I've just returned from an excellent InfosysBPO customer event in Philadelphia. Was refreshing to have a services firm allow industry experts, its customers and prospects talk freely about the industry and the burning issues. I especially enjoyed:
- TPI's Sue Danino, leading a panel discussing pricing models;
- Wayne Mincey from the Hackett Group treated us to some confidential new data on world-class performance (a lot of vigorous note-taking during that one...);
- Jason Busch on top form discussing the exorbitant price of zinc and how this impacts procurement BPO;
- Micheal De Zeuw, Infosys' VP in charge of their Philips BPO engagement, discuss their journey;
- AMR research's panel discussing service provider governance, led by some British guy.
One of the key issues that came out of the AMR panel was the discussion centered on whether "your vendor is really your partner". Sunil Narang, VP of Finance for Level 3 Communications, vehemently argued the case that his firm would have never achieved the success it has with its BPO, if it hadn't developed a partner-style relationship with its provider, based on a great deal of mutual trust and working together. On the flip-side, I have had many discussions with other sourcing executives who claim their vendor relationship is definitely not a partnership, but a contractual agreement.
My view is you really have to take control over your vendor relationship and drive the agenda, and it often takes a couple of years to get to the stage where you and your vendor feel you have a good understanding of what you need. If you can develop a relationship which feels like a true partnership, then you must be doing an great job, as this is not the case with everyone. Much depends on the skill of the sourcing leader within the buyer to create a mutually workable outsourcing environment. However, this is a skill that most executives need to learn "on-the-job" through real-life experience. So if you have not lived and breathed an outsourcing relationship, treat the situation like a marriage with a very solid pre-nuptual agreement. Love to hear your views on this....