4 Ways To Automate Data Entry Processes

4 Ways To Automate Data Entry Processes

4 Ways To Automate Data Entry Processes

It is a strange conundrum that data entry, a process that seeks to digitize information in a manner that it could henceforth be accessed with ease, digitally, should be a manual system. We have not been able to devise a method through which the end goal of digitization and automation can be met by automation at the first step itself.

Then again, maybe it is not so strange. The reason for the existence of data entry in the human world, as an activity for which money gets exchanged for one side to do, and the other side to get done, data entry and related work, is perhaps that better ways do not exist. If there were better ways, human beings would be deploying them.

As all things manual, manual data entry has limitations. Data entry automation is an ongoing effort on part of humans to find more efficient and less error-prone processes for data entry.

Benefits of data entry automation

Automation is a journey. It is a change of status quo. An effort at automation means that currently that particular process is not automated. There is an intent of automating the process, partially or fully, in an effort that some value is released for the business that seeks to automate.

Data entry is no different. If there are ongoing efforts to achieve automation, it means that there is some value that will be released if it were to be achieved. It means that there could be limitations with the way it is being handled at present and that if the same were to be changed it could result in some benefits.

As a leading provider of data services, oWorkers works with partners on varying processes and tools for data entry, creating new knowledge and processes that will benefit everyone involved. We have been identified as one of the top three data service BPO companies in the world on more than one occasion.

Let us make an effort to understand the benefits of automating the data entry process.

Reduction in errors

For human beings every action is deliberate. It is a result of a force that motivates us to do something while being guided by our thoughts, emotions, moods and all the other elements that constitute a human being.

As a result of the complexity of their being, they will come across as different creatures from time to time. Motivated and alert at some times, sullen and lethargic at others. Happy and involved at some times, sad and aloof at others. As a result, their performance also varies. Human beings are prone to making errors. They are not machines who, given a constant input, will always produce the same output. Leo Messi might shine in one game of football but be totally off color in the next. A call center executive might wow a customer on one call but manage to completely put off the caller in the next one.

Recognizing this aspect, organizations built checks and balances to ensure that errors are caught and corrected. They have various methods of doing so, the most common ones being to either get two different people to do the same work and pass it if it is identical and catch it if not, or to have a quality checking system that does either a full audit of the data entry or based on samples. Both these methods entail cost of the organization.

Data entry automation is expected to result in a reduction of the errors being made in human data entry. Not just reduction, but elimination of errors in the parts that can be handled through automation.

Many of our clients from the US and Western Europe testify to the quality they receive from oWorkers, which is at least as good as their pre-outsourcing quality, while enabling them to shave almost 80% off the processing cost.

Quicker processing

Human beings will work at human speed. Sequentially. If a good typist can type fifty words in a minute, most human typists will be typing at similar rates, with some exceptional ones going to maybe sixty and a few poor performers struggling at around forty, with all others in between. This is the rate at which they are able to type, regardless of the situation and requirement. Attempts to type faster could result in a greater number of errors. If the volume of work goes high, more typists will need to be engaged to finish it in a given time or the work will take longer to finish compared to a smaller volume of work. Human beings also need time for rest and rejuvenation and sleep. All these activities reduce the time available to do productive work.

Machines, or computer programs, have no such constraints. They can work day and night. Their ability to type is much faster than humans. The constraint they face is that they are not as smart as humans. However, if the data entry can be done based on defined rules and the software can be programmed on how to do it, a much greater volume can be processed in a much shorter period of time.

Our leadership team, with over 20 years of hands-on experience in the industry, are constantly pushing all project teams to deliver optimum outputs.

Employee can move up the value chain

Being the thinking, sensing beings that they are, human beings have a preference for activities that provide a challenge, mentally or physically. Data entry often provides neither. That is why many types of data entry jobs are considered as monotonous, dull and repetitive and are often placed closer to the bottom end of the organizational hierarchy. Doing them day in and day out is a source of mental fatigue and burnout for humans. It could also be the cause of various other conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain and neck-related issues. This, in turn, becomes a cause for further errors.

Data entry automation can deliver human beings from the drudgery of certain types of data entry work and enable them to move up the value chain where they can be more mentally challenged by the work they need to do. With the plain data entry work done by machines, humans can start essaying roles that require thought and some amount of decision-making.

With a model of employment, as opposed to freelancing and contracting adopted by some competitors, oWorkers is constantly exploring avenues for enriching the jobs of our colleagues.

Lower costs and greater value

Development of automation is an investment. It takes time and money. Often, during a research and development cycle, it is not certain how long it will take for the investment being made to be recovered. Or, indeed, if it will be recovered at all.

However, once developed, it will take a much lower cost to run as compared to a human, who needs to be paid all the time so that he can be fit for the job that he needs to do. Thus, each day or hour that automated data entry is done, it will be saving money as compared to the manpower-driven model. Further, by accumulating these savings over a period of time, a point will come when it will exceed the amount of money spent in building the solution. That would be the day when payback would have been achieved.

oWorkers understands the need for manual data entry and supports many clients in the same. As a preferred employer in the communities we work with, oWorkers attracts a constant flow of talent interested in working for us. This enables us to hire throughout the year while keeping our costs low. The benefits of low cost are shared with our clients. For all manual data entry requirements, oWorkers is a great cost-effective option.

Data entry automation

Now that we understand that there are benefits that will result if we are able to automate the process, let us explore how it could be done.

Make no mistake; this is not a low hanging fruit. The low hanging fruits are gone. Data entry is a mature industry. Any advancement today has to be based on deep thought, intelligent effort, and investment of resources and money.

There are some emerging technologies that hold promise of revolutionizing data entry processes.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

OCR is the process of digitally converting information in a format that is not machine readable, such as a typed, printed or handwritten document, and transferring it to a format that can be understood by machines. This is the objective of most manual data entry too. This technology has been in use since the nineties and has developed over time to become more accurate.

An early popular use of OCR technology was in banking where clearing cheques, which already had the bank’s sort code pre-printed on them, with amounts encoded by the presenting bank, would be sorted by the reader-sorter device of the clearing house and debits and credits between banks resolved, instead of manually sorting each cheque and adding up values. However, that early use was based on the characters to be read being formed and placed in a defined manner. Data entry requires characters in any shape and form, placed anyhow, to be read and understood, which is where the focus is now.

OCR has played a big role in digitizing historical information, like old newspapers, into formats that can be easily stored, searched and accessed.

With its high standards of data and information security, compliance with GDPR regulations and ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certification, we work with leading as well as developing technologies such as OCR on behalf of our clients.

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

The discipline of NLP operates at the intersection of linguistics, computer science and artificial intelligence. Human beings are a part of the mix as well, since it is their language that is being deciphered and decoded. The objective of NLP is to understand and make sense of the human language, usually the spoken word or words. Once that is achieved, other, related objectives could emerge, talking back to humans being one of them. Many of us have experienced Alexa and Siri. Their responses to our verbal inputs are the result of NLP engines working in the background. NLP is expected to be one of the stepping stones to data entry automation.

What makes this challenging is the complexity of human beings and their language. While it is reasonably easy for humans to learn and master a language, it is not the same for a computer. There are nuances that are complex. “Really!” could be an enthusiastic confirmation of a person’s query, “Did Usain Bolt really run the 100 meter sprint in 9.58 seconds” or it could be a sarcastic “Really?” in response to the person saying “I ran the 100 meter sprint in 9.58 seconds today.”

With services in 22 languages across our three main sites, language processing has been an area of strength as well as interest for oWorkers. We are taking it to the next level with participation in NLP projects with clients and technology providers.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

RPA is a form of automation through which I machine, a software program really, learns to mimic human actions and is able to carry them out in future transactions of a similar nature. Left to themselves, these ‘bots’ are able to perform the assigned tasks much faster and with greater accuracy. From the data entry perspective, a human being might be able to read a few words on a page at a time and transfer them to a digital medium, in a few seconds. An RPA ‘bot’ on the other hand, might do it one character at a time, but it will be done in a flash so that it would have finished several pages before the human finished with the first set of words. And flawlessly, based on the instructions it had been given. The human, despite instructions, could make mistakes.

