New BPO Horizons with ITeS

Chairing a conference on HR Outsourcing in Mumbai, earlier this year, I was
surprised at the galaxy of speakers and participants who came, saw and concurred
with the need for outsourcing, and appreciated the statistics of the substantial
number of large American corporations that have "been there, done
that" and lived to show the scars and the business results! However, at the
end of the seminar, chatting with a few people who had sat through the entire
sessions, I was bemused, and a little disappointed, at their takeaway-that HR
outsourcing is only about getting Payrolls and Personnel Records Maintenance
done better, faster, cheaper by an external agency, thereby passing on the
problems of data collection and accurate records maintenance to a third party.

Sad but true that it is very often the proximate pain that gets outsourced,
which leaves the company with some relief but never any great joy. Is it because
many contextual functions like HR and F&A are still perceived as support
cost centers in manufacturing and even some services companies where a rupee
saved has more value than a rupee earned, or is it just that most functional
heads and even CEOs have little or no knowledge of the opportunities that can be
created by truly strategic outsourcing?

Our own experience, through some initial forays into HR outsourcing in India
and abroad, has been revealing, to say the least. It takes the first three
months for any HR chief to get used to the idea of just record keeping and query
and reporting being handled from a remote site but, once the initial hiccups are
over, the attention shifts from Personnel Management to Resource Management,
Talent Management and Learning Management.

IT-enabled sounds almost prophetic as IT enables higher peaks to be scaled by outsourcing practitioners 

Ganesh Natarajan

In the Finance and Accounts area too, the conversation around outsourcing can
shift quickly from the tactical to the strategic as first generation Travel
Claims processing and Bill passing applications mature into full fledged
Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable systems with Vendor and Customer Master
Management, Voice and Mail support to collections and payments queries and all
forms of Data Mining and Business Intelligence add-ons to the core application

Beyond the core functional outsourcing possibilities extends a full realm of
domain specific opportunities. Retailers worldwide are beginning to see Customer
Loyalty Programmes administered through offsite and now offshore service
centers. In every other sector, from the very cerebral area of Manufacturing
Designs to the relatively mundane Airline Reservation process, every business
strategist in global corporations is looking for ways to move processes out of
the organisation into the waiting arms of outsourcers.

The interesting part of this new wave of BPO, apart from the fact that it is
less "bums-on-seats" intensive as compared to the first wave of call
centers and cultivated American and European accents, is that there is genuine
value add and significant use of IT in warehousing and mining of data and
information, serving up the filtered explicit and tacit knowledge and enabling
strategic decision making on a real time basis. Strange that the word IT Enabled
Services, which was originally coined as a euphemism for BPO to give the
impression of being a close relative to IT Services, should suddenly sound
almost prophetic as IT enables higher and higher peaks of Strategic Outsourcing
to be scaled by practitioners in this country. May the ITEs tribe increase and
put the Indian flag at the peak of high value outsourcing in the years to come.

The author is deputy chairman and managing director of Zensar Technologies
and chairman of Nasscom’s SME Forum for Western India Ganesh

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