How to prepare a network for BPO

Wouldn't it be nice if you could toss every scrap of paper related to your tax return onto your accountant's desk and let him figure out the mess? Alas, it doesn't work that way. It's incumbent on taxpayers to sort and categorize expense receipts, and assemble the information about capital gains, charitable contributions, deductions and so on.

If taxpayers don't do this preparation before the accountant gets to work, they risk confusion, inaccuracies, missed deadlines and penalties -- for what boils down to bad data.

It's much the same in business process outsourcing, when an organization turns over responsibility for a functional area such as payroll to a BPO provider. Companies are increasingly outsourcing complex processes -- procurement, CRM, sales and marketing, and finance, for example -- that directly affect their bottom line.

Because the data for these processes is scattered among a variety of systems (for example, SAP, Oracle databases, mainframes), it has different formats and semantics. The stakes become higher when companies send this mission-critical data across a firewall, particularly with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other regulations that demand auditing.

To realize the greatest long-term value from BPO, organizations need to focus first on the foundation of BPO: mission-critical data. Data access and integration

The first step is to establish non-invasive access to applications to enable data exchange with an outsourcer. Companies used to rely on custom-coding Cobol and PL/SQL for data access. A key reason that many have deployed data integration is that it reduces (often by 30 percent) the time and cost involved in such hand-coding. Data integration delivers prebuilt connectors to dozens of data sources and generates mappings that may be reused across multiple projects. It is also important for companies to evaluate the level of their dedicated Internet connection, because of the amount of data being moved and the immediacy with which that data will be required.

One option available from some outsourcers is multitransport networking services, which support a wide range of port speeds, in addition to traditional private data-networking services such as Frame Relay and Ethernet over an MPLS-enabled IP backbone. Appropriate bandwidth levels and flexible network technologies will ensure that businesses remain agile and scalable to market demands as they grow and the amount of their data increases.

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