The human will only have an advantage where the input content deviates from the defined rule and some thinking is required. Here the ‘bot’ will fall short and either make a mistake or wait for guidance from its human master. Thankfully!

oWorkers has worked out flexible tie-ups with technology companies that allows us to access their cutting-edge technologies to be deployed for client work. Through our network of IT partners, we access the latest technologies like RPA.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) for data entry automation

AI is the buzzword in technology. At least one of the buzzwords.

AI is the name given to a technology that seeks to enable a machine or a software program embedded in the machine, behave like a human and handle inputs accordingly. Formatted text has been intelligible to machines for a long time, as long as software programs have been in existence, as this was the method programs were created that allowed computers to process. However, unformatted text, and other formats in which information exists, like unformatted text, a doctor’s handwritten prescription for example, or images, or audio, or video, has been beyond the scope of machines.

With the help of AI, and its sister discipline Machine Learning (ML), machines are learning to understand and process unformatted information as well. Not only that, once the initial training has been done, many algorithms even permit the program to keep learning from the additional information that they keep receiving once they have been ‘deployed’ and keep adjusting their output accordingly.

oWorkers has been actively engaged with clients as they have built their AI models. Data annotation, tagging and labelling are areas where we have worked with a wide set of clients from around the world.

Conclusion

While the new technologies make headway in data entry automation, there are some steps that we can take even today that will facilitate the process. These will probably be useful even when we deploy one of the evolving technologies.  These can be achieved through a simple ‘eyeballing’ of the information which does not take time. Once input incorrectly, it will take a lot more effort and time and money to retrace steps and redo. These are:

Standardize the process – this will create consistency in form filling and manual operators will know what to expect

Ensure data consistency – Already filled information, if eyeballed, can reveal inconsistencies, if they exist, at a glance, and save much rework later

Periodic review to eliminate redundancy – To ensure redundant information is not being taken, like DOB as well as Age, and removing fields no longer relevant

Create logical checks in input forms – Checking for DOB format or no. of characters in the mobile number field

BPO Services Company: How to Choose One

BPO Services Company: How to Choose One

BPO Services Company: How to Choose One

 

BPO Services: An Overview

B

Business

P

Process

O

Outsourcing

We perhaps intuitively understand the meaning of the three words that constitute the term Business Process Outsourcing, but do we have a common understanding of the phrase formed by bringing the three words together?

There is perhaps no ‘official’ definition of BPO though descriptions can be found on websites like Investopedia, Wikipedia and Quora. These are some common ways of expressing what a BPO is:

  • BPO is a practice used by different companies to reduce costs by transferring portions of work to outside suppliers rather than completing it internally

  • BPO is subcontracting work to another company

  • BPO is a subset of outsourcing that involves the contracting of the operations and responsibilities of specific business functions (or processes) to a third-party service provider

  • BPO is the contracting of a specific business task, such as payroll, to a third-party service provider

And here are some common examples of BPO services:

  • A vendor company handling incoming customer service calls for a telecom company

  • Data entry for products offered on an ecommerce site

  • Payroll processing and employee benefits administration being handled for a large corporate by a company specialising in this service

Another term that is being used somewhat interchangeably with BPO, is BPM, which stands for Business Process Management, perhaps driven by a need to encompass Global Inhouse Centers, the owned processing centers of businesses, within the fold. Of course, it could be argued that where a process has been carved out and is being run as a separate unit, albeit under the same company, it is still a version of outsourcing.

 

How does a BPO Service Company add value?

A company that manufactures aircraft engines makes all the thousands of its parts on its own. True or False.

All of us who have children educate them ourselves at home. True or False.

The answer in both cases is: False.

We live in an interconnected and interdependent world. Trying to add value to the best of our capability. To ourselves. To our employers. To our businesses. Entering into arrangements and deals and contracts through which we can make the world a better place. Doing some parts ourselves and purchasing other parts from people and businesses that can perform them better.

An aircraft engine manufacturer outsources various parts to many other companies that are equipped to make them more efficiently, or with greater precision or at a lower cost.

Most of us send our children to school because they have the knowledge and experience to provide our children with a better understanding of the world.

How is Business Process Outsourcing any different?

It is not. A BPO company adds value by taking on processing activities which can be better performed by them. This could be for a variety of reasons like bulk volume, better tools and technology or greater experience. But the bottomline is that BPO companies add value to your business by doing certain processes more efficiently and effectively than your business can.

Most of us operate in a free-market economy. Each business operates to maximise its profits and shareholder value, operating within the confines of a regulatory framework which is common to all.

There have been voices against business process outsourcing on flimsy grounds like ‘taking away jobs,’ Flimsy because people who object are happy buying reasonably priced athletic shoes made by outsourcing to a faraway country, or flying on an airline that bought its aircraft from another company which, in turn, purchased many of the parts from suppliers, but when their employer wishes to outsource some work that we do to a place where it can be done cheaply and efficiently, creating value for the business, we suddenly find that outsourcing is an unethical activity. It cannot work both ways.

Business Process Outsourcing, like any outsourcing, or any business activity, is not a given. It is a choice for which an assessment needs to be done for a decision to be taken. A business takes a decision, any decision, for improving its financial position. Outsourcing is no different. It is an opportunity to add value.

Evolution of BPO Services

A Business Process Outsourcing company was not always what it is today, running on a technology backbone over the Internet, with clients liberally sprayed all across the globe.

Let us take the hypothetical example of a US bank, with its headquarters and significant part of its business coming from New York, to understand the evolution.

In the sixties, and perhaps seventies, with rising prosperity, and with the growth of retail franchises, the need for separating processing activities that were not customer-facing, started being felt.

This is where the first stage of outsourcing, as we know it today, perhaps started, when this bank looked at options which were not far in physical terms, but where processing could be done in a much more inexpensive manner, and perhaps more efficiently. At this stage, it moved its large-scale processing activities from expensive New York to a lower cost option in the state of New Jersey.

Volumes kept rising. Communication technology improved. Air travel kept rising in frequency, cutting down time and distance between locations. The bank, at this stage, perhaps in the early eighties, having had experience of outsourced processing, became comfortable enough to move processing activities much further into the hinterland, even though most documents would still need to be moved manually. At this stage the bank moved processing to Des Moines in Iowa.

Competition and margin pressure kept rising. Communications technology kept improving. By the nineties, it became possible to move data and voice communication lines, at a commercially viable price. Eager to take advantage of labour cost arbitrage, which would more than make up for higher telecommunications cost, the bank started moving large-volume work, like Contact Centres, to India and the Philippines.

Competition and margin pressure kept rising. Communications technology kept improving. By the start of the new millennium, having tasted success with earlier outsourcing efforts, the bank started moving functions which were smaller, and perhaps more core to its business, like HRM and F and A, in an effort to take advantage of lower cost, as well as superior processing with a faster turnaround facilitated by the time difference. BPO companies in other geographies around the world started gaining scale and competing for business with India and the Philippines.

The bank continues to look for opportunities and the BPO services keep evolving. As existing manual processes get automated, newer tasks and processes are born. Now the bank is looking to outsource the moderation of user generated content (UGC) on its website.

In a nutshell, businesses will continue to look for value. It is hard coded in their DNA.

Choosing a Business Process Outsourcing Company

With the foregoing perspective, choosing a partner for our processing activities should become a reasonably straightforward process. At least we now know that the evaluation should be based on criteria that drive business value, and nothing else. The BPO service company we engage for our work should be able to deliver the best quality to us, in the quickest time, at the best price.

How do we establish the potential of a company to do this for us?

