Q&A: Kerry Hallard, National Outsourcing Association
At the end of a tumultuous year for our partners at the National Outsourcing Association, we thought we’d catch up with the Association’s new CEO, Kerry Hallard, to get the lowdown on the NOA’s new structure – and to find out a little bit more about the woman at the top…
O: Kerry, there have been a lot of changes at the NOA over these last few months. Can you give us a bit of a run-down of what’s gone on?
Kerry Hallard: Absolutely: we have insourced a little bit! So although we were previously outsourcing to a number of different suppliers, we have taken a little bit more of our own advice and decided to bring in-house what is really really core: the membership, the professional development aspects. Of course, we’re massive fans of outsourcing! So we still continue to outsource all of our IT, our financial accounts and other areas of the business – but we’ve actually made our first ever full-time executive team.
O: And what’s the constitution of that?
KH: So we have a Director of professional development, Projects Director, Head of Events and then myself as Chief Executive.
O: Earlier in the year you moved from the old Board to a new Council model: can we just have a bit of a catch up on that? What was the thinking behind that and how’s that bedded in so far?
KH: That was all part and parcel of the whole planned move to actually get more focussed on what was core. What we were finding is that the volunteer Board had too many executive responsibilities and, because obviously they all had very busy jobs themselves, some of the really key things were not necessarily getting achieved or delivered on time. So we decided we need to make much better use of the Board and to do so by having an executive team – so we’ve got a bigger Council, who we use for much more strategic input and to lead different initiatives, but their executive input has massively minimised. We, the executive team, do all of that work now and they strategise and help us plan what we should be doing for the membership base and for the future.
Only up-to-date member companies can put representatives forward for the Council; and then it’s done on an election basis (with a two-year term this time as opposed to a three-year term previously).
And the other major change, of course, is that Martyn Hart has stepped down as Chairman, and we have a new Chairperson: Lauren Tennant, who is head of IT service delivery at The National Trust. Because of all the changes that are going on, she’s actually been chairperson-elect for the last six months: it’s being ratified now, and that will be for a one-year term throughout 2014.
O: On Martyn: obviously as founder he’s been instrumental to the NOA for as long as it’s been around. How do you think the organisation is going to change in his absence?
KH: After 26 years, I think it’s fair to say that fresh blood has to be a good thing… Lauren is the polar opposite to Martyn in many ways (sorry Martyn). As a younger, female Chair working on the buy-side, I believe she will bring a fresh perspective. Martyn’s not going too far – we’ll carry on working with him of course, for example, on some of the professional development work that we’re doing. Lots of what we’re doing in the industry is changing, becoming a lot more dynamic, a lot more individual-focussed and I think it’s great to have somebody on board who is so passionate about that. Lauren’s particularly brilliant: her MBA dissertation was on why outsourcing fails and how it’s all down to relationships, so she’s very very in tune with some of the softer skills that are essential for outsourcing.
O: How does your role compare with Lauren’s? Obviously the chair and CEO are two different things – but do you have two faces to the organisation now rather than just Martyn’s?
KH: Well, I think we have to be realistic as to what a NOA Chair can possibly do, because they still have very busy full-time roles. Lauren is going to become a little bit of a figurehead for the organisation and will address our Summits and Symposiums, as will I. But she’s going to be key in bringing her experience to the NOA in helping us really see what we should be doing, and making sure we focus on the right things for the membership base and the industry. Focus on the softer aspects, such as relationship management and talent development, is going to be her particular focus for the NOA this year.
O: So let’s look at some of those things that you should be doing – what’s your plan for the next year or two in terms of enhancing what the NOA has to offer?
KH: The key thing we’re doing is making ourselves more relevant to individuals. So we’re opening ourselves up to individual membership for the first time and that’s going out with a really big push in 2014. Our focus is on promoting and developing both the UK and the global outsourcing industry. We’re also going to be focussing on ensuring that UK companies who are using outsourcing do outsourcing right. We do that by developing the staff, building process excellence and driving performance. So it’s really putting professional development and outsourcing as a profession right in the heart of absolutely everything we offer. Instead of being an industry association that companies could be a member of and to come along and attend our events or read our publications, it’s much more focussed on helping people excel in outsourcing from an individual perspective as well as from a company perspective: that’s really, really key to what we’re going to be doing. Outsourcing has seemed like this accidental profession for far too long and I think that’s a lot of the reason why outsourcing is vilified by the public so much. There are so many examples of outsourcing going wrong and we want to eradicate that and change perceptions of outsourcing by showing just how beneficial and positive it can be – but also how significant it is to the UK economy. So that’s kind of our mission for 2014 and beyond.
Also we’re campaigning for the UK to be seen as a global strategic hub in outsourcing. It’s got every opportunity to actually lead globally – because of the financial market, the legal system etc. At the moment I feel that we are too often perceived as the poor relation in the bigger scheme of things, because of the way that outsourcing is perceived in this country, so doing a turnaround there is key. It’s a massive opportunity, but also a massive task. I just wish the outsourcing community would come together a bit more for the greater good of the industry rather than the individual gain…
O: And in terms of outreach with other organisations – obviously there are other national organisations around the world, maybe not doing exactly the same thing as the NOA but certainly representing their countries’ outsourcing interests – so are you planning on broadening and deepening relationships with those bodies, and maybe taking a bit more of a collaborative approach?
KH: Well you know we’ve got the European Outsourcing Association, so we will carry on working with our EOA Chapters and try to get more European associations on board. I was at breakfast with the president of NASSCOM last week, and we’re certainly trying to work more closely with countries like India and China, and the big players in that respect. With regards to IAOP: we have reached out and we would be more than happy to collaborate with them if we find the right program. We did try and work together on the Outsourcing Works campaign but never quite managed to get that one off the ground.
O: What events can we look forward to next year?
KH: Absolutely loads! You know we’re going to be doing a lot more training and professional development work; we’ve got loads more workshops and programs running next year due to ever increasing demand. We have our Symposium in the summer which has the EOA Awards that evening – and we’ve got our People in Outsourcing Awards as well. Again, the people are the key! We are also running our People Count index which looks at employee satisfaction levels across the outsourcing industry. Our intention is for this programme to raise the standards across the industry and in turn bolster the industry’s reputation and growth.
O: Finally, what are your personal ambitions for the next couple of years? What do you want to achieve in the first part of your time as CEO?
KH: I really want people to start changing the perception of outsourcing. That’s a massive mission and it’s not going to happen in the course of next year, but I really want to start that sea change. I want people to recognise it as the crucial and dynamic industry it is, so we can stop this vilification and attract more top talent into it, as well as grow the overall size of the industry – in the UK and globally.
We need more government support and I want the NOA to get a better seat at the table with the government. We’ve already started that – I did a Select Committee evidence session a couple of weeks ago – and we’re chasing up evidence to show that outsourcing really does work (and of course sharing all that best practice). At the same time we’re also going to be campaigning to get the Cabinet Office to better stand behind outsourcing – they use outsourcing all the time – they depend on it – if they would only support it rather than castigate it, we’d be in a very different place and more big brand companies would openly embrace and promote their own use of outsourcing. So campaigns like that are up and running, and I’m hoping those will make an impact quite quickly. The other thing is making professional development core to our offerings. What we’re actually seeing is that buy-side companies that are working with us on creating lists of matched suppliers are now beginning to request suppliers with NOA qualifications in their skillsets. Having things like that actually come through is going to be a good mark of success for me, I think.
This article originally appeared in Outsource magazine Issue #34 Winter 2013.