Aside from airline strikes, ash clouds, oil leaks and Sarah Palin's plea to "drill baby drill" (what a brilliant faux pas that was), global media attention was briefly diverted to Edinburgh, last week, as some of BPO's top buyers and providers bravely duked it out under the lilac-neon lighting at SSON's European Shared Services & Outsourcing Week.
The occasion was the "Thundering Hooves", where HfS nervously stood between two aggressive teams of buyers and providers eager to prove they could thunder more thunderously. Moreover, with the incentive of a coach-class ticket to tour WNS' facility in Mumbai, with only a 20 hour-layover in Nairobi and Dakkar (industrial action and political unrest permitting), the tension was akin to a frenzied iPad queue with fast-depleting inventory.
The deliberations began well for the Sell Family, comprised of Genpact's Smooth Operating Officer Tiger Tyagarajan, WNS's Chief Mischief Officer, Deborah Kops, and PA Consulting's Huw Grant-Watkin. Could they come back after their catastrophe in Orlando in February? The vast crowd watched on with baited breath (it had to be with all the haggis and smoked-salmon vol-au-vents floating around) as they second-guessed how hundreds of shared services and outsourcing executives answered the following questions:
- The Buy Family: What phrase from your service provider makes your blood boil the MOST?
- The Sell Family: What phrase from your clients makes your blood boil the MOST?
- The Buy Family: How important is achieving innovation from your service provider in BPO engagements to your operational leadership?
- The Sell Family: How much importance are your clients placing on achieving innovation in their engagements beyond cost-reduction?
- The Buy Family: To what extent has your primary BPO service provider met your expectations with its provision of quality resources (i.e. personnel and technology) to your current engagement to help you achieve innovation?
- The Sell Family: To what extent has your primary BPO client / clients met your expectations with their provision of quality personnel and resources to help them achieve innovation?
It looked like the Buy Family, comprised of the global finance shared services and sourcing leads from Astrazeneca (Graham Russell), KimberlyClark (Simon Newton) and Unilever (John Transier) were struggling to recover from the previous evening's deluge of bagpipes and sourcing advisors. However, they dug-deep through the cerebral fog and summoned up the inspiration to take the fight back to the Sell Family, by pulling level on points after the remaining questions:
- The Buy Family: What is the primary reason your provider thinks is preventing you from achieving innovation?
- The Sell Family: What is the primary reason your clients thinks is preventing them from achieving innovation?
- To both Families: Which outsourced business processes have the most innovation potential over the next 24 months beyond standard operational delivery?
- To both Families: What attributes are enterprises looking for these days when selecting a BPO provider?
- The Buy Family: What is the worst clause in your contract?
- The Sell Family: What clauses do you hate the MOST among your clients’ contracts?
- To both Families: Where can we honestly go for IMPARTIAL, UNBIASED, UNFETTERED, and BALANCED advice?
So it all boiled down to a tie-break question:
- Who announced their acquisition of ExcellerateHRO today?
"ACS!" buzzes Deborah Kops. Realizing she'd forgotten to name ACS' new owner, John Transier, (quicker on the buzzer than a British Airways cabin staffer at an any excuse to take another month off despite the fact we already earn twice what our competitors get paid meeting), added "Xerox". With this sudden-death deft play it was all over... the Buy Family had, once again, prevailed to thunder over its providers. We did try and get John to comment on how he was celebrating the victory, but a Nigerian prison warden explained he was currently indisposed...