Range of services

Business Process Outsourcing covers a wide range of services. While at the point of choosing a BPO services company for outsourcing, the most important would be to ensure that the vendor has prior experience in your current requirement so that the learning curve is not long and steep, verifying the range of services offered and their capability helps establish the depth of their experience and their ability to support you as and when you choose to go beyond the current scope.

oWorkers specialises in content-oriented services in which we offer a wide range covering data entry, data processing, data annotation and content moderation. Over eight years of operation, we have processed millions of transactions for over a hundred clients.

Industry exposure and client confidence

It always adds value if a client can recommend your services. In addition to having one or more referenceable clients, for a BPO company, the cross-industry range covered as well as the number of clients served, is a useful indicator for its capability. Each industry, and different clients in the same industry, are likely to have variations in their requirements which will add to the knowledge bank and experience of the provider.

oWorkers has served over a hundred clients across a set of widely different industries like companies engaged in dematerialization, aggregators, marketplaces, e-merchants, e-travel players,  AI companies, online media, gaming apps, social media websites, video production houses, universities and accounting firms, to name a few.

Multi site backup

When a business process is entrusted to a BPO company, the client does not retain manpower or other resources to provide cover in case the partner fails to deliver, perhaps on account of an external force, like a natural calamity, that makes the facility inaccessible and uproots the telecommunications infrastructure. It would be an extra cost and defeat the purpose of outsourcing. Such events, though infrequent, can occur. Though delay in work under such extenuating circumstances can be explained, the preference for a business would be if there is an arrangement that provides cover. Global BPO companies tend to operate from multiple sites, which can operate as back-ups for one another.

oWorkers provides BPO services from three of the most preferred global locations for the business. Where required, we are able to provide multi-site support that can also operate as a business contingency measure in the event one of the sites is down for some reason beyond our control. Our sites operate 24×7 and geared to offer best-in-class turnaround time.

Language Support

BPO being a truly global business, where clients as well as the Business Process Outsourcing company could be in any geographical location around the world, the ability to handle business from anywhere requires multilingual capability. Businesses are always looking to expand. Whether you are already global or aspire to be, you will need a vendor with the ability to support your growth, rather than you having to look for another one to support a new language.

oWorkers supports clients in over 20 global languages covering most of the widely used ones. We are also open to adding languages to our supported list if a client has a requirement outside the list.

Project Management and Transition expertise

Moving work over to a BPO company requires a ‘lift and shift’ sort of an operation. Work being done within the client’s organisation under the responsibility of their team till today, will be done in the vendor’s company under supervision of the vendor’s team from tomorrow. This process is known as ‘transition’ and needs to be done carefully, lest parts fall through the crack, to be discovered only after the business has suffered damage. The skill of carrying out a ‘transition’ under the discipline of ‘Project Management’ is a critical skill at the time a new business process is outsourced to a partner.

Our project management and transition experience has been a key contributor to oWorkers having served hundreds of satisfied clients over eight years. For us, a client’s delivery experience begins the moment a contract is signed and the transition process is initiated, which our Project Management team takes up and owns through the point where the delivery organization can take it over. Our numerous engagements have also helped us in honing our practices further.

Technology Infrastructure

Technology being the key enabler, ensuring currency with technology, as well as the mindset of tracking technology developments and keeping pace with them, will be good qualities to possess for a BPO services company.

With 85% of our clients being technology companies, we are always on our toes to stay one step ahead while we serve them. We have forged partnerships with companies that own the technologies needed for our work, which enables us to deploy them in the service of our clients.

Data Security

As the operations are on clients’ data, which moves around from client to vendor, and from one processor to another, a Business Process Outsourcing company has to ensure security of this data. Data is a key resource for a business and loopholes in maintenance of data can compromise the ability of the business. This typically works hand in hand with technology as data is mostly used in a digital format.

oWorkers operates from secure facilities and protocols. GDPR compliance is a requirement, not a choice, as we operate from the Eurozone. We are also ISO certified (27001:2013 & 9001:2015).

Attrition Management and Hiring

‘It is a feature, not a bug,’ is how Business Process Outsourcing companies often justify their attrition. While true to some extent, attrition is a constant bugbear for many of them and often the difference between a successful one and a not-so-successful one. The impact of attrition runs through the financials right down to the bottomline. Limiting attrition means a significant upside not only in knowledge retention but always in saving the cost incurred on hiring and training more and more resources. Attrition and Hiring are directly linked. The greater the attrition the greater the hiring need. And vice versa.

oWorkers is deeply committed to the communities we work in. A job with oWorkers is among the more desirable opportunities for people in the workforce which enables us to attract a steady flow of interested candidates for our open positions. It also enables us to ramp up and down for client requirements and seasonal volume handling with ease. We can commit to ramping up by almost a hundred resources within 48 hours. We provide the flexibility for our resources to work from home during the pandemic which also ensures that our delivery continues unhindered.

Internal Quality

As a client, once you have outsourced your requirements to a professional outfit, you should not need to be involved on a day-to-day basis in running that business. The organisation of the vendor should step us to play that role. This is where the Internal Quality team plays an important role in a BPO. It keeps tabs on the output produced by the delivery team and ensures that the output that eventually reaches the client is of good quality.

oWorkers relies on its QA (Quality Analysis) and QC (Quality Control) processes to keep the delivery teams honest. The reporting line of this team is kept independent of the delivery team to ensure their work is not compromised. They also form an important link in keeping senior management informed.

Regulatory and Financial position

While ability to deliver is an obvious requirement, equally important is to ensure that the BPO company that seeks to be a partner is a friend of the establishment and the regulatory environment it operates in.

It is also important for the partner to be in a financially sound position so that the client can be assured of continuity of services at least in the immediate future.

oWorkers operates locally registered entities in all its delivery locations. It pays local taxes as well as social taxes from its employees. The work you outsource to us enables us to hire a few more disadvantaged people and help them become a part of the global digital workforce. oWorkers has been a consistently profitable enterprise with practices that help us keep costs in control and share the savings with our clients through competitive pricing.

In Conclusion

oWorkers has been ranked amongst the top 3 data entry companies in the world. Our pricing is transparent and we can offer clients a choice of per unit of time pricing or per unit of output pricing. Several clients have reported savings of up to 80%. Many of our clients are referenceable and displayed on our website. A number of unicorn marketplaces choose oWorkers as their BPO company. We hope you will too.

Guide to Egypt Outsourcing (BPO)

Guide to Egypt Outsourcing (BPO)

Guide to Egypt Outsourcing (BPO)

 

If one had to find the center of the world, chances are that it would be in or close to Egypt. Egypt has Europe directly above across the Mediterranean, Africa languorously stretched out below, the mass of Asia hulking to the right with the Americas a hop across the Atlantic to the left.

For a business that involves providing a variety of services to its clients across the world as is the case with Business Process Outsourcing, or BPO, there perhaps could not be a better location than Egypt. With telecommunications technology making it possible for work to be done in the most appropriate locations, anywhere in the world, Egypt BPO is ready to make its geographical location count.

But it was not always this way. Egypt outsourcing was nowhere near as established as a natural provider of BPO services just a few years back as it is today.

Outsourcing services started getting recognized when consumer businesses started gaining in volume and reach. This could have happened sometime around the middle of the 20th century. Having said that, outsourcing has always been an option for a business or organization or even individuals, from time immemorial. Hiring a teacher or tutor for your children can be considered as a form of outsourcing, can it not? Instead of tutoring your children yourself, you are outsourcing the task to a ‘vendor’ for a commercial consideration. Pope Julius II commissioning Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel could be considered as an act of outsourcing, could it not?

The initial push was for ‘internal outsourcing’ where businesses would segregate the teams that were carrying out activities that met their criteria and could be segregated. This could be based on volume, it could be based on whether it was customer-facing or not, or it could be based on whether it needs to be done in real-time or could be done with a lag. Whatever the criteria, such work areas started being identified and handled as separate units. Along the way, professional outsourcing firms emerged to take on the responsibility and even provide better results as a result of their focus and proficiency.

