Nearshore Americas

BPO Governance: Are You Still Following the Pied Piper?

ben_alsbridgeIn the past few years there’s been a great deal written about governance. Yet, it’s still a misunderstood subject. In most cases, it’s an afterthought only considered once the “transaction” is complete and the provider is selected. Unfortunately, this practice relegates governance to no more than a box to be checked off on the path to program implementation. In order for governance to have a chance to realize the business case for which it was created, it must be more than this.

Considering the governance structures of providers, as well as most advisors, one sees that there is a blending together as though all are dancing to the same “sheet of music.” Each has his organizational alignment charts, communication plans and list tasks that need to be accomplished. But, if this is the silver bullet to program success, then why is there such a high failure rate and common dissatisfaction among most buyers? Has the reliance on the “same sheet of music” turned everyone into following the Pied Piper? Or, perhaps it has led to the kind of pack mentality that caused the lemmings to run off of the proverbial cliff.

BPO Governance

The importance of having a good governance structure should never be underestimated and planning for it should begin the first day, i.e. the day you begin the feasibility study and not the day you sign the contract.  As Stephen Covey noted, you must “begin with the end in mind.” Don’t just look at the numbers, but at the organization itself and ask:

  • Can the organization make the transition?
  • Is there sufficient process documentation and metrics?
  • Are the right people in the organization to make it happen?
  • Is there adequate executive commitment and oversight?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, then fix it immediately! Planning for the retained organization and Program Management Organization (PMO), must be holistic in nature and take into account the larger imperative for change. It is crucial to understand the key drivers: people, process and performance. Each driver must be coordinated by the PMO to work together. The retained organization and the provider’s staff (people) must understand the process and the KPI’s (performance) by which they will be measured. The metrics must be realistic, measurable and repeatable. From this basis, continuous improvement can be imbedded throughout the delivery model.

Outsourcing is a long, multi-year journey and you must realize that you are picking a strategic partner and not a vendor. Yes, you want a fair price, but in the end you’ll get what you pay for. Driving for rock bottom prices will deliver you a provider that looks for every excuse not to improve the process, thereby giving you sub-standard results. This too must be planned for up front; you have to define the financial targets that must be achieved to meet the business plan. Then, when reached, back off and focus on the relationship.
What is the lesson here? Ask yourself the following: 

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Is my company just following the Outsourcing mantra to reduce cost without an overarching plan or strategic alignment?

Is there a central PMO set up to coordinate and standardize outsourcing efforts?

Are there effective change controls in place?

Does my company know how to measure performance and program success?

Is my program floundering and about to derail?”

If you don’t have warm fuzzies after reviewing these questions, then you have a governance issue. And just like in the ERP days, it fundamentally comes down to effective program management, change management and performance measurement – all of which adds up to governance.

Author of this article, Ben Trowbridge, is the Chairman and CEO of Alsbridge Inc.

Narayan Ammachchi

News Editor for Nearshore Americas, Narayan Ammachchi is a career journalist with a decade of experience in politics and international business. He works out of his base in the Indian Silicon City of Bangalore.

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