Discuss, debate and exchange ideas on latest trends and opportunities in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) landscape. Deliberate on adding “business value” to clients, vendors, employees and various other stakeholders to enhance customer satisfaction and sustain long term partnerships.

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January 28, 2013

Master Data Management (MDM) - A Painkiller or a Growth Tonic?

If Big data outcome is the fruit, Master data management and data quality are the roots. I explain it through the effort focus / value pyramid.


High Tech Manufacturing companies continue to be a dark horse on technology adoption. Retailers, Marketers, Telecom providers have upped the adoption on technology for the fast pace growth witnessed over the past decade. Gartner predicts the MDM software market to grow to 3.2 bn USD, and combined with services to a tune of 6 bn USD by 2015.

Master data management continues to be the foundation for realizing high growth through Advanced Analytics, Big Data and Cloud and mobility. I was at lunch with a business leader of a major manufacturing company. He had a clear vision and in some sense "management buy in" on leveraging advanced analytics for decisions.

If Big data outcome is the fruit, Master data management and data quality are the roots. I explain it through the effort focus / value pyramid.

Value_Pyramid.jpg 

The first pyramid shows bottom up focus on fundamentals of master data and data quality. Then towards reference and organizational master data in turn leading towards various aspects of data from transaction to unstructured data.

The second pyramid - shows business value realization potential from top to bottom. I am closely following the Gartner MDM summit this year that has variety of topics ranging from Big data to MDM and data quality. By adopting MDM, Mid to Large Organizations in manufacturing can eliminate about 2-5 mn USD of their costs upfront towards avoiding data rework and fixes. However it would set the foundation for high end analytics that can enhance revenue growth upwards of 100 mn to a Billion dollar figure. In short : Basics first !

January 25, 2013

The LPO Managed Review Bench: a Compelling Argument for Offshore Document Review

Today, Indian LPOs succeed because of their dedicated resources, and they will continue to thrive if they can maintain these ready benches of dedicated resources.


When engaging introductory discussions with potential clients for Managed Document Review services, the conversation frequently begins with lower costs, technology infrastructure and well-developed processes.  Lower costs alone do not compel general counsel to select specific service providers; and they expect providers to provide secure technology infrastructure and defensible processes.  In fact, general counsel and their outside law firms frequently pay premiums to use the best technology and processes for their projects.  The same holds true for well-trained and experienced review teams - the traditional law firm model.

Many U.S. law firms still hire small legions of staff or project attorneys to work in their litigation centers because of the duty of zealous representation and the duty of supervision, ensuring that the individuals conducting the review on behalf of the client are committed to the client's interest and are vetted, evaluated and progressed professionally based on the quality of their project management and review skills.   For the past 15-20 years, during the rise and maturing of the temporary contract market in the U.S., the outside law firms conducting review on behalf of corporate clients have experienced mixed outcomes when using contract attorney staffing, sometimes resulting in overstaffing, triple layers of review and quality control, and reliance on claw-back provisions to recapture missed privilege documents.  While there are some exceptional contract attorneys (and I have worked with many), there also exists a segment that are staffed to fill seats, who may "click" without regard for the client and understand that it could be weeks before the poor quality of their performance is identified; although times are changing, and traditional staffing is being progressively replaced with managed review, many of these attorneys continue to be temporary, without adequate assessment or career progression.

Full time employees reflect responsibility and accountability.  Although occasional use of temporary resources in offshore LPOs occurs, full-time employees support the majority of offshore delivery.  Investing in a bench and the training and development of the resources allows Indian LPOs to deploy quickly, often with 72 hours' notice, on client requirements.  Many "projects" run for a period of 4-8 weeks, but the firms with heavy litigation dockets may run 4-6 projects at any time and staff between 15 - 30 resources per project.  These firms spend approximately $100M per year on e-discovery and managed review services on behalf of clients.  In addition to on demand staffing, Indian LPOs also facilitate annuity based staffing, allowing corporate clients or their outside law firms to maintain larger "full time" teams at reduced rates. 