As volumes grew, along with pressure on expensive downtown real estate, outsourced units started being moved away from these prime locations into less expensive ones, keeping in mind work requirements along with availability of manpower. Outsourced units continued to be placed further and further away from the ‘client’ units to get the benefits of cheaper real estate and manpower availability till we reached the nineties when commercial use of the internet freed outsourcing from the shackles of being located within a certain geographical area or distance and gave rise to offshoring.

A feature of outsourcing is that work tends to flow from what we know as a more ‘developed’ economy to a ‘less’ developed one as there are cost saving opportunities to be had. Till the time outsourcing was bound by physical distances and boundaries, work that was being outsourced, was probably being done not too far away. Being one of the more ‘developed’ economies in its neck of the woods, Egypt was not suitable for any BPO work that may have been generated by its neighbors. It might actually have been in a position to outsource work to its neighbors. However, once the geographical limitations were taken off, Egypt was able to get into the game.

Being the biggest economy in the world, a lot of the initial traffic was generated by the US. The initial beneficiaries for locating BPO business were countries like India and the Philippines whose large English-speaking populations could handle the requirements which were mostly in English. Not only for the US but other smaller, ‘developed’ economies like the UK, Australia and Canada, all primarily English-speaking nations. Soon the practice was adopted by other Western European nations, putting Egypt outsourcing firmly center-stage.

 

Political stability

Political developments over the last decade would have caused uncertainty and turmoil in a relatively new Egypt outsourcing industry. While a long-time ruler does present a veneer of stability, it appears to be a case of ‘all may not have been well under the veneer’ as the situation unravelled in 2011 with the Arab Spring uprising. The junta that took over power eventually yielded to elections that paved the way for the current President as-Sisi to take over the reigns of power.

Business needs a stable and predictable political climate to flourish. Investment decisions are based on long-term prospects. Frequent governance changes are likely to keep investors away as they are bound to be concerned about the safety and viability of their investments. Hence, for business to flourish, or indeed any activity, an enabling, stable political environment is a necessity. Recognizing this truism, Egypt has invested in improving the telecommunications infrastructure that drives the internet and also created economic zones with a supporting environment for technology companies.

oWorkers respects local decision-making and hopes for political stability in all regions of the world, necessary for mitigating human misery and improvement in quality of life. Our Cairo center is an important cog in our BPO wheel and we are hopeful it will continue to grow and create opportunities in the local economy.

 

Business-friendly economic policies that support Egypt outsourcing

Though we have discussed political stability, which is no doubt a pre-requisite, business organizations, apart from a transparent law and order mechanism, are interested in the economic environment where there is stability and consistency, encourages businesses to operate with freedom, without the fear of sudden changes that could jeopardize their business and investments.

Proof of the pudding being in the eating, more than the speeches of political and business leaders, large, widely known companies like Google and IBM operating from Egypt over several years is a sign of confidence to other, smaller players as well. Physically located at civilizational crossroads, Egypt is viewed as a gateway to Europe, Africa and West Asia and a potential hub for technology and business process services.

oWorkers operates from the capital city and main urban agglomeration of Cairo, from the Maadi area which is well known as the best business location in the city. As recently as 2019, Cairo has been identified as one of the top-ranked worldwide outsourcing destinations according to AT Kearney & Tholons.

 

Client accessibility

BPO work tends to flow from locations that are advanced on the development scale to locations that are less so. The major demand for BPO services continues to emanate from North America and Western Europe, with an effort at reducing processing costs while gaining access to a larger talent pool.

While telecommunications technology does drive the business to all corners of the globe, the importance of physical oversight and a touch-and-feel, even though it may be occasional, cannot be overstated. Clients also need to ensure that the processing activities being done by a vendor do not mar the brand in any manner. Hence, physical proximity of the provider does become a factor in many deals.

Egypt outsourcing companies like oWorkers are located in close proximity to one of their major client markets, that of Western Europe. No major European capital is more than a 5-hour flight away from Cairo.

 

Egypt outsourcing companies can access a large, qualified labor pool

While a supporting environment and infrastructure is essential for any activity, in case of BPO, once the basics are aligned, technology and human resources are the two main factors in continuing success of the business.

With its status as a progressive society in the region, and with an established education infrastructure, Egypt has drawn youngsters from neighboring societies for higher education and work opportunities. Its annual outturn of 500,000 graduates provides a unique growth opportunity to the industry to scale up operations. Taking the 100 million population into account as well, Egypt has the wherewithal to challenge the hegemony of established providers like India and the Philippines.

oWorkers establishes ties in the communities it works with and strives to achieve the status of a preferred employer. Cairo is no different. Known as a fair employer with transparent work policies, we attract a lot of footfall from interested jobseekers that gives us access to a perennial talent pool. All our staff are employees, not freelancers. We pay social taxes for our employees and have been rated above 4.6/5 consistently on Glassdoor.

 

Multilingual capability

As businesses around the world have acquired scale, the need for multilingual processing has expanded. When a business expands and comes into contact with regions that use other languages, it does not want to go looking for another provider to handle that requirement. It would like a partner that can support its growth. Besides, global ambitions of businesses are rising, not reducing.  

Egypt BPO providers can dip into a large workforce of talent with capability in a wide variety of languages. Apart from the ubiquitous English, graduate studies with the language of study being either French or German is quite common. As is the language of study being Spanish, Turkish or Italian. Russian and Chinese speakers are also available. Other languages include Farsi, Greek, Siamese, Hebrew, Urdu, Korean, Japanese and Czech.

Being a provider to multinational organizations from around the world, multilingual capability remains a key element of oWorkers’ BPO proposition with Cairo being an integral part of it, with its ability to cater to a large cross-section of global languages.

 

Internet and Telecommunications

Apart from human resources, technology is the other key driver of this industry. The rapid advances in telecommunications technology has been the catalyst for the growth that has taken the industry to the far corners of the world and brought millions of people into the fold of the connected world.

With the introduction of 4G technology in the country and investments in upgrading to fiber optic cabling, the government is keen to position Egypt as a ‘digital canal’ perhaps as a reference to the Suez Canal that connects Europe to Asia as a shipping route. With greater reliance on the internet, like for example during the Covid-19 induced lockdowns, telecommunications infrastructure can only get better, making the industry backbone more supple.

Like other Egypt outsourcing providers, oWorkers relies on the improving network to connect with the world and offer its services. The Communications and Information Technology ministry has said that it is investing USD 1.6 bn to improve internet speed, with the aim of reaching 40 mbps by the end of 2021. In addition, we operate from secure facilities and protocols for your data security with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015).

 

Time Zone in which Egypt BPO operates

The sun rises and sets in different parts of the world at different times, driving our circadian rhythms. With BPO work being done from all corners of the globe, time zones become a factor in choosing a provider.

Providers enjoy the benefit of being present in a time zone that is fairly closely aligned with its major markets in Western Europe. This allows for ease in handling real-time work, customer calls for instance, or social media moderation, the bulk of which is likely to arise during daytime hours, which are similar on both the client and the provider side.

Of course, BPO providers have long shown the commitment to operate night shifts to handle client work, if that adds value.

Sharing its time zone with Bulgaria, Estonia, South Africa, Finland, Greece, Romania, and others, oWorkers in Egypt operates on East European Time (EET), which is UTC + 2 (with the offset for Daylight Savings). This permits smooth daytime operations for Western European clients as well as clients from West Asia. Of course, oWorkers also offers 24×7 processing facilities, should there be a client need.

 

Operating Cost and Infrastructure

Like for like, Egypt could be offering the best value to clients. It has been gradually rising the Ease of Doing Business index published by the World Bank since the turmoil of 2011. Coupled with the availability of resources at a cost lower than many locations in India, attrition rates that are much lower for comparable projects in India, education levels that require only moderate investments in training and skilling, Egypt BPO becomes an irresistible combination.

Transport in Cairo comprises an extensive road network, rail system, subway system and maritime services for the more than 15.2 million inhabitants of the city.

oWorkers operates from a digitally and physically secure facility in the Maadi area of Cairo.  Our BPO services company offers cost savings of up to 80 %, without compromising on quality, as advised by some of our clients.

