastructure costs back in the day required significant capital expenditure to setup and maintain operations. Today, 25+ years of industry and infrastructure maturation have enabled an As-A-Service economy, and this has re-opened the doors to the significant benefits of the captive, in-house model. Now, many options to build an Operational Expenditure (OpEx) model exist, allowing the smallest of pilot projects to be cost effectively established, tested and proven with complete IP and end-to-end process control.

Source: ssonetwork.com-The Evolution of Offshoring and Why it Still Matters

Will Robotic Process Automation Bring Down The Curtain On Outsourcing?

If there is one area that Robotics Process Outsourcing affected widely is near and offshore jobs. Robotic process automation (RPA) is applied to a variety of business processes by automating rule-based monotonous tasks and bridging temporary gaps. Basically, the RPA engines are loaded with highly-specific process knowledge which enables rules-based automation. Today, robotics lifecycle is automating almost half the traditional back-office functions which are being augmented with automation and are offsetting the cost of locations, noted a Deloitte Financial Services paper. So far, the early stages of adoption have shown businesses great benefits. According to recent statistics, robotic automation market will reach $4.98 billion globally and is forecasted to grow at a rate of 60.5 percent.

Some of the key functions that robots follow are:

  • Gather, validate and analyse structured and unstructured data
  • Record and transport information and data
  • Communicate effectively with users, clients and customers
  • Learn, anticipate and forecast the behaviour outcomes effectively

So, how is RPA a threat to the BPO industry? A Sage Intaact blog indicates that RPA has the potential to make many outsourcing relationships obsolete. According to the top four accounting organisations, the costs savings of RPA over outsourcing are around 70 percent. Along with the cost-saving factor, RPA also gives organisations complete control over the automation process, can be scaled to suit demand, simplifies communication and delivers accuracy for rule-based tasks.

Do BPO companies and teams fear the onslaught of RPA? The fears are largely exaggerated and Tom Davenport of MIT Center for Digital Business and Deloitte Analytics says that automating types of tasks with a machine may not be earth-shattering, but the early adopters of RPA do seem to have generally achieved some impressive returns on investment. Citing an example, he emphasised in a blog post as to how one telecom company that automated 160 different processes, achieved an ROI that ranged between 650 percent and 800 percent.

  • According to Davenport, the processes that were structured and codifiable enough to move to services outsourcers are the same ones that will be automated.
  • Many outsourcers have realised this and now offer either their own proprietary RPA solutions or “white-labelled” versions from other vendors.
  • Currently, business processes that show a high degree of knowledge and expertise, from radiology to legal document review, are already being partially automated.

Will Cognitive Automation Spell The Doom For Outsourcing?

Which brings us back to the question — will automation kill the era of outsourcing and what kind of impact it will have on the labour market? Davenport revealed that all automation systems require human involvement in the form of configuration, oversight and maintenance. Also, the role of outsourcers will change in the future where they will have to go beyond mere labour arbitrage. Outsourcing companies will have to provide a range of automation technologies and reskill process and technology experts. Here’s how Davenport puts it — the mere fact that human involvement is required at every stage of the process for cognitive automation indicates RPAs will not make the vast majority of human functions obsolete.

RPAs Won’t Affect Outsourcing

Even though BPOs will become less profitable in the future, the technological advancement of cognitive automation will converge, mature and will be augmented by humans. The question that most outsourcing companies are grappling with today is to what extent will this affect the business of offshoring. On the upside, RPAs will enable companies to achieve unparalleled levels of process accuracy and efficiency and at the same lower the cost as compared to the work that can be done by human employees.

In addition to this, RPAs can effectively provide activity logs and evidence of how decisions were made, ensuring they meet auditing requirements. Besides, the trend will not just affect a few sectors but will be a global employment and economic trends. In terms of India, where outsourcing is one of the biggest sources of employment in India, this will affect the labour outcome.

A research report from KPMG’s Cliff Justice highlighted the shift to RPA is a double-edged sword. It will not only digitise labour with advanced machine intelligence, big data, analytics, mobile technologies and cloud computing, but also hugely impact the knowledge worker labour market. However, a section of economists suggests that RPAs will impact the labour market positively by expanding the job market and created new roles.

Source: analyticsindiamag.com-Will Robotic Process Automation Bring Down The Curtain On Outsourcing?

