Kicking off the “Innovation” discussions: Oracle’s Roger Turnham


Roger TurnhamOne of the nicest guys in the BPO industry is Oracle's Roger Turnham.  He's been Oracle's brains-behind-the-scenes since BPO was a mere twinkle in Larry's eye four years' ago.  Many of you have been dazzled by Roger's Texan charm as the software giant develops its BPO partner program for service providers.  He also has some very interesting views on innovation strategies that can add significant value to a BPO engagement.  I am going to hone in on the "I" topic over the coming weeks, and asked Roger to kick off the discussions… over you you Mr T:

Innovation: What’s in a Name?

Over the past four years I’ve sat through BPO panel discussions on innovation, I’ve listened to some of the world’s largest BPO customers complain that they can’t get it, while BPO providers claim great success in delivering it. Either somebody’s lying or the word is like evolution: It’s so broad a word that it can mean anything you want it to. To extend the analogy: Evolution is a word that means everything from change over time to the origin of matter, to a cosmic explosion that created everything, to why some of us are big and others blond and – my personal favorite – how goo turned into you. If “innovation” is like evolution, it can mean anything, or everything, or nothing.

So, what is it?

 If you talk to a BPO customer, he wants his provider to “raise the bar” every year — to make him faster, more nimble, competitive, … He wants a better mousetrap every year. If you are a provider of BPO services, innovation can mean a point release upgrade, consolidating two customer divisions into one, getting rid of a paper form with a self – service applet, or changing an algorithm to increase subprocess efficiency. So, back to the original question: what is it?

I’ll contend that any of the above could be innovation – but only if they can be linked back to the CEO’s goals for the year. In my opinion, this is the only way the BPO executive sponsor remains relevant in the board room, how the provider gets his renewal and add-on services, and how the customer and provider can work together toward a common innovation objective. I’ll also suggest that the source of the objective each year be the second page of the annual report. The Big Guys usually put a letter there that, somewhere in the third paragraph, has three business imperatives for the coming year – the stuff they have to achieve to “raise the bar” to the next level. Thus, being somewhat simple-minded, why shouldn’t we use those three things as the subject matter for the next status meeting between the provider and customer?

In my next article, I’ll use a case study to illustrate innovation through this mindset and what has to be there to enable it.

Roger Turnham (pictured) is the Director of the Program Management Office for BPO for Oracle. His responsibilities include aligning Oracle’s business model to drive successful engagements in the BPO market.

Posted in : Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), IT Outsourcing / IT Services, SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and BPaaS



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  1. The term innovation means “a new way of doing something. It may refer to incremental, radical, and revolutionary changes in thinking, products, processes, or organizations. For example, innovation leading to increased productivity is the fundamental source of increasing wealth in an economy.” It’s the same for a business.

    Outsourcing can be a major catalyst for companies to innovate, as long as a provider and a customer can work together to redesign processes to increase the firm’s competitive performance. If the outsourcing engagement is a simple “lift and shift”, the only way to increase competitive performance is for the service provider to achieve operational metrics better than those attained pre-engagement. But that’s not doing something new, it’s simply improved efficiency.

    Roger, you make a great point that the CEO’s stated goals need to be tied in with an outsourcing engagement, but that’s only going to bring innovation if the business transformation drives revolutionary changes in the firm’s processes to achieve them,

    John O’Sullivan

  2. Another innovation factor to consider is what have you paid for? Extremely low cost driven contracts for basic services approaching commodization are not going to see annual innovations aligned to each customer’s internal business goals. Buyers should gain from efficiencies and enhancements the provider makes to their platform to remain competitive over time – for more major innovations they will have the opportunity to purchase the upgrades.

    Transformational partnerships with customized goals for innovation over the life of the appropriately funded contract need to sharply align and define what innovation means, how projects will be selected, what is included in the pricing and what will be added cost.

    We had an “innovation fund” built into our HRO contract that was funded by both parties. You cannot always see and define the needs over a five to seven year contract as business needs will change. The initial enhancements to be delivered as part of transition were well defined. In addition we annually identified list of projects and jointly selected those that would be developed out of the innovation fund.

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