The Perfect HRO Storm

Three factors are colliding to create the perfect storm in European HRO

by Margo Alderton

For those of you unfamiliar with the term the perfect storm, first, may I congratulate you on turning a blind eye to all U.S. media hype in the year 2000for theres no other way you could have avoided the promotion of the George Clooney blockbuster movie The Perfect Storm, based on the best selling book by Sebastian Junger. Second, for those two or three folk out there who managed to avoid the hype, let me define the concept. In October of 1991, three weather systems collided off the Eastern Atlantic Seaboard creating a monstrous storm of 100-plus foot waves, an occurrence so rare, it was labeled by the National Weather Service as the perfect storm. While the meteorological event devastated the coast and took several lives, the term perfect storm has become part of American lexicon. We at HRO Today are always happy to ride the trend wave by declaring that we think the following events all point to a perfect storm brewing in the European HRO market:

The past year has been a milestone in the HRO industry worldwide: Those groundbreakers who signed HRO contracts years before people were even calling it HRO are now re-signing and expanding their contracts. While some are shopping for new providers, and others are re-evaluating what elements they outsource, few are taking HRO back in-house. It seems that despite the challenges of being early adopters in a new industry, adoption was the right choice. And no contract has exemplified this better than BTs extension and expansion of its contract with Accenturere-signing for 10 more years of service and expanding from one country to 49. This goes to show, while America has been happy to jump on the BPO bandwagon and claim it as our own, there is no denying that many of the forerunners of BPO thought leadership were heads of European companies (like BT, BP, and Cable and Wireless), and they continue to be so.

In Wales this May, for the second year in a row, I attended the IQPC Shared Services Conference, where Margaret Savage of BT was a featured speaker. Why was the head of HR for a company that has outsourced its HR featured at a shared services conference? Because shared services is no longer considered the only direction or final step in centralizing and improving business processes. In fact, this years Shared Services Conference marked a noticeable change over last years in that a full half of the sessions for the HR track were devoted to HRO. This was a dramatic change from the previous year, where only a few fearless attendees (among them, HRO Todays publisher) raised their hands and asked where presenters stood on the outsourcing issue. This year, people were not asking where presenters stood, but how they stood: How did you identify a provider? How did you make the transition? How did you manage the process? Attendees were no longer testing the waters, they were preparing to make the dive. And presenters such as BT, BAE Systems, and Cable and Wireless were more than willing to share their adventures (and misadventures) in outsourcing.

While the third event building toward the perfect storm of European HRO may seem like a shameless plug for this publication, there is no denying its growing impact on the industry: The Second Annual HRO World Conference, this November 14-16, 2005, in Brussels, Belgium. When we launched the conference last November, there was some trepidation as to how the audience and sponsors would respond. We need not have worried. While we are willing to be as open as the HRO presenters at IQPC and admit there were some stumbling blocks, which will be addressed in our second attempt (for example, setting up separate tracks for HRO users and providers), the response has been overwhelming. With still five months to go, we already have more speakers, attendees, and sponsors registered than we did in 2004a number that will continue to grow.

So if you are eager to track the progress of this perfect storm, check out this column in future issues and our quarterly magazine HRO Europe for regular updates, and attend the 2005 HRO World Europe Conference this November. As they say, theres no better place to see a storm than from the eye of it.

Tags: Consultants & Advisors, HRO Today Global, Professional Contribution

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