Nearshore Americas

Nothing Personal Sitel, But a ‘Black Book’ Award is a Black Mark in Our Book

By Kirk Laughlin, Editorial Director

Loyal followers of Nearshore Americas will recall the outrage we felt when Bogota was named the “world’s riskiest” place to outsource by Brown and Wilson last year. This “finding” goes down as one of the most reckless and erroneous pieces of “research” in the last several years in the global services industry. For one thing, you know something is seriously wrong when the researchers – in this case Mr. Brown and Mr. Wilson who are the bosses at the Black Book – are nowhere to be found when they are asked to explain how they actually came about drawing this conclusion.

At Nearshore Americas, we didn’t want to forget what we consider something that actually damages all of Latin American outsourcing. Since the release of that report, DataMonitor made the highly questionable decision to purchase the “Black Book” brand. Bad decision? Of course. DataMonitor operates a global research group that applies sound methodology and relies on properly trained analysts.  Association with the Black Book franchise tarnishes DataMonitor. (For those analyst-group watchers, this is far different from Gartner acquiring a Meta or Burton Group.)

blackbook.blackmarkThe point to all this is that when Sitel gained recognition today as the “number one” global contact center provider for the second year in row, as determined by the Black Book on Outsourcing, I would look at it with a high degree of skepticism. Instead of a vote of confidence, it may even suggest a pay-for-play accolade. Sitel may well deserve this honor, but as we all learned in journalism school, you have to consider the source.

Sign up for our Nearshore Americas newsletter:

More than a few marketing and communications executives from Nearshore providers have asked me about whether it’s worth working with “Black Book” folks to gain recognition. My simple advise is: Stay away.

Boycott the Black Book, at least until the current leaders of the brand revoke the smear that paraded as research last year.

Kirk Laughlin

Kirk Laughlin is an award-winning editor and subject expert in information technology and offshore BPO/ contact center strategies.


  • I work for a company that offers outsourcing services and was approached by one of Blackbook's "analysts" a few weeks ago. He basically said that they could slice and dice their data in so many ways so that we could achieve a high ranking (of course we'd have to pay for it). I left the conversation with a bad taste in my mouth. Companies that use them have paid to be placed where they are and the Blackbook has no place as a reputable ranking provider.

  • Bill, the Black Book guys are leaving a "bad taste" across the industry according to some confidential information that was just disclosed to me. In the words of one critic who had a first-hand experience, the methodology is "completely bogus."

  • Well they certainly left a bad taste in my mouth. There business model is not the correct one for a ranking company. Offering to "tailor" rankings so that a provider shows up high in the ranking is a quick cash grab and will erase any credibility very quickly.

  • Hi Bill,

    I would really like the opportunity to explore your comments re Black Books further. Please can you contact me on +44 (0) 207 551 9000 and ask for me directly.

    kind regards,

    Rose Masterson

  • As CEO of the Datamonitor Group, I wanted to address some of the points raised in the article. The strategic vision behind Datamonitor’s acquisition of The Black Book of Outsourcing in mid 2009 is to create a world-class (out)sourcing research business that brings together the following:

    Outsourcing-specific end-user primary research (through The Black Book survey);

    Sourcing-specific analysis and bespoke consulting (through Orbys, a Datamonitor company);

    Insight and analysis into the application of outsourcing within vertical markets (through Datamonitor’s vertical research businesses).

    2010 will see significant investment in each of the above-listed lines of business in order to create an outsourcing research business that can effectively serve the information needs of both the vendor and the end-user community. For The Black Book of Outsourcing, whilst Datamonitor believes that the fundamentals of the business are sound, we are aware that there is work to be done to improve the business and to that end we will be implementing the following for the 2010 Black Book of Outsourcing survey:

    – Datamonitor’s core focus will be to improve the methodology and the transparency of the survey and we will be engaging with key vendors to better understand the improvements they would like to see in the 2010 survey;

    – The survey will be managed and run in-house by Datamonitor’s own survey experts and not by historic members of the Black Book research team. This will ensure that Datamonitor’s research best-practices are fully applied to The Black Book of Outsourcing;

    – Datamonitor will enhance the survey questions so that they are more statistically robust but at the same time maintaining a core consistency for continuity;

    – We will introduce additional survey questions in order to cover topical issues such as Sustainability;

    – We plan to increase the overall number of survey respondents with a particular focus on increasing geographic spread;

    – We will use Datamonitor analysts to interpret the survey results and provide objective opinion on a sourcing, technical and industry level;

    – We will check and balance The Black Book of Outsourcing survey results with the experience of Orbys consultants in order to provide a more holistic view of vendor performance.

    Whilst Datamonitor has aggressive plans for enhancing The Black Book of Outsourcing’s research output, the survey will continue to rank vendors (and countries) based upon the results of the end-user survey. As such, we may never be able to persuade all poorly-ranked vendors from attempting to encourage their clients to ignore Black Book of Outsourcing vendor rankings. We do, nonetheless, hope that more of them will take note of the survey results in order to enhance the level of service that they are providing to the clients.

  • Black Book has long been a discredited source in the industry. Everyone in the industry know it's a pay for play model. There was even a BusinessWeek expose on them a couple of years ago.