We are a company specializing in data services and have been ranked among the Top 3 in the world.

With a management team that has a cumulative experience of over 20 years, with oWorkers you engage a provider that will enable you to get the benefits of working from a center located in the center of the world, within easy reach from any part on any side.

Guide to Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing

Guide to Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing

Guide to Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing

 

Where in the world?

This might well be the question asked by an outsourcer today, wherever he is, while trying to identify a suitable location for outsourcing his business processes to.

Thanks to advances in telecommunications technology, he has the whole world available to him for his business.

Developments in telephony, fiber optics, satellite communications and widespread use of the Internet, made Internet-based communication and transfer of data possible, paving the path for carrying voice and data cheaply over long distances, leading to the opening up of outsourcing opportunities from anywhere to anywhere and the development and growth of global outsourcing locations distributed across the world.

There has been an evolution at each stage of development.

Primary focus on getting away from the high-cost economies of the West and process in an economical manner, in a place providing much lower labor cost, gave way to process improvements which moved to the phase of BPO centers showing the path to delivery excellence, eventually moving on to innovation and flexibility.

The nature of processes outsourced has also kept evolving. Labor-intensive, repetitive processes like data-entry and medical transcription were the first to be outsourced. As confidence grew and telecom costs kept coming down, it gave way to transaction processing and Call Centre activities, evolving to more complex tasks like F&A, HRO and Legal which could be defined in terms of some rules, but also required exercise of some thinking on part of the processor.

Of course, developments in the world have also led to changes in the mix of services being outsourced. Ecommerce was perhaps not even a gleam in anyone’s eyes when BPO started, but today data-entry and other support services for ecommerce businesses is a large component of BPO work. As is data labeling and annotation for creating training data for the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) models.

Structure of companies and the contracts they sign has also kept evolving. The early captive centers were an extension of the parent and did not require too much contract negotiation or specification of processes. As the business evolved, the need to define measures through which the contract would be measured became apparent. Contracts started becoming detailed and complex. The initial FTE based deals, defining work outsourced in terms of people employed, gradually started giving way to output based deals where compensation would be based on the amount of work done. The industry has also experimented with outcome or result based deals.

Of course, some things don’t change. Cost reduction is still an objective. Data-entry work is still being done, perhaps for different businesses and for different requirements.

Even though telecommunication has made it possible for your work to be done from anywhere, the choice of a partner and location continues to be an important business decision.

 

The rise of Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing industry

With an area of a little over 100,000 sq. km., population around 7 million and monthly gross wage of Euro 650, Bulgaria is an unlikely contender in the BPO stakes, traditionally dominated by locations with a large population, multiple urban centers and low wages.

But it has emerged strongly with advantages that outweigh what on the surface may be limitations. Its membership of the EU creates a regulatory environment that inspires confidence in investors as well as clients’ evaluation location options. With well established civic systems like power supply and transportation, it has no hidden costs, unlike other places where businesses need to cater to diesel-based electricity generating units and transporting staff to and from work. It has a well established and proven educational system which delivers a workforce of a quality far higher than many others.

Its accessibility in terms of travel time from major European capitals as well as time zone displacement from the farthest reaches of the continent, make it a preferred destination for clients who have a need for physical contact, even if it is occasional.

It is now an important contributor to the economy, paying EUR 30.5 million in taxes in 2019, 2.5% of all taxes paid. And the contribution is growing in percentage and value terms.

 

BPO location – making a choice

Choosing a place for locating a business or service is a normal business decision. As an outsourcer, you need to ensure that the outsourcing decision adds value to the business, like any other decision you take for the business.

With BPO being a global business, while it provides you with plenty of choices, it also makes the decision more complex. What are the factors that might be relevant when you choose a location which will become the primary delivery point for a process that is a part of your business?

Political Environment

The governance and political climate of a nation is where the other sectors take cues from. Stability and transparency in decision-making at the governance level is important for a business to develop the confidence to invest. It is difficult for a business to make an investment decision based on a certain set of regulations if it has experienced that the rules keep changing on the whim of the person or persons in power.

oWorkers operates in a free, transparent, competitive environment provided by Bulgaria and the same is available to clients who can be free from concerns of exploitation and other practices, especially with respect to human resources, when they partner with us.

Freedom House, a non-profit that rates nations on their level of freedom, rates Bulgaria as a ‘free’ state with a score of 78 out of 100 in the latest evaluation. Among major BPO destinations, this is one of the highest scores, perhaps second only to Poland, also in the EU. A few comments from the Freedom in the World 2021’ report:

‘The authorities generally respect constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly.’

‘Bulgaria’s judiciary has benefited from legal and institutional reforms associated with EU membership, but it is still prone to politicization.’

‘Bulgaria’s democratic system holds competitive elections and has seen several transfers of power in recent decades.’ 

Economics and Business

Since we are talking about businesses, the economic situation perhaps is second only to the political environment when suitability of a location needs to be evaluated. Like the political environment, the economic environment needs to be governed by policies that are stable and transparent for private businesses to get confidence to invest, along with a system of governance considered fair.  

Bulgaria has a Real GDP Annual Growth Rate of 3.4% and GDP per capita of Euro 8809. Being integrated into the European economy ensures consistency and transparency for Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing providers like oWorkers who can operate with confidence. Foreign exchange risks are limited with the currency being pegged to the Euro. With flat 10% corporate and personal income taxes, Bulgaria, without doubt, offers the lowest operating costs in the region.

Human resource availability

Being a people dependent industry, this is clearly a key variable to evaluate. Also, because of reasons good and bad, attrition is a feature that the industry has to contend with, requiring a continuous flow of fresh resources.

According to the AIBEST Annual Report 2020, outsourcing employed more than 77,950 people at the end of 2019, 67% being in Bulgaria BPO centers.

‘Approximately 80% of the working-age population has secondary or higher education, above the EU average. In 2019, there were 51,460 university and college graduates and Mathematics Informatics Gold Silver Bronze over 18,500 of them could be suitable employees for the sourcing industry.’

oWorkers pays competitive wages to attract qualified candidates for whom working in a BPO is an attractive option as the industry salary is higher than the average in the country and ensures a good standard of living.

Resource Cost

Related to resource availability is the issue of cost at which resources become available to Bulgaria BPO providers, and the compensating features of that wage variance. If resources are more expensive, are they also more able that will create value in delivery and offset some of the training costs? In addition, one needs to also factor in the cost to acquire and retain that resource. In other words, is a lot of effort required to attract the right talent? Effort will translate to cost, and the greater the effort the greater the cost.

According to the AIBEST Annual Report 2020, in 2019, Bulgaria had the lowest average hourly labour cost across the EU, based on Eurostat data. It stood at EUR 6.0, or more than four times lower than the EU28 average of EUR 27.7. The gross monthly wage in Bulgaria is Euro 650. With its center located in Plovdiv, oWorkers offers a wage advantage of at least 30% over the capital Sofia.

Telecommunications Network

Telecommunications is the lubricant that has oiled the wheels of the BPO industry and allowed it to expand to the far corners of the world. Bulgaria BPO industry cannot be different. Even though it is almost a given in today’s context, from a business perspective we still need to tick the boxes and satisfy ourselves that the available infrastructure will meet business needs.

With a well-developed telecommunications infrastructure, with broadband speeds among the fastest in SEE (South Eastern Europe) and the third fastest mobile Internet speed in Europe, oWorkers services are based on this reliable, modern network that connects to the world. In addition, as the center operates within the overarching EU legislation, our information security and privacy regulations are compliant with Eurozone requirements.

Time Zone

Different time zones are followed in different locations around the world. Being in a different time zone could be a bane or a boon depending on the context. Being in a time zone with a large difference from the client might enable speedier, overnight processing. On the flip side, requiring staff to work off hours in the BPO center might be a difficult task and also more expensive as ‘off hours’ and ‘overtime pay’ components may kick in.

oWorkers in Bulgaria is on East European Time (EET), which is UTC + 2 and shared with Estonia, Finland, Greece, South Africa, Romania and several others. It enables daytime coverage of the entire set of clients from anywhere in Europe with an offset of only two hours.

