Multi-process HRSourcing

Asking Critical Internal Questions to Become a Better BPO Client

It’s always easier to blame the provider, but self-evaluation is a must for ensuring that the deal is executed properly. Ask these questions to determine if you, the buyer, want either a partner or a vendor in your HRO deal.

by Mark Hodges

Too often, BPO clients point their finger at their service provider and claim fault. Or broken promises. Or a failure to achieve the joint vision initially agreed upon in their BPO agreement. And while there is likely some validity to these claims, the truth is that the fault usually lies with both parties.

Clients must look at themselves in the mirror and ask, “Am I a good client?” This difficult self-assessment often yields a more accurate answer to problems in a BPO relationship. A quick diagnostic will allow you, the BPO client, to answer this question more accurately. Here are the issues and the critical questions around them that you should keep in mind when making this assessment.

  • Governance and Relationship Management. Other than the governance lead, does your governance team have a clear owner for relationship management? Or communications? Or change management? Or innovation and transformation?

Does your governance team have sufficient staff and budget to help drive superior governance and relationship management? Can you demonstrate to the provider that the relationship is long-term and strategic, or does your behavior betray a short-term, tactical focus?

  • Executive Visibility and Interaction. Do you have visibility and interaction with senior executives at your BPO provider? Do you actively foster and facilitate meetings and face time between your senior executives and their executive management? This can take the form of joint steering committees, visits to the BPO provider’s corporate and regional headquarters, regularly scheduled calls, and quarterly and/or annual briefings.

There is frequent change among senior executives at BPO provider organizations. It is the norm. Some move to the other BPO providers, some retire, and some are fired or asked to retire. You need to know at least three to five senior executives at your BPO provider in order to avoid concentration risk and losing a key conduit into your BPO relationship.

  • Communication and Culture. Are you and your team strong bilateral communicators? Or is it just unilateral? Are you prepared to invest in, and encourage, change? Do you share the risk and eventual reward of change with your BPO provider? Or is all the risk on their side?

Do you communicate your aspirations early, or do you expect your provider to just “know it”? Do you wait until the last minute to communicate substantive changes in your organization?

Does your governance organization display a partnership mindset or a transactional one? Do you actively communicate what is important to you and your organization to your BPO provider?

Do you and your BPO provider target sacred cows in your organization? When recalcitrant members in your organization are clearly identified, do you reassign them or remove them from your company? Or do you allow them to stay in the organization and impede or block change?

  • Innovation Reviews. How often do you hold innovation reviews with your provider? Quarterly? Semi-annually? Annually? Infrequently? Never? Innovation reviews include critical topics such as the state of the market, industry trends and relevant information, technology updates, solution demonstrations, site visits, etc. Have you covered these topics in detail with your BPO provider?

Do you use peer groups to understand what is happening in your industry, the outsourcing market, and other industries? Do you invite your provider to these forums when appropriate, or at least share the findings, best practices, and learnings?

  • True Partnership. Do you say the word “partner” but fail to demonstrate it in practice? Do you allow and invite your provider into your annual planning sessions? Do you brief them on your strategic and business objectives and ask them to brief you on how they can help you achieve your business objectives?

Does your provider have input into your 360-degree performance review? How about your team’s performance reviews? And do you have input into your provider’s performance reviews?

While this checklist is not exhaustive, it does provide guidance for you to evaluate the strength and value of your BPO relationship and to help you to determine whether you are—or aren’t—a good client.

Tags: Multi-process HR, Sourcing

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