Delivering competitive advantage through opti-shore outsourcing
As the business environment gets more demanding and organizations are called-upon to perform complex tasks quicker and better, improved IT support services are becoming critically important. Paradoxically, they also appear to be a major source of frustration as IT departments world-wide, on whose shoulders organizational-bulwarks increasingly rest, complain of support that is not sufficiently supportive. Companies are increasingly outsourcing these services in the hope of greater efficiencies, but the frustrations persist.
Against this backdrop, as Zensar spread its global wings, it found that the dissatisfaction with support services (internal or external) was a recurrent chorus across geographies, industries, and organizations – big or small. Recognizing this to be a major ‘pain point’, Zensar set about trying to address the problem. Extensive customer research, intensive internal debate and a judicious evaluation of what works best in terms of time, efficiency and price led to some interesting learnings. This is an attempt to share Zensar’s experience and encourage wider discussion on the subject.
For one, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, a comprehensive portfolio of onshore, near-shore and off-shore models appears to be the optimal mix. This allows key functions to be retained onshore, allowing for a best-fit of global sourcing and delivery and optimizing technological solutions. Multi-location, blended with multi-engagement (captive, shared services and third-party vendors), could be the way forward. An optimal shore model (opti-shore) that addresses the key nuances of effective technical problem solving and handling end user interactions sensitively and efficiently is integral to continued success.
Where outsourcing is concerned, companies are best-off procuring services from the most capable source, in both the right proportion and location. Cost of labor and operations, availability of skills, quality of service and time to market are all affected by the choice of location. A persistent problem appears to be the perception that support service providers are unable to respond to, and rectify, problems efficiently enough. Off-shore enables lower costs, scalability and specialized skills but can lead to possible “cultural” misunderstandings, resulting in probable delays in taking decisions and appropriate action. There are, in addition, the irritations that stem from service providers not understanding cultural tints, the insecurity of dealing with alien accents, and so on. On-site resources, on the other hand, have the advantage of an oft-perceived ‘better’ quality and cultural/linguistic similarity, but higher costs and a limited bandwidth availability. The on-site/off-site model has been in-use long enough but is less than the ideal solution.
In creating its multi-shore blend, Zensar opted for a combination of branch offices of its own and acquiring true-blue, well-entrenched local companies with proven track-records in service-delivery. A few relatively-small – hence customer-centric – entities were identified, and bought-over, in the US (both the East and West Coast), the UK, and various locations in Europe. Multiple locations helped cater to finely-grained cultural nuances (as in various parts of Europe, for instance). With South Africa and China, Zensar decided to set up its own operations – in addition, of course, to India. Thus, much of the world – the Americas, UK and Europe, Africa and APAC – was taken care of.
Was the investment by way of time and expenditure worth it’s while? Zensar’s response would be an unequivocal ‘yes’! Perfection is a mirage, but in terms of making a paradigmatic shift, customer-response has been very positive. Full-service set-ups in every region have allowed Zensar to take into account individual needs, idiosyncrasies, cultural shades and tones, enabling deeper customer connects, using this opti-shore model.. Technologically, the region-wise availability of state-of- the- art infrastructure has made possible quick solutions, greater productivity, providing the necessary support for, for instance, subject-matter experts to be called-in at short notice and for issues to be resolved at higher levels of capability. This, supported by an integrated backbone to provide coordinated service and backed by sophisticated technological capability, has made the end-user experience significantly superior.
Given the complexities involved, Zensar found that for the opti-shore model to deliver best-value and competitive edge to customers, its own internal strategy – and the ability to manage and integrate multiple products, projects and services to derive a consolidated solution – needs to be focused, finely-tuned, and an ongoing objective. The hub and spoke approach could well be the answer for companies looking for outstanding quality, best practices, quick turnaround times and breadth of expertise. Multi-shore can also offer niche expertise, technical stability, greater security and standardization, and minimal risk. However, for organizations to reap maximum ROIs on their opti-shore engagements, they need to manage the process strategically by ensuring the best supplier-mix in terms of locational advantage, quality of work and skills base.
Author: Abhik Chakraborty is responsible for Infrastructure management deliveries for Zensar Technologies and has over 25 years of experience in managing IT projects for diverse global customers