Once upon a time, an organization decided to move its billing and accounts receivable processes to an outsourcing partner in a faraway land, opting for a lift-and-shift business process outsourcing (BPO) approach. The move helped the company cut costs and gave key employees more satisfying, strategic roles.
Since the process work was essentially unchanged—just done by other hands—the transition was kept discreetly behind the scenes. Everything went off without a hitch. Other than those who used to do the process work, no one even noticed.
And then there’s reality. After the processes were outsourced, a sales administrator got a customer complaint about a double billing. Previously, she would have contacted her friend in accounts; however, her friend had left the company.
Aware some sort of change had occurred in finance, the admin struggled to track down a contact name and number. When she finally got the information, she logged the complaint. After not hearing back after 24 hours, she called again and learned the service level agreement (SLA) was a 48-hour response (she had never heard of “SLAs” before).
The next day, she was notified the issue was resolved, and a refund had been issued. She was pleased with the resolution speed but decided to create an informational flyer for her colleagues so they would have the right information to give customers and wouldn’t have to experience the same frustration she had.
The reality of lift-and-shift BPO
As many of us in the BPO industry know, a successful BPO transition takes thoughtful planning and expertise, whether it’s finance, HR, IT or other processes. But too many businesses believe the myth that a lift-and-shift approach to BPO has a limited impact on employees’ ability to get work done productively. After all, they might think, you’re merely moving an existing process to another provider, not re-architecting how the process is done, which would be more obviously disruptive.
The fact is, lift and shift affects service users and external parties in both hidden and overt ways. And the failure to consider and plan for these impacts can be costly, as it can mire companies in the immediate transition instead of moving into a higher-level phase of transformation.
To maximize BPO success, businesses need to pay as much attention to the people aspect of the change as the technical and operational aspects, and make rigorous, structured change management an integral part of the program. Doing so will identify impacts, mitigate risks and deliver a smooth user experience, enabling the business benefits to be realized more rapidly.
Putting lift and shift in context
To draw an analogy, imagine you moved to a new area, but instead of dealing with all the disruptions of packing and moving all your belongings, you’re able to just take your house with you—lift it up and put it on a new foundation. However, once you move in, you start to realize things don’t work quite like they should. Your favorite chair to watch the sunset must be moved because the window it’s next to no longer faces west. You can’t bring your dog in from the back garden because the back door is now against the neighbor’s wall. And you still need to memorize a new address and get registered at the local doctor.
Similarly, the process of lifting and shifting a business process is filled with unexpected effects and adjustments: Processes undergo change, work gets divided at different points, the technology is new, the people and culture are different.
Acknowledging and planning for disruption upfront allows the organization to minimize its effects and be better positioned for the seamless transition they hope for. Importantly, a smooth BPO transition goes beyond face value: It can pave the way to digitally transformative tools and platforms, which ultimately bring higher value to the outsourcing partners.
Four strategies for a successful transition
Based on our experience with numerous BPO clients, we have identified four key strategies to support a seamless lift-and-shift BPO transition.
Strategy 1: Accurately assess the changes to organizational structure, roles and competencies
When processes themselves are supposedly not changing all that much, it’s easy to underestimate how significant the people changes are—especially in terms of org structures, role expectations and capability requirements.
Depending on the stakeholder, concerns may include job security, new roles and responsibilities, losing colleagues, adapting to new processes and technologies, learning different ways of working, interacting with unfamiliar cultures, and new performance measures.
That’s why one of the first steps in a rigorous change management effort is to define stakeholder groups—for example, released employees, new transfers and end users. Figure 1 illustrates a sample of stakeholder groups in a typical BPO transition. By defining stakeholder groups, businesses can imagine the transition from various users’ points of view—and, in turn, correctly forecast the degree of actual change.