Getting HRO Deals Done Today – Start Yesterday

This week ACS announced a five year deal with Ford Motor Company to provide Total Benefits Outsourcing (TBO). While financial details were not released, it is a major contract that will provide all three benefits administration services – defined benefit, defined contribution and health and welfare – to more than 400,000 U.S. Ford employees and retirees.

What allows a major deal to get done in this still tough economic environment, especially in the automotive sector? If a deal can get done there, a deal can get done anywhere.

Ford is the only U.S.-based auto company that has not sought special government financial assistance. Alan Mulally, Ford’s CEO since the fall of 2006, has driven a focus on Ford’s cars and trucks. Bill Ford Jr., Chairman and family representative, selected the industry outsider from Boeing because he saw the need for the same type of business and cultural turn-around Mulally led at Boeing. Under Mulally, Ford has sold off non-core brands like Land Rover and Jaguar, and invested in not just needed model refreshes to core brands like Ford and Lincoln, but in new technologies and means of manufacturing to lower the cost of production and support faster responses to changes in the global marketplace.

Continuing focus on the core and cost pressures has brought new, open-minded thinking to what can be outsourced, breaking the mental barriers on what must be internally managed. That opened the door for Ford to outsource TBO for the first time.  Throughout the competitive vendor selection process, Ford had several clear objectives including a partner with a record of quality and progressive thought-driven innovation and investment, and one who would offer an “evergreening” of technology. Of course cost was also an issue, and Ford considered both long-term cost avoidance – what it would need to invest to continue to offer current state services in-house – and short-term cost savings – reductions in current spend.

TBO was already a big part of ACS’ Human Capital Management (HCM) Solutions services’ revenues. It is also a major growth focus under Rohail Khan, ACS’ Executive Managing Director Total Benefits Outsourcing. ACS has committed to investing $50 million through 2011 in upgrades to and expansions of its HCM offerings, technology and global customer service center network. According to Rohail, more than $20 million has already been invested in technology and capabilities that strengthen TBO. He considers the underlying technology design, which enables faster and lower cost changes and enhancements, as a key to strategic advantage and a means to protect profitability.

Having already made investments, enhancements and upgrades, ACS was test drive ready. Ford kicked the tires and selected ACS as the competitor who best demonstrated a match for its objectives.

However, to leverage its fast start off the line, ACS will need to address concerns about the Xerox acquisition. When the HCM unit becomes part of “ACS, a Xerox Company,” will it be considered a non-core unit like Jaguar at Ford, or will it be a strategic business line that is invested in and vitalized?

NelsonHall’s October BPO Index continues to show that buyers have revised strategies and budgets, as have providers. The Index further indicates buyers are on the path to getting deals done in 2010; they are identifying BPO opportunities (25 percent), expect to issue RFPs (48 percent) and make awards (37 percent). 

Competing for major deals starts way before the RFP arrives. Which services will be offered within a bundle and will be strong enough to stand alone against best-of-breed providers, and what investments will add both to competitive advantage and sustainable internal margins? Those best positioned to take advantage of the economic recovery and new growth opportunities will have already vetted strategic plans, made the investments, and now have shiny new cost competitive and compelling services offerings ready to roll off the lot.

The question is not just what you are doing today, but what did you do yesterday?

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

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