Strange News Part 2 - More About The Indian Diesel Saga - Indian BPO Industry Save For Now

I wrote about it a few days ago...and the apparent resolution is just to good not to come back to it. For your reference see the original post here: Strange News On Indian Diesel Cabs

Apparently the Supreme Court  has decided to leave the diesel cabs on the road for now, thus providing a reprieve to the local BPO industry.

India is well known for its bureaucracy...and reading the article shown below makes clear why. There are 2 organizations able to issue taxi permits. Both organizations have different permit standards and are geared towards different sides of the market. One version of the cabs is for tourists only.

It will be interesting how it will resolve itself over time but at least for the moment the status quo has been maintained and the Indian BPO employee can be ferried to and back from work.

Indian  Diesel Cab Standoff Resolved

Is Your Outsourcing Operation Bloated ?..Probably Yes...

Most companies enter into outsourcing relationships on a FTE basis. (Full Time Equivalent). The engagements are not project based but rather utilize a Lease To Hire model. (LTH). The Lease to Hire model basically means that the company buys the use of personnel  on a Full Time Basis.

Once the outsourcing team is established  and commences its work the most relevant Key Performance Indicator being watched is utilization of the employee. There are various tools to measure the KPI's as it relates to the utilization rate of the employee. For call centers and customer service operations it is rather simple (time on phone. time on call), for software development there are auditing tools available to make sure that the developers do not "slouch".

However, one particular problem with outsourcing is that the outsourced operation is really good at the troubleshoot...but perhaps not so good at looking at the root of the problem as to why the troubleshoot happened in the first place.

Consequently faulty software or procedures tend to stay around much longer than they should. Everyone is content with resolving the trouble tickets but no one is looking how to change procedures or applications so that the trouble ticket does not happen anymore.

Of course..the very same operational characteristic can be found in a domestic business environment. What makes it more of an issue in an outsourced offshore environment is that it takes key management much longer to realize what is going on.

And this brings us to the "Bloat" your outsourcing operation might have accumulated. If you do not periodically (or better yet...have a constant quality improvement program)  review the source of trouble tickets and scan for improvement to be might have built up your outsourced team well above your actual operational needs if those issues were fixed.

Implementing a procedures which reviews the source of a trouble ticket and/or increase operational efficiency will result in less contacts needs by your customers. Reducing the point of contacts will then lead to reduced need of FTE employees...thus reducing the manpower bloat you might be experiencing.

4 Key Points Which Will Make It Easy To Keep Your Outsourced Software Development On Track

The successful management of an outsourcing relationship often times seems like a daunting task to new users of offshore services. From my perspective it is actually not that complicated and there are quite a few things the user can do to succeed.

The points I am mentioning below are meant to be general guidelines and are by no means an all encompassing approach to manage your outsourcing relationship.

Below are some of my personal favorites which should provide the newcomer to outsourcing some good pointers. It is a general list meant to be for the newcomer to outsourcing.

When In Doubt Repeat Yourself, Make Yourself Clear and Explain, Explain, Explain!

Might seem obvious but it pays to really explain what you want to get done. Be as descriptive as possible and try to have your vision bolstered by diagrams, flow charts and organization charts where and when needed. I also urge you to use collaborative tools designed for the management of software development.

Treat Your Outsourcing Team As An Employee Or Partner...Not A Vendor

Might seem obvious but for some people it is not as easy. Treat your offshore staff as employees or partners in your venture. Stay in constant communication, (at least once a day), ask what is new and ask for progress reports. Also..make it a point o use video conferencing to have face to face time with the main people in your team (Project Manager or Lead Developer)....over time this will greatly reduce communication barriers.

Have clear goals and milestones goals

Don't fall into the trap of continuing development thinking that the final product will be just fine. Make it a point to have clear milestones and performance goals established. Track the progress the team is reporting  in the daily reports versus the timeline in the milestones. (sprints). If there are delays get to the bottom of it. Making your team feel accountable will go a long way to ensure that you finish on time and budget.

Be Realistic in your expectations

There is nothing worse in an outsourcing relationship than unrealistic expectations. In particular when the relationship is new it is important to set goals which can be met (assuming that the team does its job). Going back to # 2; unrealistic expectations can be very demotivating to you and your team. You owe it to yourself and your new team to offer a fair chance to succeed. Unrealistic expectations are an easy way to make sure that you feel your outsourcing venture it is a failure.

Pick a good outsourcing partner

I put this purposely last. The fact of the matter is that all of the above is irrelevant if you happen to end up with a body shop which is simply incapable working in a cooperative environment. These vendors will have the lowest price (which makes them attractive) but you will end up in a situation where quality of the work and a strong client orientated collaborative approach is not a goal.

I would like to mention that a good BPO partner will have a structure in place which takes some of the responsibility mentioned in points 1, 2  and 3 away from you and automates the suggested processes. This will greatly help the process.

The Call Center Will Disappear From The Outsourcing Industry....And Why It Should Not Surprise You!

I recently had written a post which deals with the concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) being combined into "Killer Applications" which will effectively lead to the end of the call center as we know it. The post can be found here:  IBM's Watson Will Kill The call Center Industry

The concept is simple, a computer with a well synthesized voice (just think of Siri) and a highly developed Artificial Intelligence powered backbone will combine to offer better customer service than anything a call center could possibly offer.

The computer will be patient, understanding and able to cross reference any prior conversation the user had with the same machine before. The possibilities for improved customer service, if done well, are endless.

Most tantalizing is the prospect that the more conversations are being routed into the computer...the better the product will be (economies of scale). The machine will learn from every conversation and can optimize its approach to every new  conversation to make sure that the caller gets off the phone faster and more satisfied. (the dream combination in call center Key Performance Indicator's)

As any user of call centers knows, scaling up call center operations without sacrificing  quality is rather complex and very difficult to achieve. It does not matter  if the center is located in India, Philippines, or China,  it is a tremendous challenge to go from 50 center reps to 500.

Compare that to a machine environment where scaling up is as simple as ordering more space in the cloud and get a few more lines.

To top it all off...the entire call center can be run from an office located onshore.

My view that the call center industry will die out has just been confirmed in an article posted below:

Major Industry Executive Believes Call Centers Will Be Gone In 10 Years

Strange News - Ban On Diesel Cabs Leads To Shutdown Of The BPO Industry In Dehli

I came across an article which details an interesting problem BPO operators in Dehli (India) are facing. Apparently the local government has introduced a complete ban on diesel cabs in early May. The problem for the BPO industry is that the major industry players are using those cabs to ferry their female workers back home during nighttime hours. (there seems to be a requirement to provide safe transportation).

It is a classic example of the law of unintended consequences....cleaner air is certainly needed in Dehli but it looks like no one really thought about the impact it might bring to the local outsourcing industry (which is the biggest employer).

What might sound like a trivial issue at first glance in now going all the way to the Supreme Court over there.

Strange News - Cabs Get Banned And The BPO/Outsourcing Industry Shuts Down