Quality in Business Process Outsourcing

Quality is not an act, it’s a habit
By Sameer Pai on Sep 01 2008 
I am convinced that Aristotle, the famous Greek philosopher, would have made a great quality professional. Why? Around the 4th century BC, Aristotle said “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” What is amazing about this statement is its relevance after so many centuries. In the last several years that I have been presenting to companies outsourcing or seeking to outsource I cannot help but draw reference to this statement. Interestingly in these presentations, I found a significant amount of consistency in themes of the discussion. Irrespective of the size of the company or the industry they belong to I have found a few themes which always draw a lot of discussion. To share a few of these themes - How many quality professionals are necessary to deliver the business process at desired efficiencies and levels of productivity? The ratios vary from 1:8 to 1:25, quality lead to associates – as a rule of thumb. The drivers of the choice of ratio are complexity of the business process, sample size to be audited and requirements in terms of improvement, among others.

Baseline measures and metrics – Targets, incentives and service credits etc. – a key part of the service provider’s service level agreement. These measures all depend on how accurately the company can set a benchmark or baseline. The challenge often faced by service providers is the client’s lack of or incorrect historical process data. In the event the historical data does not represent the process performance accurately, it is a good idea to get a baseline completed right at the onset without changing any steps in the process that is being outsourced. Process mapping, preferably to level 5, is critical. Anything that can be measured can be improved; and all future improvements are based on this baseline. It gives the partnership a common understanding.

Training and Certifications – key to any successful deployment is the role-based training designed to support specific learning objectives of the team. In my experience leading several quality initiatives at WNS, I recommend a structured plan for training and certifications should be part of the culture of the organisation. It is an investment which yield measureable benefits around 18 months from the start of the deployment process, although some quick gains can be expected along the way.

Long term sustainability of solutions – One of the key attributes of any long term solution is its sustainability. I have seen many organisations where a huge amount of focus is placed on the implementation but very little attention is paid to its sustainability. I have reached the conclusion that a rigorous system of tracking, monitoring and auditing the implemented solutions on a three month frequency helps keep the focus on the business outcome rather than transition alone.

Knowledge Management – Given attrition in the global BPO industry is one the key challenges, how does a company ensure that learning is retained within the organisation and the process of re-inventing the wheel is minimised. I have found that quality management systems such as ISO 9001 are of tremendous help in this area. The rigorous use of documentation which is audited every quarter has over time become a game changer. The documents are owned by operations and updated as and when any changes happen in the process. If you are looking to outsource your processes, examine the knowledge management processes of your potential service provider.

Continuous Improvements Programs – Another area, which in the last few years has experienced tremendous interest. What has started changing is the emergence of a gain share model. At WNS we have several client engagements where we have implemented mutually agreed gain share model based on the improvements we deliver. This would keep the clients happy for the benefits generated year on year and also keep the outsourcing partners interested to be creative and innovative in its continuous improvement programs. Its been observed that such programs yield tremendous benefits when both the partners are keen and have equal partnership in driving results. Data from such co-owned programs have shown tremendous top line and bottom line improvements.

Ideas and Best Practices – The process of capturing ideas and industrialising them across the organisation are critical to success. Clients like to see support for grassroots ideas generated and implemented through a formal process, and a structured reward and recognition program. At WNS these programs have been able to generate numerous ideas and best practices some of which have delivered amazing results for our clients.

Feedback from qualitative analysis to operations – In my experience many clients put a lot of emphasis as to how the feedback is given to associates at the grass root level. Quantitative analysis of process and individual performance are tracked and presented in the form of dashboards which are used to provide feedback in a formal manner. The foundation of any employee incentive program is to get the performance measures right and the measurement systems capturing these parameters must be repeatable and reproducible.

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  • Re: Quality is not an act, it’s a habit
    I agree. In our business research process, we were facing tremendous TAT issues leading to client dis-satisfaction. It was only a matter of time before we noticed the causes behind high TAT and ways to control the TAT. Of course, with help of Six Sigma tools. The quality approach has not only helped us on TAT but also focus on other critical to quality areas thereby ensuring consitent client satisfaction.

  • By Milind 6 years 172 days ago Reply

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