Physical proximity

As owners of a process that is being handled by a provider, it is perfectly acceptable for the client to want to ‘touch and feel’ the processing center and interact with the people doing their work to ensure it is being done the right way and to instil the values and ethos of the brand in the people who are working for it. Though advances in communication technologies have substantially reduced the need for physical movement, either of people or of artefacts, between the originating and the processing locations, it cannot be said to have been eliminated.

The Bulgaria BPO facility of oWorkers being only a 3 hour flight away from the farthest corners of the European continent will be a comfort for many clients. Lisbon, London and Oslo would perhaps be the farthest which are approximately 3 hours of flying time away. Moreover, in an increasingly jittery world that needs to react to real or perceived dangers, where occasional stoppage of flights is a possibility, there are multiple options of travel that are available, mainly train and road, as they are essentially different parts of the same continent.

Education and Training; Workforce readiness

There are many facets to being a people-driven industry, not just related to availability of manpower and hiring. An equally important aspect is the readiness of the workforce to deliver in a BPO environment that may require not only foundation skills like communication, language and handling  computer applications, but also function-specific ones like HR and Accounting and even industry-specific like Insurance, Banking and Retail. Though BPOs have training programs that enable people to deliver on client projects, the larger the gap, the greater the investment required in skilling. Hence, it is desirable that employees come with basic knowledge and skills.

A well-established education system, regarded highly for the quality of students it produces, especially in the mathematics and science areas, provides Bulgaria BPO providers like oWorkers with raw talent of a very high quality which only needs polishing on domain-specific areas to become ready for work. Sofia University even offers a Masters’ program titled “Outsourcing Project and Companies” designed for the industry. This is a unique academic program that much larger outsourcing destinations have not been able to create and demonstrates Bulgaria’s commitment to the sector.

Multilingual capability

Proficiency in language holding the key to communication, being multilingual expands the possibilities of communication. In any case, with global footprints of many businesses, the expectation is that a provider will be able to support, regardless of language.

oWorkers is one of the Bulgaria BPO companies that has leveraged the educated and skilled manpower, with its proficiency in languages, where even trilingualism is not uncommon, to offer services in multiple languages. On an aggregated basis, Bulgaria Business Process Outsourcing companies offer services in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Dutch, Russian, Swedish, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Hungarian, Greek, Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Japanese, Norwegian, Danish, Hebrew, Serbian, Slovak, Croatian, Finnish, Korean, Estonian, Hindi, Bosnian, Catalan, Lithuanian, Macedonian and Slovenian.

Physical infrastructure

Infrastructure required for running a business can be of various kinds. Like power, which is the most time-critical resource for a business to run and required for running any sort of equipment, whether it is a PC, or a fan, or lighting, even most of the telecommunications equipment. Adequacy and continuity of power grid power needs to be ascertained. Or local transport, required for not only the business to operate but also employees to commute to and from work when working out of a physical facility.

Bulgaria’s electricity prices for industrial consumers, at EUR 0.11 per kWh, the average electricity price, including taxes and levies, are much lower than the EUR 0.15 per kWh for EU-28. With an efficient distribution system in place, it is one less worry for Bulgaria BPO management as compared to many other centers around the world.

Urban centers like Sofia and Plovdiv, the second largest city where oWorkers facilities are situated, have good transport access accounting for more than 90% of the planned office developments. Moreover, Plovdiv, features one of the lowest Class A office rents in SEE. Almost all the 535,000 people in Plovdiv live less than 30 minutes away from the city center.

 

oWorkers and Plovdiv – a winning combination

As a Bulgaria BPO services company, with a management team that has a cumulative experience of over 20 years, with oWorkers you engage a provider that will enable you to get the benefits of working from a center located in the Eurozone, one of the most developed parts of the world, of stable governance, consistent policies, established infrastructure and high levels of education and skill.

The benefits multiply with our choice of Plovdiv, the second largest city as the location for our center with the upside staying consistent but the downside in terms of costs being lower by at least 20%, which get passed on to clients.

Plovdic has 9 universities with more than 30,000 students, a third of whom are pursuing courses in IT & BPO related fields such as Information and Computer technologies, Business Management and Administration, Language Studies and Finance & Accounting. It also has 29 vocational schools, 37 general high schools and 7 foreign language and math high schools, 78 vocational training centers and 10 applied science institutes and labs.

Easily reachable via road, Plovdiv has its own airport and railway station. The distance to Bulgaria’s main airport in Sofia is 140 km.

With such a supporting environment, it is no surprise that oWorkers is one of 74 sourcing companies located in the Plovdiv District.

Guide on how to outsource social media moderation

Guide on how to outsource social media moderation

Guide on how to outsource social media moderation

 

Social Media is important

Businesses crave for visibility; of the positive kind. The kind where their business is spoken well of, products appreciated, customer service lauded.

The business can say good things about itself, and nobody can stop them. This is what businesses do through advertising. They pay money to post positive messages about their business and products in the media so that their target population will see it and think better of them and buy more from them.

They can also place positive messaging about themselves on their website. This is somewhat akin to paid advertising. You buy a domain, buy hosting space, probably pay a design and development professional to create the website where you say nice things about yourself.

And that is one of the challenges of this approach. You say nice things about yourself. The discerning customer sees through this and is unimpressed. The other challenge is that there is really no reason why your target audience will come to your website and read/ view your ‘positive’ messaging.

This is why it has come to occupy such an important role in the media strategy for businesses. It has the potential to create a vibrant community around your business that will serve to promote its interests. And since it is independent feedback and views posted by people who don’t have an interest in the money the business makes, they become a source of believable information.

 

Social Media has challenges

There are no unmixed blessings.

While social media can create a vibrant community around your business or product, being independent, it operates without control or inhibition which, in turn, can be harmful for your brand and do exactly the opposite of what you wanted to leverage social media for.

Content posted on social media may not just be harmful for your brand, but could also violate commonly understood guidelines of civil society, like gore, nudity, abuse, hate-speech, etc. Though visitors might understand that it has nothing to do with your business, it will still have a rub-off effect on your business.

Thankfully, these are only a small portion of the posts.

Much of the interaction that happens in the community you create is beneficial. Positive comments and feedback provide an opportunity for showcasing and highlighting your strengths to others. Negative feedback can serve to fix issues being highlighted and go back stronger. You get customer insights in a close-to-natural setting where customers are posting without duress or pressure. In some ways, the purest form of input for your business.

Obviously, you would want the benefits to continue and multiply.

Since we cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater, we need to find a solution.

 

Social media moderation solutions is the answer

The answer lies in moderating social media user-generated content (UGC).

The process of screening and filtering content on your social media pages can be defined as social media moderation. Its objective is to not only ensure that you are filtering or weeding out content that could be offensive, think porn, think violence, think gratuitous mud-slinging, but also promoting healthy interactions towards fulfilment of your objectives of social media presence.

If social media presence is part of the strategy, your presence and involvement in it becomes a requirement in any case. Consumers may drop messages to you on one of your platforms. You need to pick it up and respond. If you are not in a position to, then you should rethink your social media strategy.

Moderation goes a step beyond participation and exercises control over the content being posted.

It is not as straightforward as it may seem. For example, if a consumer has posted a review that portrays your product in bad light, while you do take the feedback and will do a review of the product, will you permit it to be visible or not on the platform? Different companies may take different stands on this.

A clearly articulated social media policy is generally a good starting point and any moderation should be in line with it. This can help you avoid causing offence to people posting in good faith but inadvertently stepping across the acceptability line. It is, after all, your page and you have a right to determine what is acceptable and what is not.

An example of a policy posted by the University of Colorado, Denver: Social Media Moderation (ucdenver.edu).

 

Who should moderate?

Should you outsource social media moderation or keep it inhouse?

