Saturday, October 13, 2007

Technology Enablers for BPO Providers - II

posted by ShyK at 18:10

A quick recap of what I said in the previous post - Barring some industry leaders – most BPO providers have not adapted to BPM / BAM / DMS / KM with

  • SOA based implementation allowing for integration with customer / third-party systems easily
  • Third-Party, Industry proven scalable systems rather than home-grown systems
  • Multi-tenant / Shared Service implementation.

One would expect that most providers have an effective & efficient end-to-end seamless Document Digitization & Management system which services global needs & integrates across customer systems. Unfortunately, not too many providers can boast about this.

Some of the other systems that BPO providers across the spectrum have implemented, or, need to start implementing (or engage partners who do so) in a shared service model are discussed below.

  1. Knowledge Management
    • Most providers do have an ability to define and store in standardized form SIPOC, SOPs / Desktop Procedures - at the very least they have a document repository system where these are stored. The challenge is to be able to provide a feature which allows for full-text-search in addition to meta-data search so that every time a new customer is on-boarded, previously created documented can be searched & leveraged.
    • If technology could help providers compare the digitally captured process diagram (or SIPOC/COPIS) of one customer process vs. another of similar nature – it could also help identify inefficiencies. Expecting this feature is perhaps not so realistic though.
    • Wikis, blogs and forums have long been the easiest and quickest (though not most accurate) ways of sharing knowledge & leveraging peer group strengths to resolve issues. BPO providers seem to be relatively reluctant to embark on using these – probably driven by the concerns around maintaining customer data confidentiality. It remains to be seen if the Groupware developers can work a model where it might be possible to leverage peer group strengths while retaining confidentiality.
  2. Work-flow & Case Management – These applications are ubiquitous in the BPO world. The challenges are the usual
    • Flexibility to define new processes / case types, Flexibility to define exception handling conditions, Flexibility to assign / re-assign work-flow or case – and most importantly being able to do all this without a programmer
    • Having a multi-tenant model that can be accessed by both providers & customers.
  3. Business Process Monitoring Tools
    • Analyze – A good BPM tool is not limited to visually and graphically to represent "as-is" and "to-be" process scenarios but also allows providers to specify costs (monetary & otherwise) for each step to allow simulation / what-if analysis. Providers can work with Buyers to undertake a cost-benefit analysis of every change upfront. In the long term this should help providers to convince buyers to make changes more easily.
    • Build – While the BPM tools focus has traditionally been on ‘eliminating the programmer’ in building the components; in the BPO world – its equally important for the tools to be able to interface with diverse & disparate Knowledge Management, workflow & data capture systems. This allows the provider to provide the same benefit to multiple buyers.
    • Monitor – The user-friendly "dashboard" reporting features should be used to report on automatically calculated Service Level measures such TAT, QC data and depending on the process – perhaps potentially capture accuracy data as well. Web enabled reports with drill down capabilities can help both buyers and providers to do appropriate causal analysis.
    • Manage & Operate - Process and rules engines that extends beyond capturing digitally the process diagrams, SIPOC / CPOIS etc captured in the knowledge to actually allowing the customers & providers a tighter control over the timelines & stages of a process.

Apart from the above tool-sets, providers need to also start looking at Optical Character Recognition (OCR) / Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) tools. Mature organizations in the western countries as well as mature BPO providers based out of these high-cost countries have already implemented these systems. Providers from low-cost countries seem to be slower in implementing these systems though – given that the cost of manual (even double entry) processing seems to still be lesser than the cost of processing with aid of these systems. However, the low cost country based providers might need to leverage these tools as they start addressing global customer needs – delivering from high cost locations.

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