BPO Lessons From My iPhone

By Mark Cioni

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It’s almost impossible that you’ve missed experiencing at least a little of the hype surrounding the iPhone. Since a common focus area for my consulting is enterprise mobility, I have more than a passing interest in Apple’s new baby.

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What I soon discovered, along with everything else the iPhone can do, is it can be an exceptional teacher. You can read others’ eloquent reviews about its pros and cons ad infinitum, but here’s what my new iPhone taught me about business process outsourcing (BPO):

See Things As They Are

Web browsing on the iPhone is rich mobile experience. You see Web pages as if you were at your computer, not the stripped-down “mobile-enabled” Web pages proffered on most other devices. You can quickly zoom in on a section of the page by double-tapping or pinching the screen, and zoom out again the same way. If you turn the iPhone on its side, the browser rotates into a landscape view to provide more horizontal screen area.

The lesson for organizations using BPO is to develop holistic visibility into these initiatives, and to be able to drill down for supporting detail as required. This includes the business areas supported, the touch points between internal and outsourced processes, key performance management indicators, customer impacts and progress against business case realization to name just a few important focus areas for most organizations.

For BPO providers, it translates into the ability to provide value and differentiation by helping clients to develop this holistic view, and to proactively target additional services or even customization to their clients’ unique needs and changing business imperatives.

Get Steak With Your Sizzle

The iPhone blends information and entertainment marvelously. Music, photos and video coexist with communication channels, maps and stock quotes. Additionally, the iPhone interface manages these dimensions fairly seamlessly, intuitively changing its form and function to complement what you’re doing in the moment, and predicting what you’re likely to need, want or do next. It works well and looks good.

The takeaway for organizations using BPO is to insist on the right combination of functionality and gut-level appeal. For example, I’ve seen specialized outsourcing providers deliver application, process and information components with the potential to create great business results and value for their clients.

Too often however, the applications aren’t as usable, the processes aren’t as malleable, or the information isn’t as focused as the client wants or needs, and the buy-in either never occurs or is underwhelming. BPO providers shouldn’t forget that organizations and their people see both business results and self-interest as de rigueur.

Evolution Follows Revolution

Now that I’ve gushed about my iPhone, let me present the other side of the coin. My new device isn’t perfect, not by a long shot, and no doubt you’ve already heard or even discovered some of its shortcomings. In fact, my other devices have capabilities important to me that literally obviate the iPhone for some critical tasks today.

All that said, I believe that the iPhone will get a lot better very quickly in every dimension, from available applications to communication speeds. A large number of people like the iPhone enough to invest in it, use it now and trust Apple to make it better, and I’m one of them.

My mentor Alan Weiss often reminds me to focus on success and not perfection, and that people do business with others in whom they have trust. I think the lesson for organizations considering or using BPO is the same. No business is ever perfectly prepared for its first BPO initiative, and most will encounter myriad challenges as they incorporate BPO into their organization.

However, if there’s trust along with critical success factors like strong executive support, visible organizational exemplars and change leadership, BPO initiatives can move forward confidently and course corrections will happen as needed.

BPO providers should take a hard look at how they’re enabling their clients to do business with them. For example, what can you bring to the table to ease the transition for first-time BPO clients? How will you work with the client to ensure that challenges are proactively surfaced and addressed?

How do you ensure that your services help clients to achieve their desired business benefits? What evidence can you present that you’ve done all these things before?

In short, why should a potential or existing client start or continue to trust you? To the extent that BPO providers can answer these questions, they’ll start to get traction in building a client relationship based on trust and differentiated value rather than commodity-driven pricing That’s a game changer, just like a certain new mobile device I know.

I won’t comment on whether an iPhone should be in your future, but I will say that you’re likely to improve your future by heeding the lessons that iPhone’s innovations can teach us.

Mark Cioni is president of MV Cioni Associates. He has been helping global businesses to improve their decisions, operations and performance for over 25 years and can be reached at mark@mvcioni.com.