The explosion in activity on social media witnessed over the last decade, with many organisations needing to respond in fairly similar manner, has resulted in the emergence of a specialised skill-set of social media moderators. Though each owner may define their own rules, in many cases, they are similar, guided as they are by the general code of conduct of civil society.

As a result, instead of building this specialised skill-set inhouse, businesses find better value in relying on the accumulated expertise and skills built by a vendor who offers social media moderation services as a service.

Unless you have strong reasons for keeping it inhouse, outsourcing should be the default option.

 

Choosing a Provider for Social media moderation Solutions

That means you will need a business partner; someone with expertise in the service you seek. Though at times it can be a challenge to reach the message across to potential vendors, normally, as businesses themselves, providers, like bees, should be able to divine the source of the honey (your business) and make a beeline for it. What we will focus on here is the criteria you should use to identify the most suitable provider for you to outsource social media moderation to.

Consistent delivery of quality service

Prospective vendors should be able to demonstrate a high level of accuracy, meeting or exceeding agreed service levels, preferably in a process similar to the one you seek to outsource. Supporting testimonials from clients of these services will also create confidence in their ability.

With social media moderation services being done for several clients over eight years of operation, oWorkers has continued to build its own knowledge in the space that has enabled us to provide inputs to clients that have enabled them to update their own policies regarding moderation. Many of our clients are referenceable and, we believe, will be open to discussing their engagement with us.

Preparedness for virtual, distributed workforce

When you outsource social media moderation, you cannot pretend that Covid-19 did not happen. It has caused an upheaval in the world, uprooted many of our closely held beliefs and forced us to negotiate many non-negotiable ones. For many BPO clients, work being done from physically secure premises was one that many clients would insist on. Come Covid-19, and boundaries had to be redrawn. The same clients today are happy that work has continued, with agents and supervisors working from home and connecting virtually to client systems, knowledge tools, work rosters, monitoring schedules and, of course, with each other.

oWorkers has been quick off the blocks ever since the world went into lockdown, to ensure client businesses remain unaffected to a great extent. We allow our staff to work from home; the option being with the staff member. We have also put in place hiring and training systems which enable us to hire resources without ever meeting them face to face, as well as training them. The same being the case with the Internal Quality team who access transactions and provide feedback to agents virtually. We are seamlessly able to switch between onsite and virtual operations, including delivering with an integrated model.

Contemporary People Management practices

People being a key resource in any BPO that you outsource social media moderation to, ensuring transparency and reasonableness in their treatment separates successful from the non-so-successful BPOs. While much of the demonstration may be academic, based on theoretical practices shared by the vendor, attrition is one parameter which often reveals the true nature of its practices. As a bugbear of BPOs, attrition has no equal. It creates a need for constant hiring and training, which is a drain on company finances. It also results in draining accumulated wealth of knowledge, which impacts on quality of delivery.

As a strategy meant to deliver long-term benefit, oWorkers has chosen to work with employees on our rolls, and not freelancers and consultants on short contracts. It enables us to build relationships and show employees a career path. Our attrition numbers remain best in class. We are consistently rated 4.6 or more on Glassdoor by our employees.

Workforce Planning and Management

The team that ensures optimum resource utilization, especially the human resource, has their task cut out in a distributed operation environment. Creating rosters, work schedules, ensuring adherence, has become all the more challenging. A vendor with the tools and ability to continue to deliver, can give that edge to your business as well, when you outsource social media moderation to them.

With our technology infrastructure, oWorkers provides flexibility to its staff to work either from home or office in a seamless manner, the choice being the employee’s. The communication tools deployed on the internet bring everyone together, facilitating the task of the Workforce Planning team.

Independent Internal Quality process

The Internal Quality (IQ) team is a fixture of most forward-looking BPOs. It functions outside the delivery structure and not only monitors their performance, but also provides corrective inputs. It is normally staffed by the people considered as experts in the process, who have the ability to monitor and guide others. It provides ‘assurance’ to senior management that the process is functioning along lines expected by the client.

oWorkers has adopted the independent structure of the IQ team for its social media moderation solutions. It reports to senior management who rely on their inputs for feedback on performance. Our IQ team serves as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the client and is able to implement corrections before the errors cause dependent processes on the client side to suffer. With this team’s support, oWorkers is able to deliver accuracy levels better than 99%.

Pricing is competitive and value accretive

This is an integral part of any commercial engagement, lower being obviously better. However, pricing should be viewed in the context of social media moderation services being a B2B engagement where the bouquet of services will be unique. Hence, ‘better value’ and not ‘lower price’ should be the guiding principle.

Being the most valuable provider is the goal of oWorkers, not being the cheapest, though we may be the cheapest on many occasions without trying to be. With our pricing options for clients, of choosing between dollars per unit of time and dollars per unit of output, clients can choose what works best for them.

Support for multilingual delivery

This is a necessary condition in an increasingly global world. Many businesses today have a global footprint and the ones that do not are trying hard to get it.  For social media moderation services. multilingual support is essential as a social media imprint could arise from any part of the world, in any language, even though the business may not be serving customers in that part.

With support provided in over 20 languages, oWorkers is primed to be a partner in the expansion drive of its clients who don’t need to go looking for more partners for the same service.

Deploys modern tools and technology

As a dynamic, incessant activity, social media moderation has few parallels. Someone, somewhere, could be posting content on your social media profiles at any point of time. Sometimes there could be a flood of posts at the same time, especially on social media platforms of big and popular consumer businesses. Manual moderation can be expensive. Modern tools and technologies, driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) become necessary for such businesses.

With the help of our alliances with owners of key technologies, we offer the most current technologies required for social media moderation solutions.

Scalability and access to human resources

Being a people driven business where attrition is a feature, interested parties need to demonstrate the ability to hire regularly at reasonable cost. Further, when you outsource social media moderation, as a result of seasonality and other factors, volumes can fluctuate, requiring the BPO to meet short-term resource requirements as well. The greater the effort required in accessing interested pools of candidates, the greater the financial pressure.

oWorkers has access to talent pools as we are a preferred employer owing to our deep involvement with the communities we work in. This enables us to hire throughout the year without excessive effort in unearthing fresh talent pools. It also gives us the flexibility to hire for short-term spikes as our talent pool trusts us in making the right choices, like retaining them if there is a possibility.

Project Management expertise

The beginning of a relationship between a client and a BPO delivery partner, when delivery needs to be uprooted from its moorings on the client side and placed on the vendor side, can be a traumatic experience, like giving birth. There are many moving parts that often go out of control, requiring managerial skill and experience to bring back in line. It calls for expertise in Project Management and Transition to ensure the engagement gets off to a flying start. Like they say, ‘well begun is half done.’

With over a hundred transitions under its belt, with each new instance adding to the already deep knowledge base, oWorkers has ‘been there, done that.’

 

Next Steps

oWorkers is a GDPR compliant and ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified provider and operates from three global delivery centers that can provide business contingency for your work. We specialise in data and back-office BPO work. Our 24×7 operational machinery can cover all time zones in the world. Our clients advise savings of up to 80% when they outsource social media moderation work to us. We hope you will too.

Guide on how to outsource Invoice data entry

Guide on how to outsource Invoice data entry

Guide on how to outsource Invoice data entry

 

Like each individual, each business is also unique. And inter-dependent.

In our business or line of work we need to rely on many others, both businesses and individuals. The businesses and people we sell our products and services to are our clients or buyers. If there were no clients, we would not have a business. The businesses and people we source inputs in the form of raw materials and services from are our suppliers or vendors or contractors. Even the employees of a business are suppliers in a way; suppliers of expertise, skill and labour that enable the business to create a product or service of value that its clients will pay for.

In a commercial transaction, products and services are obtained for a consideration, or value. The consideration or value is paid by a buyer based on an Invoice that is issued by the seller which provides the details of the product or service that has been purchased and how the total amount has been arrived at.

 

Invoices Data Entry Solutions

We understand what an Invoice is.

