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Strategic Outsourcing

How to get strategic value from outsourcing your back office operations

Sanjay Sachdev

Two key technological innovations in the modern business world should have managers and executives constantly asking themselves the same pair of questions.

  • Are we taking full advantage of data analytics, lean initiatives and intelligent process automation?
  • We may be the best at what we’re doing, but are we doing what is best?

Advances in digital technology and artificial intelligence can significantly ease the strain on your accounting department, streamlining back office operations and opening the door to better, more in-depth and wide-ranging analysis of your company’s economic direction. Data-based simulations can integrate complex arrays of variables in order to highlight ripe areas of focus for your company, and can now do so more efficiently than ever.

Such tools have been only recently developed, and require working knowledge of the new tools in the world’s financial toolkit. Specialised training is available but painstaking, and the fruits of these labours can more easily be harvested by outsourcing relevant functions to businesses that already make it their specialty to keep ahead of new developments in this area. With technology driving back-office costs down and efficiency up, the old maxim of business is as apt as ever: “Do what you do best, and outsource the rest.”

But accountants, advisers, and other external partners may have a much larger role to play in helping successful companies find their way to success in the digital economy. Depending the individual process in question as well as the type of business it is a part of, it may very well be worth transforming entire internal corporate processes into outward-facing, customer-centred platforms.

In today’s marketplace, when customers interact with a business, they expect to do so through an online platform. Online banking, media consumption, software downloads and all major forms of purchasing are now routinely being conducted through various forms of e-commerce. Many companies are finding that their failure to adapt to this wave of ‘platformisation’ is resulting in loss of market share to those that do.

There are differing potential strategies within the concept of platforms, however – even beyond questions of layout, functionality and how much choice and information to offer customers. Basic questions include whether the merchandise for sale will be owned by you at all. Some companies, like Amazon, keep products in a warehouse, ready for shipping. Others, like Uber and AirBnB, connect customers with individual product or service providers, and charge a commission on the exchange.

An outsource partner who is both technically proficient and experienced in guiding companies through these decisions can be invaluable in helping your business make the right choices – and follow through effectively – as it enters the digital realm. All sorts of positive domino effects can result if the foundations are well built. Carefully designed platforms can track customer visits, both individually and as groups, optimising their journey through your site and improving both sales and efficiency even further.

Some companies find it beneficial to make their business process outsourcing (BPO) provider essentially a partner in growth, by openly incentivising progress. Productivity targets, organised innovation workshops, and a specific coordinated system for introducing change are all excellent resources for developing a lasting and successful partner with an external group of advisers.

Entering the digital age requires a significant period of upgrade and adaptation for any business. For many inside the company, it will be their first experience of this type. They may feel uncertainty, disorientation and anxiety as the company moves further from their areas of expertise. For this reason, healthy communication within the company is essential. Intensive training may also be necessary, for people at all levels of an organisation, in order to keep up with changes inside the company. For all of these issues, businesses undergoing this necessary transformation would be wise to enlist the skills of a knowledgeable and experienced outsourcing group.