Business Process as a Service – How It Emerged and Why Your Business Should Consider It Now

By Mark McWilliams

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is not a revelatory concept to the enterprise world. Organisations of all sizes have consistently increased their BPO contracts to preserve staff productivity and encourage internal innovation. With the advent of cloud computing, however, we’re on the brink of a “BPO 2.0”, otherwise known as “Business Process as a Service” (BPaaS).

In its simplest form, BPaaS delivers business processes through the cloud, streamlining back-office functions. BPaaS combines the individual strengths of cloud technology with the 30-year history of BPO to create an opportunity for businesses to purchase process outsourcing on a piecemeal, pay-as-you-go basis — making the technology more affordable and accessible to a wider audience.

The Rise of BPaaS

During the Global Financial Crisis, businesses faced the need to scale back significant enterprise costs in order to survive the economic downturn and set the stage for future growth. More and more companies chose to outsource non-critical business functions and processes to third-party service providers as a way to realise lower labor costs.

Over-reliance on traditional business models, outdated technologies and rigid contract and delivery structures, combined with the maturation of the BPO market, led customers to look for more flexibility, innovation and responsiveness from their outsourcing providers. The rapid evolution of cloud-based solutions, with their multi-tenancy, consumption-based use and pricing, has created a mass demand for BPaaS. This new model offers organisations the opportunity to get the business outcome they desire while paying only for the services they use.

Different types of outsourced services offered via the BPaaS model include HR functions like payroll and benefits administration, procurement, advertising, marketing and an array of other industry-specific operations.

Five Benefits of BPaaS

Organisations looking to optimise performance and free up staff to focus on their core responsibilities should start looking into capabilities they can leverage through BPaaS. Adopting business process management through a cloud solution offers companies several advantages, including:

1.       Lower costs

Traditionally, overseeing and coordinating business processes includes purchasing and maintaining servers to handle the large volume of computing involved in everyday operations management. With a BPaaS solution, business processes are uploaded to a cloud service that performs and monitors them, so companies don’t have to invest in superfluous hardware and maintenance, significantly decreasing costs.

 2.      Risk reduction

The pay-as-you-go pricing model offered by BPaaS lets organisations choose which functions they want to use and when they want to use them, versus spending capital for a major platform overhaul which can be expensive and ineffective. Through BPaaS, companies have the option to implement a fully integrated suite of services or test stand-alone offerings. The flexibility offered by the consumption-based model helps mitigate the risks associated with large-scale technology purchases and long-term contracts.

3.       Superior process efficiency

Uploading a business process to the cloud ensures that it is well-defined and consistent across the organisation. Within a BPaaS web-based platform, different processes can easily be linked and monitored as well. The BPaaS model providesautomation, standardisation and repeatability in the way the services are used and delivered, thus cutting down on task training and execution time.

4.       Organisational clarity of focus

Moving business processes to a cloud solution gives an enterprise more time and resources to focus on business growth, rather than having to worry about the completion of non-strategic activities. When implemented correctly, BPaaS creates a new sense of agility and innovation within a company, creating a higher-performing, more competitive business.

5.       Revenue growth

When business processes are hosted in the cloud, employees can access them anywhere, at any time; with BPaaS creating a more mobile workforce, businesses have the opportunity to expand at an accelerated rate. This portability gives organisations the breathing room to take on more business and produce quality results faster — making for a much healthier bottom line.

Business Process as a Service is still a rising star, but its adaptability and benefits are rapidly getting the business world’s attention. Datacom has already developed several BPaaS offerings, including solutions for payroll and talent management as well as case management for local authorities. As organisations continue to seek scale and cost efficiencies, we are committed to staying on the pulse of the ways BPaaS can help our future and present customers.

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. 

How the Contact Centre is Becoming Multi-channel

By Lauren Fritsky

You’re not the only one who has started making calls over the web, texting or using chat as your primary forms of communication. Nearly half of contact centres in Australia have now fully or partially implemented a multi-channel agent, which can come in the form of email, chat or video calls, according to Callcentres.net. We talked with Andy Cranshaw, Datacom’s General Manager of Professional Services for Southeast Asia, to learn what to expect with this multi-channel trend.

What are the emerging channels in this space?

“In technical support, it’s chat rather than email. Email is not a great medium for some types of technical support. Going through that process over email can be long: you send your problem, I send you a solution, you try the solution, and it doesn’t work, so you send me the result. Enquiries are best for email, when it’s nothing urgent.

We’re also starting to see social media used as a means of putting questions to a user community, and there are opportunities here for us to assist in providing answers. Regardless of the channel, Datacom guarantees its contact centre staff possesses the technical knowledge to answer everything from the most basic to the most complex enquiries.”

