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Issue of December 2005 

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People-centric BPO

Anupam Arun, Country Head of Ventura (India), shares the business and IT strategy involved in setting up a world-class BPO outfit.

Setting up an offshore BPO centre for the first time has to rank among the most challenging tasks for any CEO. This is because the new facility has to be on par with the outsourcer’s operations, and provide the same standard and quality levels.

Ventura’s primary objective when it started out was to create a world-class BPO entity and become a leading player in the Indian contact centre industry. This is why it made sense for the company to involve IT as a strategic business partner from the very first day.

The Primary Decision

The first big decision in setting up a BPO centre is location. This decision affects all other future decisions including availability of infrastructure, power supply, networking, stability and skilled resources.

After the assessment, IT has to be involved at the business planning stage itself. The list of possible IT solutions is narrowed down, and vendors are selected to negotiate the contract. Global partners are preferred because they provide expertise with efficiency. IT plays an integral part in the entire vendor selection process to get the best vendors and the most competitive prices. Legal and regulatory compliance has to be considered carefully. In Ventura’s view, Pune rated very high on all these parameters.

Infrastructure management can be outsourced to a suitable global partner if it has the ability and resources to manage the same. A SWOT analysis helps a company find out what it is good at and where it needs the assistance of experts in a particular field.

Phased Approach

A new BPO should take a phased approach towards growth. It should go for incremental deployment depending on new or current business requirements, and should interact with clients to gain a better understanding of their business. This helps a BPO run its own business more efficiently because its IT deployment has to reflect the business needs of its clients.

A BPO’s main focus should be on people and the quality of input given by them. This helps the BPO consolidate itself as a long-term brand and provide long-term service delivery capabilities

However, a BPO’s main focus should be on people and the quality of input given by them. This helps the BPO consolidate itself as a long-term brand and provide long-term service delivery capabilities. Clients usually give you a single chance, so the entire concept of offshoring for the client is affected by this experience.

The IT infrastructure has to be robust keeping the downtime to a minimum. Proper consideration must be given to telephony as most of a BPO company’s key IT deployments are telephony-based. The CIO’s job is to ensure proper deployments vis-à-vis networking, servers and applications, with an emphasis on network management tools.

Security Is Paramount

Security concerns are of supreme importance. Security must include implementing paperless zones and providing desktop PCs without data copying devices or pen drives. Physical security has to be rigorous and audits have to be conducted regularly at periodic intervals to assess how information security is managed.

A BPO’s best practices must include the need-to-know policy as far as data is concerned. The agent on the floor should have access to only that information which he needs to know, to answer queries, and to manage customer interactions.

Take associates into confidence and stress the importance of what they are doing. Educate them on the value of handling sensitive information. Even the best system can fail if somebody decides to sabotage it. Focus on changing the mindset, and make employees understand that one small act of indiscretion can bring down a multi-million dollar outsourcing company.

It is usually found that people use e-mail to send text data outside as an attachment or text file. To prevent this, e-mail access is given only to the management level team unless there is a business need. Any unrecognised files, jpeg files or other obvious stuff having the potential of bringing infection are blocked. The management regularly monitors what comes in and what is sent out of the organisation.

The CIO’s Dual Role

In a BPO, the CIO plays two essential roles. The first is that of a business facilitator. Since IT is involved in the core business planning model, the CIO must align IT with business. He is an integral part of the decision-making team which checks the viability of any business proposition.

At the same time, the CIO also has to identify new business solutions. He has to ensure proper vendor management because vendors play a key role in IT deployment and management. In addition, he has to make sure that the project and change management continues on an ongoing basis. This is because once the process starts there is dependence on the technological system as well as the business model of the end-customer.

The CIO’s second role is to ensure that day-to-day IT operations remain smooth and robust. He has to minimise incidents that cause downtime, and ensure smooth operations to provide constant service delivery and constant onsite management. BPOs have huge IT deployments, so managing the systems on an ongoing basis is a challenge in itself. This is where quality service delivery from the business continuity, disaster recovery and downtime minimisation perspectives come in.

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Indian Express - Business Publications Division

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