When making sourcing decisions, a lot of attention is paid to the pricing structure and qualifications of service providers, while their actual location is sometimes a secondary consideration. However, when assessing a destination, it’s important to realize that what might be favorable today can morph into a nightmare scenario tomorrow. Don’t be caught unaware and unprepared for the ever-changing dynamics of the Nearshore.
The best-shoring process goes beyond looking at the usual criteria like cost effectiveness, employee attrition and service capabilities, and examines issues such as the hidden aspects of hiring and firing, how non-performance claims are managed, a country’s political stability, propensity for natural disasters, nationalization of businesses, and concerns about infrastructure. It’s dangerous to give these critical factors short shrift when concentrating on which provider offers the best financial deal.
International management consulting firm A.T. Kearney advises that “the best-shoring evaluation process selects the most favorable location by applying a comprehensive set of criteria, which include not only current cost effectiveness and scenario analyses, but also an assessment of service and quality levels, as well as the question of warranty.”
“There are several items that are driving the trends towards best sourcing of solutions,” said Ed Fitzpatrick, director of Managed Services at Charles River Development, during a podcast about IT development, “The key thing is the competitive nature of the industry. Especially coming off the last couple of years in the worldwide financial situation, it’s about proving competitiveness, lowering costs, driving operational efficiencies, getting more value out of their investments in technology and systems, better aligning costs and values, and of course, reducing the strain on limited internal IT resources.”
Looking deeper than immediate cost savings, buyers should take into consideration driving factors, such as:
• Available Talent – How big is the current qualified labor pool? Will the operation be able to scale-up over the next five to ten years? Who are the competitors for the same talent? What are the strengths and weaknesses? Are wages expected to increase from year-to-year? Do the labor laws favor workers or employers? For example, even though Brazil has the largest population in South America, can the country offer better software developers than Colombia? Can Colombia compete on the wage scale with Chile? Will Chile produce enough qualified candidates for contact center work over the long-term than Argentina? Will wage inflation and restrictive labor laws in Argentina have an adverse effect on the ability to continue operations there? Which nation is known for a strong work ethic as compared to the others? When it comes to hiring and firing, every aspect of the country’s employment law should be examined carefully.
• Soundness of Infrastructure – Just because a country was known for having solid infrastructure in the past does not mean it will be true in the future. For instance, Chile was thought of us being relatively sound in this regard, but recently President Piñera warned executives that Chile would face an energy crisis during his administration due to an estimated annual demand increase of up to 7%. Other nations too might face energy crises, or an inability to keep up with the need for improved telecommunications technology and internet access. Safe roads and highways, efficient and adequate transportation systems, accessibility to international airports are also major considerations. El Dorado, the main international airport in Colombia’s capital city, Bogota, is being completely rebuilt in order to accommodate the heavily increased passenger traffic. However, observers have noted that by time the new facility is completely operational it will already be inadequate. Therefore, plans are under consideration to build a second airport.
• Natural Disasters – No country on earth is safeguarded from nature’s wrath. However, some are more prone to disasters than others. As charted by PreventionWeb, Chile is more prone to earthquakes than flooding, Colombia can suffer from flooding and earthquakes, Argentina is also susceptible to flooding whereas drought is the biggest threat to Brazil. Whatever the hazard, be sure redundant systems are in place and assess how quickly business can resume.
• Claims for Non-performance – Even though the contract might contain very specific clauses relating to non-performance issues, what jurisdiction will the contract be enforced in? If in the provider’s home country is there a enough of a history of similar cases in order to establish a precedence, and if so, who have they favored? If not, how would such a case be handled?
• Political Risk – Are foreign business entities welcome to operate freely within the selected country? Does the country have a history of nationalizing private enterprises, or are there indications to suggest this will start happening? Can the government close down an operation that is deemed contrary to their philosophy? Will a foreign entity, or a company hired by a foreign entity, be abruptly shut down? These are very real concerns, especially in Latin America where the political dynamics change rapidly in some nations. Closely examine the policies of countries such as Venezuela and Argentina who have been shown to be volatile environments, whereas Chile and Colombia stand as recent examples of political stability.
• Immigration Policies – Providers might need to hire employees from other countries, even on a temporary basis, in order to ensure they have the right individual in the right position. Also, companies that have shared services or captives most likely will want at least some high-level personnel from established business centers to oversee their operations. What countries are more welcoming to foreign workers? Where are the least restrictive immigration policies? Can foreign employees be arrested or deported without cause? Be sure to research these policies in-depth and gain an understanding of a particular country’s record, and pay attention to the “writing on the wall.”
Do not underestimate the importance of digging into these fundamental aspects of sourcing. Remember that the relationship is not only with your provider, but also with their country.