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Business Process Outsourcing

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is a form of outsourcing which involves the contracting of the operations and responsibilities of a specific business function to a third-party service provider.

Traditionally, BPO is undertaken by manufacturing firms, for instance Coca Cola, where almost the entire supply chain is outsourced and the company is essentially becoming a marketing organization. More recently, it is also used by service oriented businesses, such as the Bank of America, who outsourced their entire Human Resources function to the BPO firm Exult Inc.

BPO is often divided into two categories: back office outsourcing, which includes internal business functions such as billing or purchasing, and front office outsourcing, which includes customer-related services such as marketing or tech support. BPO that is contracted outside a company's own country is sometimes called offshore outsourcing. BPO that is contracted to a company's neighboring country is sometimes called nearshore outsourcing.

Use of a BPO as opposed to an application service provider (ASP) usually also means that a certain amount of risk is transferred to the company that is running the process elements on behalf of the outsourcer. BPO includes the software, the process management, and the people to operate the service, while a typical ASP model includes only the provision of access to functionalities and features provided or 'served up' through the use of software, usually via web browser to the customer.

BPO is a part of the outsourcing industry. It is dependent on information technology, hence it is also referred to as information technology enabled services or ITES. Knowledge process outsourcing and legal process outsourcing are some of the subsets of business process outsourcing.

Industry size
India has revenues of 10.9 billion USD from offshore BPO and 30 billion USD from IT and total BPO (expected in FY 2008). India thus has some 5-6% share of the total BPO Industry, but a commanding 63% share of the offshore component. This 63% is a drop from the 70% offshore share that India enjoyed last year, despite the industry growing 38% in India last year, other locations like Eastern Europe, Philippines, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa have emerged to take a share of the market. China is also trying to grow from a very small base in this industry. However, while the BPO industry is expected to continue to grow in India, its market share of the offshore piece is expected to decline. The Important centers in India are Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai and New Delhi.

The top five Indian BPO exporters for 2006-2007 according to NASSCOM are Genpact, WNS Global Services, Transworks Information Services, IBM Daksh, and TCS BPO.

According to McKinsey, the global "addressable" BPO market is worth $122 - $154 billion, of which: 35-40 retail banking, 25-35 insurance, 10-12 travel/hospitality, 10-12 auto, 8-10 telecoms, 8 pharma, 10-15 others and 20-25 is finance, accounting and HR. Moreover, they estimate that 8% of that capacity was utilized as of 2006.

BPO increasing the flexibility of organizations
One of the most important advantages of BPO is the way in which it helps to increase a company's flexibility. However, several sources have different ways in which they perceive organizational flexibility. Therefore business process outsourcing enhances the flexibility of an organization in different ways.

Most services provided by BPO vendors are offered on a fee-for-service basis. This helps a company becoming more flexible by transforming fixed into variable costs. A variable cost structure helps a company responding to changes in required capacity and does not requisite a company in investing in assets and hereby making the company more flexible. Outsourcing may provide a firm with increased flexibility in its resource management and reduce response times to major environmental changes.

Another way in which BPO contributes to a company's flexibility is that a company is able to focus on its core competencies, without being burdened by the demands of bureaucratic dictate. Key employees are herewith released from performing non-core or administrative processes and can invest more time and energy in building the firm's core businesses. Industry size

India has revenues of 10.9 billion USD from offshore BPO and 30 billion USD from IT and total BPO (expected in FY 2008). India thus has some 5-6% share of the total BPO Industry, but a commanding 63% share of the offshore component. This 63% is a drop from the 70% offshore share that India enjoyed last year, despite the industry growing 38% in India last year, other locations like Eastern Europe, Philippines, Morocco, Egypt and South Africa have emerged to take a share of the market. China is also trying to grow from a very small base in this industry. However, while the BPO industry is expected to continue to grow in India, its market share of the offshore piece is expected to decline. The Important centers in India are Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai and New Delhi.

The top five Indian BPO exporters for 2006-2007 according to NASSCOM are Genpact, WNS Global Services, Transworks Information Services, IBM Daksh, and TCS BPO.

According to McKinsey, the global "addressable" BPO market is worth $122 - $154 billion, of which: 35-40 retail banking, 25-35 insurance, 10-12 travel/hospitality, 10-12 auto, 8-10 telecoms, 8 pharma, 10-15 others and 20-25 is finance, accounting and HR. Moreover, they estimate that 8% of that capacity was utilized as of 2006.

BPO increasing the flexibility of organizations
One of the most important advantages of BPO is the way in which it helps to increase a company's flexibility. However, several sources have different ways in which they perceive organizational flexibility. Therefore business process outsourcing enhances the flexibility of an organization in different ways.

Most services provided by BPO vendors are offered on a fee-for-service basis. This helps a company becoming more flexible by transforming fixed into variable costs. A variable cost structure helps a company responding to changes in required capacity and does not requisite a company in investing in assets and hereby making the company more flexible. Outsourcing may provide a firm with increased flexibility in its resource management and reduce response times to major environmental changes.