Are we seeing these technologies threatening to overtake phone?

“Not to the extent we thought we would. Ten or 15 years ago, people were predicting calls would diminish to nothing. The volume of phone calls that we take hasn’t really diminished significantly but volumes of email and web chat have increased.”

What do you see down the pike as far as emerging technologies?

“I think self-help options, online communities and forums and other forms of social media are increasingly going to be the first stop for people to find technical solutions. In that case, ‘click to chat’ options, which enable the user to connect directly with an engineer if they encounter problems, could really drive chat volumes.”

How are the skills required to handle a newer channel, such as chat, different from the skills needed to answer phone enquiries?

“In the world of tech support, the layers of technical understanding are obviously critical regardless of the medium.  But then there is the ability to be able to communicate your technical understanding to another person and articulate it in a way the customer understands that’s very different when you’re instant chatting rather than talking on the phone.  Most people use chat as a method of social communication – it’s informal, full of abbreviations and emoticons. In a business environment, you have to be able to type quickly, concisely and accurately. You also have to know what’s appropriate and what isn’t when it comes to chat.

At Datacom, we address this by recruiting the right people and adhering to the COPC standards of contact centre training so that all staff have the relevant skills to work in this evolving multi-channel environment.”

How long does it take to train staff on these channels?

“Training is not a big issue if you can recruit the right people in the first place. But when it comes to multi-channel environments, that’s not easy, particularly offshore where a person’s spoken English may be significantly better than their written or vice versa. In a two- to three-week training period, you can give staff a few tips and language skills to ensure culturally-sensitive and relevant communication, but the key is to recruit people who already speak and/or write well in the language they are going to communicate in. Datacom only hires contact centre staff with excellent language skills and cultural awareness, and we conduct quality assurance to guarantee a professional level of customer interaction.”

It seems there is a large challenge around workforce management with the multi-channel approach. How do you get around that?

“There are IT solutions such as multi-channel queuing. At the back end, the system will receive phone calls, emails, chat, and then it will distribute them to staff. So, if a tech support specialist puts down a phone call, the next thing that pops up could be an email.”

How does integrating a multi-channel approach affect the manager’s role?

“It changes how they schedule people and staff the centre. In the end, the ability to queue multi-channel interactions is one thing, but the implication is the centre must have someone sitting at the desk who can handle the call, chat or email. Regardless of how the changing multi-channel environment affects staffing and managerial roles, Datacom continues to ensure its contact centres decrease support costs, raise customer service levels and further brand perceptions.”

5 Pitfalls of Outsourcing to the Wrong BPO Provider

By Lauren Fritsky

 

There’s no end to the business goals you can accomplish with a good outsourcing provider: reduced overhead, better efficiency, access to new skill sets and improved customer satisfaction. A bad provider, on the other hand, can completely cripple your business in ways ranging from a toll on your bottom line to inhibited strategy and growth. You can avoid these pitfalls by choosing a business process outsourcing provider that gives you value-added service and aligns with your business needs.

1.  Offers no added value

To get the most out of an outsourcing relationship, you should get more than just what you need. There’s a simple reason for this: your business needs will likely change throughout the duration of your contract, and a truly flexible provider can adapt to continue delivering a quality service. Value-added services will enable the right provider to help in additional areas should you need it down the road.

The wrong provider might also fail to decrease your Total Cost of Ownership or even drive up your costs asking for more money every time you want something outside the scope of work. Having a true partnership with the provider where you are working seamlessly together to reach common goals and objectives will increase the depth of the relationship and deliver better value for money.

2.  Shows poor relationship management

The right partner will provide support through the implementation of formal performance reviews and by setting out clear KPIs, which are aligned with delivering your desired business outcomes.  If you get the wrong provider, you may get stuck waiting days or weeks to get a response to a crucial call or email, costing both time and money. According to a poll by theComputing Technology Industry Association, nearly 28 per cent of businesses say poor communication was the main cause of a failed outsourcing project.

It takes relationship management from both ends to make the outsourcing experience successful. Early on in the business process outsourcing provider relationship, make it very clear what your preferred methods of communication are – teleconference, email, phone or face to face – and schedule in regular meetings to ensure you receive the right insight and analytics throughout the length of the contract.

3. Doesn’t fit in with your business culture

A global KPMG study found 60 per cent of businesses said poor fit was the main issue with their outsourcing relationship.The wrong provider won’t know what your business does or how to deliver work in alignment with your mission and core values.  Choose a provider that offers a client-branded BPO experience and complies with the highly-rated COPC standards of performance management for the customer contact industry.

4. Struggles to meet objectives

Does your provider know the ultimate goals of the outsourcing project? Do you?

