Business Process Outsourcing
Business process outsourcing (BPO) contains the transmission of processes along with the associated operational activities and responsibilities, to a third party with at least a guaranteed equal service level and where the client contains a firm grip over the (activities of the) vendor for mutual long term success. BPO is positively related to the search for more efficient organizational designs: cost reduction, productivity growth and innovative capabilities. Hence, a source for strategic advantage.
BPO is often divided into two categories: back office outsourcing, which includes internal business functions such as billing or purchasing, and front office outsourcing, which includes customer-related services such as marketing or tech support. The endless opportunities IT provides, stimulates (cross-border) BPO activities. BPO that is contracted outside a company’s own country is sometimes called offshore outsourcing. BPO that is contracted to a company’s neighboring country is sometimes called nearshore outsourcing.
BPO includes the software, the process management, and the people to operate the service. BPO is a part of the outsourcing industry. It is dependent on information technology, hence it is also referred to as information technology enabled services or ITES.
India has revenues of 10.9 billion USD from offshore BPO and 30 billion USD from IT and total BPO (expected in FY 2008). India thus has some 5-6% share of the total BPO Industry, but a commanding 63% share of the offshore component. This 63% is a drop from the 70% offshore share that India enjoyed last year, despite the industry growing 38% in India last year, other locations like Eastern Europe, Philippines, Pakistan, and Egypt have emerged to take a share of the market. However, while the BPO industry is expected to continue to grow in India , its market share of the offshore piece is expected to decline.
According to McKinsey, the global “addressable” BPO market is worth $122 – $154 billion, of which: 35-40 retail banking, 25-35 insurance, 10-12 travel/hospitality, 10-12 auto, 8-10 telecoms, 8 pharmacy, 10-15 others and 20-25 is finance, accounting and HR. Moreover, they estimate that 8% of that capacity was utilized as of 2006.
BPO increasing the flexibility of organizations
One of the most important advantages of BPO is the way in which it helps to increase a company’s flexibility. However, several sources have different ways in which they perceive organizational flexibility. Therefore business process outsourcing enhances the flexibility of an organization in different ways.
. Most services provided by BPO vendors are offered on a fee-for-service basis. This helps a company becoming more flexible by transforming fixed into variable costs. A variable cost structure helps a company responding to changes in required capacity and does not requisite a company in investing in assets and hereby making the company more flexible. Outsourcing may provide a firm with increased flexibility in its resource management and reduce response times to major environmental changes.
. Another way in which BPO contributes to a company’s flexibility is that a company is able to focus on its core competencies, without being burdened by the demands of bureaucratic dictate. Key employees are herewith released from performing non-core or administrative processes and can invest more time and energy in building the firm’s core businesses. The key in this lies in knowing, which of the main value drivers to focus on – customer intimacy, product leadership, or operational excellence. Focusing on one of these drivers may help a company create a competitive edge.
. A third way in which BPO increases organizational flexibility is by increasing the speed of business processes. Using techniques such as linear programming is a way to reduce cycle time and inventory levels, which reduces a company’s slack. Supply chain management with the effective use of supply chain partners and business process outsourcing increases the speed of several business processes,
. Finally, flexibility is seen as a stage in the organizational life cycle. BPO helped to transform Nortel from a bureaucratic organization into a very agile organization. A company can hereby help maintaining ambitious growth goals, which do not fit with regular incumbent strategies. BPO therefore allows firms to retain their entrepreneurial speed and agility, which they would otherwise sacrifice in order to become efficient as they greatly expanded. It avoids a premature internal transition from its informal entrepreneurial phase to a more bureaucratic mode of operation.