Moreover, as technology assisted review begins to reduce the number of reviewers required for a project, it also drives a need for advanced, specialized teams who understand the client's business or the subtleties of privilege review.  When corporates retain LPOs that have permanent resources, these resources have repeated exposure to the client's business practices, counsel, and processes; not only does this often enable reutilizing data, privilege lists and review guidance, resulting in higher quality and more timely review due to the speed of ramp-up, but it also supports improved privilege review and logging.  This specialized team can bring premium pricing and more rewarding career development. 

Today, Indian LPOs succeed because of their dedicated resources, and they will continue to thrive if they can maintain these ready benches of dedicated resources.

January 21, 2013

When CSR is not Just About CSR, but Also Talent Retention and Business Innovation

Can CSR as we know it be reimagined in an enterprise context? Can we redefine the rules in such a way as to integrate CSR, business models, and talent retention?


As someone who interacts with people all the time, I constantly look for new ideas in talent engagement. And one of my recent sources of new ideas was the book 'Building Social Business', written by Mohammed Yunus of the Grameen Bank fame. And the book was nothing short of a revelation.

The book got me thinking: can CSR as we know it be reimagined in an enterprise context? Can we redefine the rules in such a way as to integrate CSR, business models, and talent retention? The book did have some of the answers.

Yunus demonstrated an amazingly high level of business acumen in his experiments with his two social businesses - Grameen Danone and Grameen Veolia. These two experiments made dairy and drinking water available in rural areas of Bangladesh with a sustainable business model.

Don't underestimate the power of good news
One of the surprising benefits of the programs was the dramatic impact on their employees in developed countries. As word spread that the companies were experimenting in these progressive areas, employees developed a new sense of pride in their organizations. The initiatives of companies became water cooler conversations.

There was a big rush of volunteers from different levels of the company to become part of these experiments -- a reaction that enterprises did not see coming. Yunus' book became a necessary reading material before major meetings of executives in these organizations.

CSR can impact your bottom line too
The book also talks about how Danone realized considerable cost savings in Europe from the lessons they learnt from their Bangladesh venture in designing lean storage.

Another lesson that I took away was that all social business or CSR initiatives can deliver results to the parent company when aligned to the company's core strengths. For example, a technology company can think of designing technology solutions for a section of the society that cannot afford it. In the process of breaking these constraints, they may have to innovate. The innovation can then be ploughed back into the business of the company.

In a sense, the path to success and excellence need not be linear. Can you think of innovative ways to leverage CSR activities to engage your talent and rethink your business models? Do share your views.

January 18, 2013

Four Things to Enjoy at LegalTech 2013

Attending the annual LegalTech East allows attendees, presenters and vendors the opportunity to appreciate the scope of services and the pace of change in legal technologies.


Here are four things each participant can take away from LegalTech 2013:

  1. New Players - Check out the competition or find the next alliance partner.  If you want to know who is competing in the market, one need only walk through the exhibition halls. With flashy displays, ready hand shaking, give-aways, and more, the new entrants are out to be seen and heard.  The new players will be highlighting there differentiators - and Infosys will be among the exhibitors.  We will host booth 1603 and highlight all of the factors that make Infosys a vendor of choice.
  2. Technologies - Locate the innovators and take a test drive of the new offerings to support eDiscovery, Contracts Management or Knowledge Management.  Learn how the favorites have made upgrades or explore fresh interfaces.  Sometimes, I have found it more useful to know what technologies exist and what they do, even if I do not have a present use for them.  Inevitably, the day arises when I think, "I saw something that does 'this' at LegalTech - so I know it can be done!"  I want to be prepared to say "yes, we can" for the next special project.
  3. Thought Leadership - Study the conference schedule to find the hot topics and must-know for your next client meeting.  Depending on your background and experience, pick subjects to enhance your present knowledge; in eDiscovery, the sessions on best practices can reaffirm your present workflows or highlight areas for improvement, while the sessions on Big Data can help give scope and reference to issues facing the industry with the growth of electronic information.  The challenge is deciding which panel to attend, especially when two sessions of interest run concurrently.  I may have to find someone to take notes for me in a few sessions!
  4. Networking - Rekindle relationships and generate new ones. Or for job seekers, find out who is hiring and where the next best opportunities for growth exist; Alex Garcia, a recent Infosys hire was someone I met at LegalTech five years ago.   Many legal industry veterans would say that LegalTech is the one time each year they can count on crossing paths with long time connections.  Familiar faces and casual exchanges build links that can develop into the next alliance partner, client, acquisition target, or employment opportunity.  On several occasions, I have opened a door when I said, "I don't know them well, but I met them at LegalTech." I look forward to engaging with this year's attendees.

