Riding the Winds of Change – Is HRO Ready?

I just attended the Infosys BPO analyst day and part of its client conference, and both were informative and interesting. Not necessarily an easy feat, as meetings of this (or any) type have the ability to be neither. There were ideas and trends a plenty across the two days, and my synapses were firing at a furious pace. 

The first conference presenter was Dr. James Canton, a business futurist and strategic risk forecaster of note. He laid out a few of the big ideas and concepts of The Extreme Future through which run themes of velocity, complexity, innovation and disruption that will increase both risk and opportunity for those agile and bold enough to ride the rough winds of rapid change.

Yikes. HRO has yet to fully overcome an early reputation for complexity and disruption, and has not been seen as a hot bed of velocity or innovation. While as a community we are improving, if Dr. Canton is even partially on target, we had better pick up the pace!

Dr. Canton said he sees outsourcing as a growth engine for business. One of the themes that ran through the two days was that BPO is increasingly moving into arenas that can impact top line revenue growth. And emerging examples and development of more industry vertical solutions were discussed. That’s all great, and it represents a tremendous opportunity for the BPO industry. But let’s not forget that HRO, while too often seen as only a horizontal back-office cost play, is actually one of the largest potential bottom line AND top line generators out there. Well, at least it has the potential to be. What could be more impactful than enhancing the effectiveness of an entire workforce?

But first we must complete the journey to routinely implementing and delivering cost effective and productivity-improving administrative and traditional HRO services. Then the world can be an oyster in partnering with HR in areas that add value and innovation across the business. We need not be chained to the dock of shared service centers; we can also sail the strategic seas of leveraging human capital through workforce development and management.

Another presenter was from Cisco, a very successful company and one that is always looking to how it can improve not only its product lines, but also itself as the business partner of choice. Cisco is using its brand attributes in two ways: its vision for future trends in shaping its new products, and how to better shape the customer experience across all touch and service points. For example, Cisco said that if customers need to contact the company to handle an inquiry or issue, they should be able to do so in their desired manner, be it by phone, email, web, chat, live video or by mobile device.

We are challenged to manage for today and be ready for tomorrow in a cost- constrained environment of uncertainty. To maximize every investment I would advise providers to be sure each initiative aligns with current needs, their own vision of the extreme future and their differentiating brand strategy. This will help them be ready to set sail to expanded opportunities.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

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