Don’t ignore data flowing through vendors management systems

In my last column I emphasized smart contracts as one of the ways to address issues in Vendor Management.

Vendor Management is becoming an area of increased importance as clients increasingly use vendor ecosystems (ranging from services, software, startups etc.). And yet, we see clients not paying enough attention to it.

Most clients who have outsourcing relationships with vendors are sitting on huge amounts of insights and data.

This data is simply under-utilized.

The vendor management model has, for decades, been all about cost savings and control. But as we enter the age of transformation, the real value lies in unlocking the data and insights between the two parties.

Vendor Management consists of several transactions across finance, performance, contract, compliance etc. As financial information is exchanged, it reveals significant insights on usage patterns of various IT elements, by the client. Similarly, performance data can reveal areas – at a granular level – that need improvement. With better tools, the data can be analyzed real time, and used to identify error patterns, usage patterns and trends. The result is prevention of outages and disruption, and better utilization of IT assets.

Having advised several companies in their vendor management journey, I, at times, have been mesmerized by the substantial amounts of rich data they are sitting on. It’s overwhelming, just how useful this information can be.

Instead of the traditional way of policing suppliers, Vendor Management Offices can create a forum for more meaningful dialogue with vendors with deeper insights into operational metrics that can allow clients to address issues.

In fact, I see the possibility of mining this information to be monetized and benefit the industry in general.

This requires Vendor management offices to be equipped with the right skillsand technologies. The market has seen an influx of tools like Service Now, Sirion Labs and many more. Deploying these platforms is a step towards enabling a digitally enabled Vendor Management. This, in turn, can be further supported by the use of RPA and Cognitive technologies.

RPA can automate activities like invoice validation, performance validation, contract compliance, etc. These are labor intensive activities that often take multiple iterations and several days.

The opportunity and the future of Vendor Management can be described as below.

The future lies with the enterprises that gives way to a digitally enabled and data driven ecosystem of vendors. Enterprises will have to deal with constant changing sets of vendors in order to derive value. This is possible through information driven insights. Enterprises that do not adopt the new paradigm will struggle to manage vendors, as they will lack the skills to respond to the market dynamics of the ever changing vendor ecosystem.

Which side you want to be is completely your choice!

Source: ssonetwork.com-Don’t ignore data flowing through vendors management systems

Why now is the time to bring Services back

The fourth industrial revolution will impact the way many enterprises conduct business. Advents in technology, infrastructure, communication and social interaction require every company that values its customer base and operating costs to re-evaluate the business models that brought it success in the past. Access to skilled labor at competitive cost is crucial to every operation, and is the primary reason for the creation and growth in the offshore, third party Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) model.

This model was initially predicated on carving out labor intensive, non-core competencies to benefit from the economies of scale, labor arbitrage and process standardization that third party BPO providers offer. However, the digital revolution is now blurring the lines between core and non-core aspects of operations.

As a result, in efforts to avoid intellectual property and/or proprietary process exposure, or maintain regulatory and compliance requirements, operational flows can incur a degradation of process efficiencies and an increase in customer dissatisfaction.

In this second article in our series, we will take a look at some of the factors you should evaluate to determine your company’s strategy for success in the digital age.

BPO Model Maturity

Along with the growth and maturity of the BPO business model has come industry level standardization and adoption of the many processes, policies and procedures required to perform and manage key business functions. These operations are often provisioned from talent rich, cost effective economies around the world. Many tools governing these processes, policies and procedures are now available in a cloud model, allowing niche-focused, Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to capitalize on the same tools and functionality as large corporations.

This evolution has created a vast pool of tenured staff who are often siloed inside large delivery centers, many of whom are now exploring avenues of professional and personal development.

At the same time, BPO providers have enhanced their models by offering outcomes-based delivery, and recently, increasing consultancy services. Their belief is that hybrid BPO/SSC support models will strengthen relationships beyond client/vendor into true partnership models, with operational processes co-existing within the same geographical areas and perhaps even sharing facilities.

The Evolving Infrastructure and Technology Landscape

The “everything” as a service (XaaS) business model is transforming capability availability. Similar to VCRs, personal digital assistants and answering machines, there are many antiquated solutions that required significant Capital Expenditure (CapEx) to design, build and maintain the hardware infrastructure required to enable an environment where the costly business support infrastructure would reside.