January 17, 2013

The Changing Face of Strategic Sourcing

Gone are the days when the old school of strategic sourcing used to yield results. With the economic crisis and the change in the global supply chain scenario, the strategic sourcing scene has changed from what it was a decade ago.


Organizations have become leaner not only at the buyer's end but at the supplier's end as well. Hence, not necessarily the suppliers might have an army of people to hunt down every proposal that comes their way. Buyers also need to have sales skills nowadays so they can attract the supplier who is most suited for their need, at the optimal price. The old school of thought might state that the buyer needs to have procurement skills not sales, hence s/he works in procurement, but the times have changed now.

More and more investments are being made towards automation, standardization and organizations are more open now towards technologies like SaaS as compared to earlier. The level of IT and systems integration has increased, so that the systems talk to each other & the information present in different systems doesn't conflict and there is seamless flow of data from one to another. This is not only essential for carrying out activities such as spend analysis, compliance etc. but also for the integration of inter-related processes of sourcing, procurement, payment and supplier management.

Sourcing projects are now carried out with cross functional teams with the key stakeholders buy-in instead of people working in silos earlier. Decision making effectiveness has increased as there are clear roles & responsibilities laid out and how the decision making needs to take place. This leads to increased efficiency in the process & increase in the sourcing project savings. Besides internal teams, external integration has also started taking place on a more frequent basis. Suppliers have started getting more involved during the new product development stage, so that maximum issues can be tackled during the design stage of product, rather than the latter stages of the product lifecycle which would involve more time, effort & money. However, due to this to security of information and intellectual property have also gained prominence.

Sourcing personnel have started looking more seriously towards the emerging markets which were earlier considered just as a 'good to have' supplier list. Economic pressures have forced them to look that way with a more strategic approach. As a result, supply market experts have become an integral part of the category & sourcing planning exercise.

Attention towards green and sustainable sourcing has also increased during the recent years. Buyer organizations have started administering environmental supplier questionnaires, auditing, ranking and rewarding suppliers for environmental performance, placing emphasis on environment related certification such as ISO 14000. Evaluation of environmental practices of second tier suppliers has also gained importance. Buyers are working in collaboration with their suppliers to make joint decisions about how to reduce the impact of their products on the environment.

With the risk to supply disruption increasing day by day posed by numerous causes, mitigation of supply risk has become an important agenda for the sourcing professional. RFPs have started to put more focus on the risk parameter. There has been an increased emphasis on supplier audits & supplier's compliance to the contracted terms. Buyers have started looking at incidents like drops in quality, shipment delays, request for early credit etc. in a more serious manner as early warning signs and raise a red flag. The supplier management program (performance, relationship & risk) are gaining increasing importance as compared to the past decade.

'Change is the only thing which is constant' is applicable for the sourcing world as well, which remains dynamic as ever. So, what all changes have you come across in your sourcing world?

January 10, 2013

Service Control Towers - a pre-requisite for successful global operations? - Part 1

This is the first in a series blogs on the adoption of Control Towers by the Service Industry.   They are part of a white paper that I am writing on Control Towers.

Introduction

The increasing adoption of 3rd party vendors for the delivery of the entire life cycle of the service request (Call Centers, Service Parts, and Field Service) has brought the realization that service control towers have become more of an operating requirement than a competitive differential.   In parallel, the adoption of service analytics and BPM is gaining more and more attention as key enablers for improving the capabilities of service control towers. This is particularly true in global operations where there are multiple service vendors participating in the service value chain.  