Another way in which BPO contributes to a company's flexibility is that a company is able to focus on its core competencies, without being burdened by the demands of bureaucratic dictate. Key employees are herewith released from performing non-core or administrative processes and can invest more time and energy in building the firm's core businesses. The key in this lies in knowing, which of the main value drivers to focus on - customer intimacy, product leadership, or operational excellence. Focusing on one of these drivers may help a company create a competitive edge.

A third way in which BPO increases organizational flexibility is by increasing the speed of business processes. Using techniques such as linear programming is a way to reduce cycle time and inventory levels, which reduces a company's slack. Supply chain management with the effective use of supply chain partners and business process outsourcing increases the speed of several business processes, such as the throughput in the case of a manufacturing company.

Finally, flexibility is seen as a stage in the organizational life cycle. BPO helped to transform Nortel from a bureaucratic organization into a very agile organization. A company can hereby help maintaining ambitious growth goals, which do not fit with regular incumbent strategies. BPO therefore allows firms to retain their entrepreneurial speed and agility, which they would otherwise sacrifice in order to become efficient as they greatly expanded. It avoids a premature internal transition from its informal entrepreneurial phase to a more bureaucratic mode of operation.

Although the above-mentioned arguments favor the view that BPO increases the flexibility of organizations, management needs to be careful with the implementation of it. Some tends to change their attitudes, personalities and character on how the way they talk to other clients. Although BPO has many potential advantages there are a few stumbling blocks, which could counter these advantages. Among problems, which arise in practice are: A failure to meet service levels, unclear contractual issues, changing requirements and unforeseen charges. When BPO does not work out as planned the company might well experience the way in which BPO makes a company very dependent on a vendor and therefore very inflexible. Consequently, these challenges need to be considered before a company decides to engage in business process outsourcing

Threats
Risk is the major drawback with Business Process Outsourcing. Outsourcing of an Information System, for example, can cause security risks both from a communication and from a privacy perspective. From a knowledge perspective, a changing attitude in employees, underestimation of running costs and the major risk of losing independence, outsourcing leads to a different relationship between an organization and its contractor.

Risks and threats of outsourcing must therefore be managed, to achieve any benefits. In order to manage outsourcing in a structured way, maximizing positive outcome, and minimizing risks and avoiding any threats, a Business Continuity Management (BCM) model is setup. BCM consists of a set of steps, to successfully identify, manage and control that business processes that are, or can be outsourced.

Another framework, more focused on the identification process of potential outsourceable Information Systems, identified as AHP, is explained. L. Willcocks, M. Lacity and G. Fitzgerald identify several contracting problems companies face, ranging from unclear contract formatting, to a lack of understanding of technical IT- processes. The key in this lies in knowing, which of the main value drivers to focus on - customer intimacy, product leadership, or operational excellence. Focusing on one of these drivers may help a company create a competitive edge.

A third way in which BPO increases organizational flexibility is by increasing the speed of business processes. Using techniques such as linear programming is a way to reduce cycle time and inventory levels, which reduces a company's slack. Supply chain management with the effective use of supply chain partners and business process outsourcing increases the speed of several business processes, such as the throughput in the case of a manufacturing company.

Finally, flexibility is seen as a stage in the organizational life cycle. BPO helped to transform Nortel from a bureaucratic organization into a very agile organization. A company can hereby help maintaining ambitious growth goals, which do not fit with regular incumbent strategies. BPO therefore allows firms to retain their entrepreneurial speed and agility, which they would otherwise sacrifice in order to become efficient as they greatly expanded. It avoids a premature internal transition from its informal entrepreneurial phase to a more bureaucratic mode of operation.

Although the above-mentioned arguments favor the view that BPO increases the flexibility of organizations, management needs to be careful with the implementation of it. Some tends to change their attitudes, personalities and character on how the way they talk to other clients. Although BPO has many potential advantages there are a few stumbling blocks, which could counter these advantages. Among problems, which arise in practice are: A failure to meet service levels, unclear contractual issues, changing requirements and unforeseen charges. When BPO does not work out as planned the company might well experience the way in which BPO makes a company very dependent on a vendor and therefore very inflexible. Consequently, these challenges need to be considered before a company decides to engage in business process outsourcing

Threats
Risk is the major drawback with Business Process Outsourcing. Outsourcing of an Information System, for example, can cause security risks both from a communication and from a privacy perspective. From a knowledge perspective, a changing attitude in employees, underestimation of running costs and the major risk of losing independence, outsourcing leads to a different relationship between an organization and its contractor.

Risks and threats of outsourcing must therefore be managed, to achieve any benefits. In order to manage outsourcing in a structured way, maximizing positive outcome, and minimizing risks and avoiding any threats, a Business Continuity Management (BCM) model is setup. BCM consists of a set of steps, to successfully identify, manage and control that business processes that are, or can be outsourced.

Another framework, more focused on the identification process of potential outsourceable Information Systems, identified as AHP, is explained. L. Willcocks, M. Lacity and G. Fitzgerald identify several contracting problems companies face, ranging from unclear contract formatting, to a lack of understanding of technical IT- processes.

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