While industry opinion on the merits of outsourcing remains divided, an ever-increasing number of companies are capitalising on business process outsourcing (BPO).
Driven by strategic considerations, BPO allows companies to implement new business models by turning over non-core yet critical, back-office activities to third-party specialist service providers. BPO requires clients and suppliers to work as partners to deliver key business outcomes: increased operational flexibility, reduced cost and operational risk, improved service levels and the ability for management to focus on core service capabilities.
So how do you choose a BPO partner? Experience shows you need a full-service solution provider with vertical market expertise. This means a partner who can bring hands-on experience and learning of what it takes to bring together the people, processes, systems and infrastructure required to deliver on the BPO promise, as well as the ability to understand your business requirements.
BPO is much more than systems integration, primarily because you are typically dealing with changing the hearts and minds of people, often connecting new business processes at the same time. All this requires enormous experience and advanced planning to get right, as well as the right mindset from both parties to ensure that unplanned events get resolved quickly and productively. BPO is a long-term relationship, which requires investment from both sides, a commitment to results and a willingness to focus on the substance as well as the form of contracts to ensure outcomes are delivered.
We are at an important stage in the development of BPO as a business tool for companies. Technologies and transition capabilities have evolved to a point where true competitive advantage is guaranteed with the right arrangement — the onus is on the suppliers to continue to demonstrate this.
Guy Barnes is director of business development for Unisys Australia