Today’s Cloud Computing model changes the paradigm and is commonly recognized in three layers of functionality:

  • SaaS (CRM, WFM, etc.): Software for day-to-day operations
  • PaaS (AppDev): Platforms that provides robust, controlled environments for application development
  • IaaS (VM, VDC): Hosted Infrastructure providing the actual hardware

All are available virtually, on an as-needed basis. This includes immediate scalability with maintenance and support handled by the provider(s).

The same model has expanded beyond the virtual world, with many suppliers now offering facilities, staffing, process design and management support in the as-a-service model as well. This evolution has significantly reduced or eliminated the CapEx requirement, moving it to a much more favorable Operational Expenditure (OpEx) model where up-front costs are significantly reduced and applied only when required to facilitate growth and development.

Operational Control and Regulatory Compliance in the Digital Age

Due to regulatory requirement considerations, some processes simply cannot be outsourced to third party providers. The benefits of access to required, experienced, skilled labor in a cost-effective environment can still be realized, however.

This occurs when performed under an internal governance structure as executed by a satellite operation, wholly owned and operated under the corporate umbrella. The need for this overall governance and control becomes even more critical when working to realize the full potential of emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to achieve true Intelligent Automation (IA). The power of these technologies requires more than just replacing portions of a process with automated BOTs. True incorporation requires review of the entire end-to-end process that most likely will create entirely new process flows, requiring access to data, internal systems or IP.

It also requires highly trained and experienced staff that utilize the output providing an ultimate solution. It may not be prudent to develop, implement and expose this with outside third party vendors.

True Omnichannel (Multichannel on steroids) support requires extensive customer experience monitoring and interaction. If internal operational management resources are required to oversee this, the question must be asked, “Should these resources oversee internal or external third party staff?” This can often be hampered by communication challenges and hand-offs between disparate systems and databases. The very nature of the distributed ledger aspects of blockchain, for example, can expose sensitive information, which is best administered via internal resources.

Now is the time

The time for serious re-examination is prior to implementation, as these variables can significantly influence current operating policies, processes and procedures.

As little as 10 years ago, a viral tweet involved a sick bird of some sort, while today it can devastate a brand overnight. The fourth industrial revolution is re-imaging everything into a digital landscape and the possibilities are only limited by action, or more aptly, inaction.

Does your organization have plans to capitalize on and incorporate emerging technologies to improve operating models and customer interaction? Are these plans reliant on third party service providers owning key processes or should an internal solution be considered? Were prior CapEx requirements and expenditures a limiting factor? Does access to staff experienced in required operational disciplines cause concern?

The enterprise needs to determine what actions are required to thrive in the digital world.

Just be aware that past operational models most likely will not get you where you need to be in this rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Source: ssonetwork.com-Why now is the time to bring Services back

HFS TOP 10 INFRASTRUCTURE AND ENTERPRISE CLOUD SERVICES 2018

The infrastructure and enterprise cloud market continues to evolve as as-a-service and hyperscale cloud put pressure on traditional delivery models. More and more enterprises are looking for partners to tackle challenges from writing off legacy to providing a platform for the expansion of digital services. As this market develops, providers are becoming more specialised—more providers are coming to the market armed with deep relationships with the major cloud providers, placing less emphasis on their own infrastructure assets. Indeed, some are coming to market with no assets at all—playing the role of a pure-play services broker.

 

While infrastructure and cloud may no longer be the buzzword on the lips of business and IT leaders, it’s the essential foundation for many of the digital technologies that take up more mindshare. To this end, Infrastructure spending is shifting away from specific IT components and instead is being reframed as an enabler for other engagements in contracts. Infrastructure and applications, for example, are becoming increasingly interchangeable for enterprises. The focus is on the outcome to be achieved not on the tools and levers used to achieve them.

 

In this second iteration of this research (but first in the developed HFS Top 10 methodology), we explore the emerging market in the provider ecosystem for infrastructure and enterprise cloud services.

 

WHAT YOU’LL KNOW AFTER READING

 

  • How the market is evolving to face the onslaught of hyperscale cloud and as-a-service delivery models
  • The movements of the biggest providers operating in the space, and how they are evolving offerings to meet the changing needs of enterprise clients
  • The strengths, challenges, and opportunities for the major providers servicing the infrastructure and enterprise cloud market.

Source: HSF.com-HFS TOP 10 INFRASTRUCTURE AND ENTERPRISE CLOUD SERVICES 2018