One third of businesses say they fail to continually assess projects they’ve outsourced to ensure they remain consistent with the outlined objectives, says a study by ESI International. While part of the success of the project rests on your company providing the right details, selecting a business process outsourcing provider that lacks experience delivering results-driven ROI in a holistic way means an inevitable uphill battle when it comes to meeting goals. The right outsourcing company will shun off-the-shelf solutions in favour of a plan tailored to your business needs and that can be adapted as objectives change or the market shifts.

5.  Fails to understand business complexity

BPO is no easy task, and any provider that thinks otherwise is not the one for you. You are very likely outsourcing mission-critical data, which brings up complexities around risk management, data security and privacy, compliance and quality assurance. Not only must the business process outsourcing provider deeply understand your business andcustomers, but it must have an accurate sense of what it will take to transition your processes and possess the technical know-how to manage them.

The right provider knows your outsourcing solution will require ongoing review, refinement and reengineering to continually meet your business objectives. A COPC-certified company will be able to provide the framework and benchmarking tools necessary to set the standards for outsourcing operations.

Taking the Fear Out of Offshoring: a Checklist

By Kirsty Hunter

Everyone from Fairfax Media to Telstra has offshored in an effort to cut costs and improve competitiveness. But for every company that embraces offshoring, another shuns it over fears of data security and perceived language barriers.

The reality is that choosing a provider that rigorously trains employees, helps you transition your business and keeps you in the loop of what is going on overseas can make offshoring one of the best things you can do for your business. Here’s a checklist to help address your concerns.

Staff recruitment

Look for a provider that conducts a rigorous recruitment programme, intensive training and quality assurance. Finding, training and retaining individuals that fill the skilled expert roles in a contact centre are challenging tasks.  As the ABPOA suggests, BPO is all about People, People and People!

Quality of customer interaction

Consider providers that select staff on the basis of language and cultural testing to ensure superior call quality. This can include local employees in addition to expats who have a firm grasp of the language and Western business culture.  A BPO provider with a good quality assurance programme will improve the overall operational efficiency of the business and reduce the cost of service.

Call centre location

Don’t let rumours or stereotypes cloud the reality of the world’s top contact centre locations. The Philippines, for instance, is now the world’s No.1 location for BPO, and part of its explosion onto the scene over the last decade comes thanks to the strong English-speaking skills and high literacy of its employees, plus the available infrastructure to support stable telecommunications.

Onshore employees

Offshoring doesn’t have to mean massive layoffs. Offshoring can allow you to create more highly-skilled, high-wage jobs for your remaining staff. For example, when customer service and product support operations are transferred, you can use your team to focus on activities that lead to new sources of revenue or reengage lost customers with new offers to win them back.

Transitioning

Select a BPO provider that has a clear transition programme in place to help you offshore. This will include the ability to set up your technology and infrastructure, handle knowledge transfer, manage your business processes and recruit the best team to take on the persona of your brand.

Business control

A common fear with offshoring is that companies will lose sight of what is happening to their data and their customer interaction. The right provider will update you regularly through video conferencing and phone calls and make live performance data available to you. If possible, select a partner with a local presence with whom you can meet to discuss the operations and plan for the future.

Data security

If you’re concerned about data security (and, let’s face it, who isn’t?), find a dependable company that has a security team. This kind of provider will understand IT security services and apply them in their contact centres.

Business continuity

Companies worry about events like natural disasters disrupting offshore operations, but those situations happen in Australia as well, as any Queensland business affected by the 2011 floods and cyclone can tell you. A BPO provider with a proper Disaster Recovery approach and Business Continuance Plan will keep the work flowing despite a disruptive event.

Background checks

Treat your BPO provider like you’d treat a potential new hire. Call other companies the provider has done business with and conduct reference checks. Also make sure to meet the people who will be managing and providing the key support to the contact centre.

Getting back onshore

Even if bringing parts of your business back onshore is a distant thought, it helps to know your provider can do it. Look for companies that offer a transition programme, where all the technology is set up for you when you’re ready to transfer back to Australia.

Kirsty Hunter is a Managing Director of Datacom responsible for the BPO business in Australia and Asia. With two decades of experience in the technology industry, Kirsty is responsible for growing Datacom’s BPO business from 150 seats to over a 1,000 across the Asia Pacific region and she established Datacom’s Asia presence across Malaysia, the Philippines and China.

A recognised thought leader in her field, Kirsty has worked with leading technology and service organisations around the world to design and deploy service offerings and technology solutions that deliver enduring performance. Today, Kirsty is committed to moving organisations forward, through service solutions that are enabled by Datacom’s leading technology platforms and industry expertise.