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Outsource magazine: thought-leadership and outsourcing strategy | September 24, 2017

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Is there any value to being Number 1?

Is there any value to being Number 1?
Jerry Durant

As a small child I remember standing back-to-back with my dad and measure my growth.  Each time, I was successively closer to reaching his height.  It seemed as the days wore on and slow gradual progress was made it meant less and less to me that reaching a point beyond his short stature would have nothing more than bittersweet memories.  The outsource race is much like my little ritual: it wasn’t so much about the height as it was about the charter of the individual that mattered.

In any good race successful winning involves two participants: the coach and the runners. The success of the runners will depend upon the support that is given by the coach. There will always be those that are gifted and those that struggle to simply be competitive.  Likewise in the race for supremacy we see the role that countries and company play in becoming recognised as a credible contender for business.  I sometimes wonder whether being #1 is a bit bittersweet since you are always in the crosshair for those that are looking to exceed and topple your reign.  There are definitely those countries that are on top of their game and are committing serious resources to be in a place of market dominance.  Some do it through investments in marketing and infrastructure/resource development, while others concentrate heavily on commitments to the companies that are domiciled in their country.

A case in point is Egypt which has done a remarkable job at promoting itself as a destination for nearshore sourcing for European buyers. There aren’t many conference venues that don’t have an Egypt representation. This is important because when the visibility becomes erratic people start to wonder whether the agenda has changed or whether you have simply given up on the pursuit.  On the other hand, not every country has the resources necessary to mount such ambitious promotions. They are however none the less great sources for some top-notch service talent.

Should you as a buyer only buy brand name or right quality?  Like a consumer good the services that you are seeking must be durable and of a status that compliments the profile of your business.  There is a significant difference between a small one-time project vs. a protracted two to three years of service commitment and what you are willing to accept and tolerate.  Obviously risk is a factor but using the same yardstick to measure a Tier 1 service against a Tier 4 project is markedly different and worthy of added flexibility.

On numerous occasions I have heard companies command a CMMi Level 4 operator yet their own domestic business would hardly gather a Level 3 qualification.  Is the added value (and incremental cost) worth the extra demand or is it a matter of stature vs. forward thinking service delivery?  Yet these same companies who are rigorously challenging capability and quality qualifications are totally missing a sound objective evaluation of viability of the buyer that can undermine delivery.

Daily News Egypt’s correspondent Christopher Le Cog reported that “Egypt could become the top outsourcing destination worldwide, according to experts” (10/05/2010) and it compelled me question many elements.  It wasn’t that I disbelieved what he was reporting as much as questioning what reaching that plateau would bring with it to Egypt.  Aside from the acclaim, would it place unnecessary pressures on them to sustain that role and would that have ill effects on companies who joined to be a part of the success story?  Was there even a plan for the next step beyond or would it be made up as things progressed?  To many, being in the top tier of sourcing destinations means a short cut in the race for sales.  Yet I wonder whether this short cut through the outsource force isn’t without perils and missing out on some scenery that further defines the uniqueness of the country’s sourcing suppliers?

There are no doubt that there are buyers who buy from the lists rather than do the exhaustive legwork to pick the right country, supplier and range of service offerings.  Our hopes remain firmly fixed on the ranking being sound and containing virtues that mirror our company’s qualification criteria.  There is always the possibility that they are tainted and it’s our hope that any embarrassment might be masked by others who followed a similar path.

Outsourcing is a high-risk business venture.  Those that have been in this field realise that there is no shortcut and that impartial, exhaustive evaluation is the only sound way to properly qualify that YOU’RE #1.  While the polls may get you a shortlist quickly it is not without risk on how you use it beyond this initial filtering exercise.  However, there may be situations where a less well-considered destination may have actually been a better choice and one that more closely fit your specific service needs.  Some of you may have even found this to be true in some of the smaller emerging players like Sri Lanka, Kenya, Mauritius, Poland, Costa Rica, Argentina, Butan and Indonesia.  Other of you might be fast-tracking the selection process and are willing to accept the risks associated with it.
There is no foolproof approach, only approaches that fool us into believing that there is an easy safe way.  Having lofty aspirations is essential but becoming fixated about standing creates desperation and frustration.  Not everyone will or can be Number 1 – but being the best and of value to your customer is what makes you a winner.

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