By Mark McWilliams
The enterprise world has become quite comfortable with the idea of working with managed services providers. As we enter the Business Process as a Service era, however, organisations are finding that relationships with BPaaS providers have their own special set of nuances.
The biggest obstacle businesses face in managing the relationship with their BPaaS providers is often themselves, and typically stems from a desire to retain control of the process rather than focus on the outcome and let the provider deploy their efficient processes. The critical thing to ask yourself is, “How do I set this relationship up to best ensure the delivery of the outcome I’m after?”
Thankfully, the majority of challenges that may arise during a relationship with the BPaaS provider are easy to manage and even avoid.
You may feel a degree of anxiety in the beginning as your BPaaS provider wants to deploy processes that are differentfrom the way your business has traditionally done things. You may feel compelled to ask the provider to modify or change their proven processes to quell your anxiety. Try to avoid this if you can. Give your provider some latitude to run with their processes. You will likely find the new way of doing things more efficient than your traditional approach. Remember, what you are after is the business process, completed to a service level for a predictable low cost.
It is likely that tensions will occur around timing of systems upgrades and enhancements from your BPaaS provider. You may find the timing inconvenient. Remember, though, that there are great benefits in operating within a shared, multi-tenanted environment such as lower cost, greater flexibility and “community involvement”. If the provider didn’t try and keep all of its tenants in this environment, then the cost of support would rise. Work with your supplier closely on forecasting and scheduling to minimise the chance of disruption to your business.
Even non-strategic business processes, if they are not executed well, could bring your business to its knees. For example, payroll is necessary in most businesses, but not strategic; it is also one of the most outsourced functions. What would happen if your payroll provider went out of business overnight? You should lessen the risk by incorporating the following into your supplier relationship:
- Choose a provider with sound financials. Make sure their size and strength are commensurate to the risk your business wishes to take.
- Make sure the software products your supplier deploys are non-proprietary so you can move to another supplier if need be.
- If your supplier is using proprietary software, then make sure you have access to the software in the event of a failure. An escrow agreement might work for you here.
- Ensure you operate a robust relationship management plan right up to senior executive level so business-to-business conversations can occur.
Knowledge of your business
You may be worried that the BPaaS provider doesn’t know your business or industry well enough. This is a valid concern, but remember that you are trying to buy a business outcome. In order to do a business function like payroll, the supplier needs to pay your people on time, accurately, every time. Specific knowledge of your business may not be necessary. If you think a better service would be delivered if they did know more, then bring them close. Incorporate into your quarterly review things like business updates, business challenges and innovation acceleration. It might be enlightening for you to have a fresh, motivated opinion on how to do things better.
Staying in touch
The key to any relationship is communication. From Day One, establish a consistent, open dialogue where both you and your provider can discuss expectations for the working dynamic. Build relationships with your BPaaS provider up through the C-suite to facilitate high-level conversations and help the provider become a true business partner.
Working with a BPaaS provider should alleviate burdens from your operations and staff, not add to them. Taking an active role in managing the relationship with your BPaaS provider, and instilling that relationship with trust, planning and clear communication, will set up both parties for a successful future together.
Mark McWilliams has 25 years experience in the technology sector and is a Director of Datacom Investments.
He has detailed knowledge across the IT spectrum from data centres through to governance, with everything in between. He has also worked with organisations that have varying needs from a security standpoint, including those with advanced requirements such as banks and government agencies.