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The missing link in business outsourcing partnerships

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Those of us who live and breathe business outsourcing know that the drivers for engaging with a BPO provider have changed hugely. While cost savings remain a given, companies are looking for ways in which they can become agile enough to capitalise on changes in market trends or customer demand, to further long-term growth. 

An independent research study with 100 senior BPO clients we commissioned confirmed this, but also indicated that there are still factors on both sides of BPO relationships that are limiting the sector’s potential to contribute more to both individual organisations and the UK economic landscape as a whole.

In particular, there is a disconnect between the drivers for outsourcing, and the attributes organisations look for in a partner. Today just ten per cent of organisations describe cost-cutting as the primary role that their BPO provider plays, ranking access to specialist skills and expertise (72 per cent) and growth and expansion potential (66 per cent) far higher. 

These drivers are all more about the strength of people, than just simply “process” based in nature and they are focused on enabling success as an ultimate goal, rather than immediate savings. However, almost three quarters reference “adhering to strict KPIs” or “well-defined processes” as the most important attributes – arguably hygiene factors in empowered outsourcing partnerships that deliver and add real value.

While 71 per cent cite the ability to adapt to changing industry and relationship dynamics as a key expectation of their BPO provider, currently 67 per cent of suppliers have to submit a change request for even the smallest changes to processes. This conservative approach is reflective of tight budgets and a fear of spiralling costs in today’s economic climate, but also highlights a trust issue that has to be addressed openly by both parties. 

The outsourcing industry is already contributing £207bn of the total UK economic output, but by facilitating better, deeper and more effective engagement, business outsourcing can reach its full potential and deliver more value to clients and their customers. 

An agile, flexible programme isn’t just about dealing with forced change but the willingness to deliver and step beyond contractual agreements to try fresh approaches, or amend priorities to deliver real value, even if that’s more difficult than just delivering what’s in the contract. Establishing an effective engagement approach, where everyone understands the overall objectives and is incentivised to playing their part, means that the contract can stay in the drawer to enable the best outcomes.

Matthias Mierisch is CEO and chairman at arvato UK & Ireland.

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