Thursday, October 18, 2012

BPO is not a 4 letter word!

When one thinks of Business Process Outsourcing (or BPM as Genpact has called it for 5 + years now ) the tendency is to think of call centers, commoditized low value work, boring – repetitive tasks, night shifts and so on.

That picture isn’t too far from reality – but it’s a picture that was reality circa 1995 when this industry first started. Some of us who started the industry had the vision to take this picture and elevate it to a different level altogether, improving it dramatically to deliver real, measurable impact.

Cut to 15 years later – today this is a radically different industry that delivers services across a range of processes from the mundane to very complex and high value-add services. A pretty significant chunk – almost 40% – of what we do requires high skills, deep knowledge and sometimes at least 10+ years of experience to deliver high-end services like closing books of organizations, filing 10ks for US corporations, analyzing and detecting credit card & insurance fraud, warranty management and managing spares for aircrafts … there are hundreds of diverse examples.

The career paths of people in this industry tell this story …. of an upward swing in skills and certifications. People who started out making collection calls get CA or CPA certified during their tenure and switch career paths to start delivering high end financial work for global organizations. It’s fascinating to see how one individual can explore multiple career paths across industries, domains , functions and geographies… all within the same organization !!

One hears from the skeptics how there is little room for innovation in this industry. But let’s talk about what innovation really is – it’s not just designing the next Apple product, right? Most people limit innovation to product innovation. While that’s probably one of the more visible forms of innovation, it’s the not-so-visible innovation in processes or services or business models that truly lives up to its name. Ours is an extremely innovative industry when it comes to people management. Our talent retention and development practices are the most sophisticated compared to any industry anywhere in the world… for a simple reason… we are forced to do it! The war for talent is crazy… we hire 15,000 people in a year… we train 40,000 people… and we also lose 15,000 people !! In such a situation you are forced to innovate people practices that attract, retain and engage the best talent in the world. If you make a list of the best HR leaders in China or Philippines or India or South Africa or Latin America , I guarantee you they will come from this industry. The same goes for the best Lean Six Sigma or long-term client facing relationship builders, or finance people who understand finance across verticals and geographies – the diverse nature of our industry hones our talent to produce world-class leaders.

The trick however is that you have to last in this industry and build a career in order to really derive its true value.