By Robert L. Scheier
After an eye-opening year watching the fast-changing Nearshore and global services industry, I offer (pardon the cliché) five suggested resolutions for outsourcing customers in 2012.
1) Think global – even more global than before. The more I see of global services companies, and of startups hoping to go global, the more I realize the world is already “flat” and getting flatter more quickly than you may think. With every Skype consultation with a partner in Mexico, Colombia or beyond, I’m reminded how easy it is for smart people anywhere to deliver value over the Web. Any customer who isn’t examining all geographies with an open mind is leaving money on the table, in the form of lower costs and/or missed innovation. Resolution: I will develop or enhance processes to uniformly analyze the pros and cons of each area, remembering that no place – not even my home office — is perfect.
2) Look beyond the headlines. Gruesome headlines, even if they describe real events, don’t mean you can’t do good work, or have good work done, in a city or country. In my own travels, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how calm and even pleasant a region can be despite real and tragic security issues. Rather than finding people huddled in basements dodging bullets, you’re more likely to find them huddled in cubicles just like you find at home busily coding the Next Great App. Resolution: I will treat physical security risks, like information security or any other kind of business risk, as relative and something to be managed rather than panic over it. I will seek out and consider the experience of people who are on-site in addition to news accounts.
3) Clean up your act as a customer. Delivering as good or better quality IT or business processes for less is now cost of entry for a service provider. With fast-changing consumer tastes, and markets that can tank in an instant, customers want new and smarter ideas as well as lower costs from their outsourcers. Finding an innovative service provider is only one challenge. The other, and perhaps greater challenge, is changing your culture and work processes to allow true trust and collaboration with your service provider. Resolution: I will examine my processes, from procurement to billing to service measurement, to ensure they let me share my business goals and finances honestly with a trusted service provider, and reward that provider fairly if they help me meet those business goals.
4) Get smart about the cloud. Yes, cloud computing (virtualized IT resources delivered over the Web) can deliver quantum reductions in cost and increased agility. And, yes, the cloud can be made secure, with the proper attention. While it isn’t the answer to every need or the right platform for every application, it should be part of any outsourcing discussion. Resolution: I will push my service providers to explain how they are combining their vertical market expertise, and their knowledge of my application portfolio, to provide standard “business processes as a service” so I don’t have to deal with both a cloud and an IT/BPO provider. I will also do the hard work of figuring out my own security needs so I know how much cloud security is enough.
5) Don’t let ‘em see you sweat. Will we muddle through 2012, fall over an economic cliff, or start riding the wave to recovery? Nobody knows. Anything from revolutions gone bad in the Mideast to a European bank tripping over its own feet to a flood or earthquake could tip the global economy into a downturn. Or not. Flexibility (in everything from scaling data centers to ramping staff for call centers) and the above-mentioned innovation are key to surviving and thriving. Resolution: To prepare for known threats, I will review my contingency plans, both internally and with my service providers. To cope with unknown threats, I will look for ways to build flexibility, adaptability, and awareness into my processes, technology and corporate culture.
A final tip: Don’t worry, be happy. Or at least cautiously optimistic. The global services industry is not only undergoing exciting change itself, but driving historic improvements to economies and cultures worldwide. Whatever happens to the global economy (which we can’t control) there’s plenty of opportunity for innovative people, countries and organizations.