Industry Drivers

This growth in the adoption of Control Towers in the service industry is in many respects a reaction to the realization that the out sourcing of the value chain still requires a significant level of oversight, coordination, and management. For many companies this need for oversight and coordination was not entirely foreseen when they started their out-sourcing journey. However, the decision to move to a 3rd party service model has brought to light for many companies challenges such as:

  • Recognition that operating a disaggregated service value chain still requires proactive oversight and management of both vendor performance and costs.
  • Customer dissatisfaction with service delivery delays that can be difficult to diagnose and address from a process perspective.
  • Performance issues with a vendor that could have been detected early with proactive management.
  • Need to support scalable global growth with Opex funding.
  • The need for a nimble operating model that supports the rapid engagement and dis-engagement of 3rd party service providers as geography needs change.
  • Unexpected capacity issues associated with periods such as Christmas where workload may need to be redistributed across different vendors.  This is most commonly applicable to out-sourced call centers.   But this has also been an issue with companies such as Microsoft and the Xbox debacle several years ago.
  • Disaster recovery capabilities when part of your service ecosystem goes down or its capacity is seriously constrained.

Control Towers are evolutionary in the maturity of a service organization

For companies that have out sourced parts or all of their service value chain Control Towers have become increasingly an operational requirement and represent the next level of maturity in the evolution of their capabilities.   However, before embarking on the implementation of a Control Tower here are some of the basic questions that you need to ask and addressed:

  • Control Towers can be expensive to implement and are highly dependent on technology.  What is your rationale?  How will you justify the costs?
  • Control Towers are information hungry.  Is your operational data timely and accurate?
  • Control Towers rely on KPIs and transactional measurements.   Is your data model sound?  Do you have a definitive single source of truth?   Can you look at a transaction and know if it is in trouble?  Or do you need to look at multiple pieces of transactional information to make an assessment?  In other words, how definitive is your information?
  • Control Towers can provide you with insights into operational challenges before they become customer and cost issues.   Are your processes predictable and repeatable?  If you identify an operational challenge how will you intervene?  If you identify an emerging systemic issue what will you change?   
  • Control Towers can cross global boundaries.   What are the organizational and cultural issues that will be a part of you change management plan?  How will you define your escalation paths and protocols?  How will you integrate local country or regional management to keep them in the loop?

In the next blog entry I will explore in greater detail the business challenges that Control Towers address.

January 8, 2013

Recruitment v/s Talent Acquisition

It is very common to mix up Talent Acquisition with Recruitment. I have often seen even seasoned HR professionals use the term interchangeably. So what is Talent Acquisition and how can we differentiate it from Recruitment? Here is a simple explanation.

We define Talent acquisition as "a strategic approach to identifying, attracting and onboarding top talent to efficiently and effectively meet business needs." 

The term Talent Acquisition (TA) is often used synonymously with Recruiting. However, these are two very different things. Recruiting is a part of talent acquisition, and includes the activities of sourcing, screening, interviewing, assessing, selecting and hiring. Talent Acquisition includes all the activities mentioned below:

Recruitment     >>      Sourcing    >>       Screening and Interviewing     >>    Employment Offers &     >>  Notification of non-selection

  • Recruitment is the process of inviting or soliciting prospective members, participants, and /or volunteers to join your organization, attend programming, and / or assist the leadership.
  • Sourcing is the process of identifying the potential candidate pool.
  • Screening and Interviewing is a most common way of short listing the right candidates for the job.
  • Once the candidate is selected, he/she will be getting the offer letters to join the company.
  • The candidates who did not get selected will receive a notification of non-selection.

This entire process is called Talent Acquisition, where in the recruitment process is just a step in talent acquisition, which helps to create a potential talent pool. Talent acquisition includes many other activities like Employer branding, Competency based hiring and Career Pathing etc.

Employer Branding refer to activities that help to uncover, articulate and define a company's image, organizational culture, key differentiators, reputation, and products and services. Employment branding can help advance the market position of organizations, attract quality candidates and depict what it is truly like to work for that organization.

Competency-based hiring is also a part of talent acquisition which stresses the importance of core competencies required for success and the subsequent evaluation of each candidate's demonstration of those competencies in their past experiences.

Career pathing involves understanding what knowledge, skills, personal characteristics, and experience are required for an employee to progress his or her career laterally, or through access to promotions and / or departmental transfers.

In short we can summarize that recruitment is a positive process. In which we invite the eligible candidates for the existing vacancies available in the organization. Talent acquisition is an ongoing cycle of process related to attracting, sourcing, recruiting and hiring employees within an organization.

January 7, 2013

Twitter and the meaning of life, the universe and marketing

Seems like we may be closer to an answer (if not 'the' answer) than we thought and Twitter as you may have guessed from the title of this blog may have something to do with it.

