While we're all getting carried away with robots and sexy SaaS solutions replacing our rules-based transactional labor (and all the lovely buzzwords that come with it), something else is going on that is taking these dynamics in a different direction for thousands of Western enterprises' operations: IT and business processes are increasing their extension offshore at a breathtaking pace.
Offshoring is an increasingly large component of business operations. Clearly, the offshore option offers immediate savings and firms are getting much more adept, confidant and experienced at managing their processes remotely - whether by an outsourcing provider or their own offshore shared service center. And - as we've lamented on this site since the days when ACS was a market leader and people still used Yahoo! - enterprises are just obsessed with driving out cost - and then figuring our things like "transformation of processes" at some future point in time.
However, the difference today is that most of the perceived "risk" of moving offshore has gone and enterprises are simply doing it as part of their day to day operations. The evidence from 312 major enterprises in our brand new State of Outsourcing Study, conducted with KPMG, is startling:
The extension of process to offshore delivery is almost as prevalent in shared services as outsourcing. While a small number of firms are pulling their application development and maintenance back (one-in-ten), close to a third are increasing the offshore component with their service providers, and a fifth with their shared services - a similar trend to IT infrastructure. Moreover, where the new traction is clearly occurring is with business processes, which are clearly reaching a level of maturity with offshoring - almost three out of every ten enterprises are increasing their offshoring of finance processes with both their service providers and their own shared services operations. We also seeing similar dynamics with industry specific processes, procurement, HR and customer services.
The Bottom-line: The story today is about managing integrated services across global operations
1) The game has switched to integrated global operations management. It was barely 2-3 years' ago (click to view some older survey data) that the trend was very much moving towards outsourcing, with offshoring as a key component, for many enterprises looking at more radical measures to drive out cost. What's clearly transpiring is that many enterprises are clearly also investing in their own internal capabilities to run processes offshore (stay tuned for more hard evidence of this trend shortly). They can hire offshore staff at wages rates frequently far cheaper than their own providers charge (i.e. not paying their margins), which is nothing new, but clearly they are far more determined and confident to govern their own offshore internal resources themselves. What's more, many organizations are clearly not very impressed with the quality of their providers' resources (again, stay tuned for more hard evidence of this), and have made the decision to look at a more integrated services model to deliver their services to their organization. This is why we're seeing a heavy push from several of the Big 4 consulting shops, such as Deloitte, KPMG and PwC, to push their own managed governance and Global Business Services options, while Accenture is marketing its own flavor of integrated services management called "Integrated Business Services". We are even seeing providers with deep offshore specialization, such as Genpact, eager to push their service models and capabilities to clients, often as separate engagements from their existing bread-and-butter outsourcing relationships.
2) Offshore delivery will impact the rollout of the disruptive technologies, such as robotic process automation and SaaS. While it's not rocket science to see how impactful these disruptive technologies will likely be to labor-based services (read earlier post), the more that gets extended offshore, the more challenging it may become for enterprises to shift the model away from these linear labor-based services that are so dominant today. Quite simply, offshore outsourcers with predictable FTE-based annuity contracts are in no hurry to disrupt their own sources of recurring revenues, while enterprise operations leaders may not have genuine incentives from their leaderships to substitute their own offshore labor for technology driven alternatives.
Net-net, offshoring provides a very durable BandAid for many organizations, and we're still yet to witness a slowdown in the amount of offshoring that is taking place - in fact, the data shows quite the opposite trend is happening. We actually predict it will be more those organizations which have yet to do a lot of offshoring, which will look to move straight to automation and SaaS models as the ROI to reduce high onshore costs, as opposed to much cheaper offshore costs, is going to be so much higher. Eventually, competitive pressures will force all (surviving) leading providers to shift a much larger proportion of their labor-driven models onto technology-based platforms (where IBM has already placed its bets), however, the attractiveness of the high cost-savings benefits that locations such as India and the Philippines can provide is still on an upward trajectory and likely to remains this way for several years to come, despite the hype that screams otherwise.
3) Offshore capability has often moved in tandem with the globalization of the revenue for an enterprise. Part of the offshoring movement over the last twenty+ years has been in support of the increasing globalization of enterprises in their pursuit of the next Dollar, Euro, Peso, Yen or Yuan. Shared services delivery capability has often been co-located with manufacturing, distribution or sales facilities whether in Latin America, Asia, Central Europe or Africa. As global revenues have risen and more complex operating models for tax management have emerged in the last several years, there is little incentive to pull back from offshored business process or IT delivery when the rest of the business is staying put.