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Operational Vision Supplants IT Vision with BPO 5.0

The increasing expectation of buy-side organizations that the prime role of BPO is to help them deliver a transformed approach to business and become “more relevant to their clients” is having a significant impact on the profile of skills required within BPO delivery. Organizations are no longer content with a short-term tidy up and standardization of their processes but are looking for a long-term vision of how their processes might operate in order to transform their business performance.

This might sound like the traditional IT-led role of consulting and systems integration. However, while the desired goals may be broadly the same, there is a fundamental difference in the background and approach of the “consultants” involved. Traditional consulting and systems integration was always strong on “vision” but often had inadequate understanding of operations at the agent level and tended to place IT ahead of process with a consequently high failure rate. Conversely, traditional BPO delivered a high capability to incrementally improve existing processes and deliver relatively narrow process excellence but typically lacked the vision to achieve strategic business change.

The emerging expectation of BPO is that it will finally combine these two virtues, with “operationally-oriented” consultants bringing both a knowledge of existing processes and current process excellence together with a vision of how future process models can lead to a step change in key business metrics and performance. In the short-term, complementing this longer-term process vision, organizations are additionally looking for one-off sub-process improvements led by process and analytics consultants. Accordingly the level of consultancy within BPO engagements will increase significantly but using consultants well-grounded in operations and process analytics to implement global process models, to deliver sub-process reengineering, and to support the longer-term business vision.

The level of IT-related delivery within BPO will also increase. Buy-side organizations are now placing a much greater emphasis on eliminating use of people altogether, with automated processes rather than people-based processes being seen as delivering greater long-term cost certainty and reduced operational risk. This renewed emphasis on automation will accelerate the deployment of vendor and third-party tools around client core systems. There is a particularly high emphasis on using these tools to facilitate use of mobile and digital channels and analytics, and in 2014 a high proportion of these tools will be hosted by the vendor, even if typically still in single instance rather than multi-client mode, leading to more rapid adoption. In addition, there are increasing opportunities to utilize application management services to hasten modifications to client ERP and core systems to hasten process change.

Accordingly, BPO has now come full circle, moving from being an operational adjunct to consulting & systems integration and IT outsourcing services led by a high level business vision, to being the operational vision increasingly supported by consulting & systems integration and IT outsourcing services. In commercial terms for vendors, this means that consulting & systems integration and IT outsourcing are now necessary adjuncts to protect BPO revenues, instead of BPO being the vehicle which helped to protect consulting & systems integration and IT outsourcing revenues as in the past.

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