The other day I had a chance to see a rerun of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" on cable. One of the main plot drivers in the book and the movie is the quest to find an answer to the most important question of all - what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything? While not at the same level of inter galactic significance, the marketing function of companies across the globe, have been over the better part of the last century, striving in vain to find the answer to their version of the 'most important question of all' - "how do I connect with my customer such that he buys my product?" The frustration to find an effective answer is perhaps captured best in John Wanamaker's famous outburst "half the money I spent on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don't know which half! "

Seems like we may be closer to an answer (if not 'the' answer) than we thought and Twitter as you may have guessed from the title of this blog may have something to do with it.

But first let us look at some of the elements that make twitter a part of 'the' answer

Each tweet is a discrete unit of thought expressed by an individual

The artificial limit of 140 characters forces the tweeter to succinctly summarize his thought - in effect forcing him to leave out all fluff - about 80% of the content of blogs

Being a unit of thought of an individual, it is possible to aggregate these units and arrive at some sort of conclusion on what a significant population of your stakeholders are thinking. The fact that each tweet is only 140 characters long makes it easier to process the data both from a size perspective as well as from a content perspective, all the more so because we are talking about 'unstructured content', here

Tweets can happen/ are happening near real time and they are increasingly about 'thinner slices of life'

The limit of 140 characters also ensures that it does not take much time to compose a tweet. This combined with the fact that twitter apps are available in all smart phones makes tweeting almost as easy as airing your opinion to the person sitting next to you in the restaurant. And we are seeing this happening. We have all heard of how twitter broke the news about the latest happenings during the Arab Spring and also that the world first heard about the US raid that killed Osama Bin Laden through twitter. But tweeting is now becoming a part of our everyday lives much more deeply. You are at the movies and you see a good scene, you tweet about it to the world, almost immediately, subconsciously, almost as if you were talking to your friend in the next seat. You tweet about the advertisements in Super Bowl. You tweet at traffic signals etc. etc.

Becoming embedded in to our lives means that tweeting is now increasingly about 'thinner slices of life'. Thus it is now about what you like about a specific moment in the game during Super Bowl or about how good David Beckham looked in this year's Bodywear for H&M Super Bowl ad and you tweet about  it almost real time. The marketing implications are not difficult to fathom. Not only are you able to estimate how many people watched the game and where they watched it from but you are also able to get qualitative inputs into what they liked about specific 'slices' within the event.

This drives secondary consumption as well. Reading a tweet about an event within a game such as Messi scoring a goal for Barcelona is very likely to make you drop whatever you are doing and tune in to it on cable or the internet or watch the rerun/high lights. Similarly tweets about a specific 'slice' of an ad increases viewership of the ad on YouTube. Yours truly was among the many thousands of people who watched the David Beckham ad on YouTube as a result of hearing about it as a twitter trend. It is quite possible that some of the people who read this blog may be prompted to do the same . Again the implications from a 'connecting with the customer ' perspective are obvious

Tweets are conversations unconstrained by the vagaries of time and distance

Tweets are conversations anybody can join in, anywhere in the world, whenever they want. This is what makes topics trend!  and you join in only if you are affected by the discussion topic. Did you realize that I just described the perfect setting for a 'focus group' discussion? Again the marketing implications are obvious.

Leveraging the Twitter chatter

Markets are about conversations. And so is marketing. Twitter affords opportunities for marketers to join in on conversations or observe from the side lines and figure out ways of influencing conversations. Companies are realizing this. And there are now tools available in the market which allows companies act on this realization. And companies are using this tools. But the key to  effectively utilizing this unforeseen opportunity to tap in to the minds of customers/influence their decisions lies in being able to interpret the raw data correctly. Deriving 'actionable' insights from twitter and other social media and implementing - is however still in the early stages of infancy. Deep understanding of the domain, analytical ability and imagination are some of the key requirements of the job. On the part of the organization scalability and flexibility would be the key asks. By the way, we just wrote ourselves in to this story - for the attributes just described are the hallmarks of a domain focused business process outsourcing firm.

Indeed this is one of the focus areas of Infosys BPO. So do watch this space for updates...

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