But what is Invoice data entry?

Simply stated, Invoice data entry is the process through which information provided on an Invoice is entered into a software application so that it gets converted to standardised data that can be accessed, retrieved and processed in a uniform manner.

The software application could be a simple application software like a spreadsheet, or it could be one with the specific purpose of Invoice management. 

 

The case to outsource Invoice Data Entry

All businesses are unique. That we already know.

What we perhaps also know is that each business operates with the help of a unique combination of processes and technologies.

What does this have to do with Invoicing and Invoice data entry services? Let us take an example.

Say Business A buys a product from Business X.

Business X will send the product to Business A, while Business A will send an amount of money representing the value of the product, to Business X. This will be done based on an Invoice issued by Business X to Business A.

Business X will issue the Invoice from their own system or application that is used for issuance of such Invoices. It will be their own unique format and might be sent physically as a paper Invoice or electronically through an email, even though, in many cases, the fields of information on an Invoice are quite standard. An Invoice will usually mention:

  • Purchase Order Number
  • Date of Invoice
  • Invoice Number
  • Number of Units
  • Product Description
  • Amount
  • Payment terms (like 50% on Order, balance of delivery)
  • How to Pay
  • Tax Payment (GST / VAT)
  • Shipping/ Delivery Dates and Details
  • Name and Contact Details of buyer & seller

Whichever way it is sent, it will still be an extrinsic artefact for Business A. In other words, it will not be a part of any of their applications (systems).

Now imagine Business A receives a hundred such Invoices form a hundred vendors from their hundred unique systems in a month. Any time any information needs to be retrieved from the Invoices it would become a manual exercise. And an onerous one as the number of Invoices keeps multiplying with time.

Invoices data entry solutions is the process through which information on such Invoices is transferred to a software application such that it gets converted to standardised data that can be accessed, retrieved and processed in a uniform manner.

This process, where a business processes Invoices received from a supplier, is a part of the Accounts Payable function of the organisation.

The contra process, where the organisation issues its own Invoices to its clients, which is a part of the Account Receivable process of the organisation, may also have a need to outsource Invoice data entry, though usually to a lesser degree, since the Invoices are issued from their own application and they should have all the information in an accessible, retrievable and processable format.

The following benefits can be expected:

  • Freedom to focus on core business activities
  • Access to cutting edge process and technology
  • Accuracy and improved turnaround times
  • Updated MIS and data visibility
  • Enhancement of productivity
  • Cost saving (or value addition)

 

Selecting a Vendor to outsource Invoice Data Entry

In any business process outsourcing, selection of the outsourced partner is a key decision. This can be evaluated in two parts:

  1.       Capability of the vendor in Invoice data entry services and terms of engagement
  2.       Organisational capability and support

 

Capability of the vendor in Invoice data entry services and terms of engagement

This part of the evaluation is about the vendor’s capability in the process sought to be outsourced. The evaluation process should consider:

Prior experience – Have they done similar work for any other client? Prior experience of the vendor shortens the learning curve and will help you achieve a steady-state faster.  

Client testimonials – External validation is always helpful, particularly from other clients.  

Knowledge of Accounting and standards – This process is typically a part of the Accounts Payable process of an organisation. At times, there will be a need to interface with the Accounting systems. Knowledge of accounting and commonly followed standards will make the interface easier.

Familiarity with Enterprise financial management systems – Similarly, knowledge of systems like SAP and Peoplesoft used by businesses for handling their finance and accounting, is a plus.

Multilingual capability – Relevant for businesses that do business in multiple geographies, or hope to expand to them. You cannot go looking for another vendor each time you want to expand. A vendor should be an aid to expansion, not a roadblock.

Handling different data sources – The vendor should have the ability to handle data entry from a variety of different sources housing different elements of the information:

  •         Scanned image of hard copy invoices
  •         Credit and debit notes
  •         Sale and purchase invoices and pro-forma invoices
  •         Time sheets
  •         Claim forms
  •         Electronic payment channels

Expertise in related services – Would it add value if the vendor were to provide additional services that may be closely related to Invoice data entry services? Like:

  •         Invoice scanning
  •         Data entry into client systems
  •         Indexing and sorting of Invoices

Industry familiarity – Just like each company is different, each industry is also different from others. Retail is different from Aerospace, Transportation from Staffing, Software from Hotels and FMCG from Pharmaceuticals. Though they would all have a need to issue and pay Invoices if they are in business.

As each industry could have its own peculiar requirements and processes, it is helpful if the vendor has familiarity with your industry as that can enable them to hit the ground running when the contract begins.

Technology and data security – The vendor should be using technology that is current and demonstrates a willingness to upgrade as technology evolves and changes. Technology is the backbone of the outsourcing world. It is often referred to as Information Technology Enabled Services (ITES). And do so in a secure environment that protects client data from unauthorised access.

Turnaround time – The partner should be equipped to deliver the required service speedily. It could be a 24×7 working facility, or it could be a different time zone which facilitates overnight processing, or another suitable arrangement.

Free Trial – For most data entry outsourcing arrangements, this serves to bring the outsourcing client onboard and builds confidence. Even more so where the outsourcer is a small business owner.

Pricing – Of course, pricing can never be an unimportant consideration in any commercial arrangement. It needs to be ensured that the pricing adds value to the business.

Scalability – No organisation wants to turn away business because it could not process fast enough. The vendor needs to be able to ramp up and down, within agreed parameters of course, when required as required by business volumes. 

With services in over 20 languages, super secure facilities & protocols for data security with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015), a 24×7 workforce already handling thousands of Invoices on a daily basis, and the ability to scale up or down by 50% within 24 hours, Oworkers should be your natural choice for outsourcing your Invoice data entry work.

 

Organisational capability and support for Invoices data entry solutions

As the outsourced business process will operate under the larger umbrella of the contracting organisation, it is equally important to evaluate those parameters where the larger organisation will play a role in ensuring effective delivery to your process.

Financial health of the organisation is essential to ensure continued delivery. If compromised, it will cut corners, leading to delivery issues and the possibility of a sudden stop.

Hiring is done at the organisational level. This is normally the case since hiring is an activity that interfaces with the external world. Organisations like to maintain uniformity in their external face. Besides, it is more efficient and economical. The organisation’s hiring engine should be well established and regarded in the community to provide this support. 

It should provide a quality monitoring support that is external to the processing unit but internal to the organisation. This acts as a check before an issue becomes either a contractual issue or a client issue.

Facility Management, to ensure people have a clean and hygienic workplace and access to the physical location where the work is being done, is access controlled, in order that client data is secure.

There are many other services that the organisation needs to provide in order that your work can continue smoothly. Like Legal, that ensures compliance with required regulations like General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Like Workforce Planning, that ensures all processes are adequately, but not inefficiently, staffed and is able to project future requirements to head off challenges early. Each of them should be evaluated based on the need of the hour.

As an established player in this space, with three global delivery centers in two continents, and a strict protocol in place for GDPR compliance for sensitive data, Oworkers’ Invoices data entry solutions are ideally equipped and ready for you when you decide to outsource your Invoice data entry work. With several clients across multiple industries, Oworkers has the expertise that will enable you to get the benefit of accuracy and speed. Oworkers relies on employed staff for delivering on its contracts, and not contractual. It is a desirable place of work in all its locations, with a consistently high Glassdoor rating.

 

Process to outsource Invoice Data Entry

Selecting the right vendor is a great starting point but a lot more remains to be done. The actual work. And, even before that, the migration of the work to the vendor. In other words, equipping the vendor to do a good job which, eventually, is in your own interest.

Outlined here is a recommended process that will enable you to engage a vendor when you decide to outsource, or even when you have started to think about it. It is possible that at the start, as you evaluate vendor capabilities and suitability for your requirement, you could be engaging with more than one potential vendor. It is also possible, depending on the volume of your work, you engage more than one vendor, which also serves as a back-up arrangement for you in case one of them is unable to operate for one reason or another.

Identify Requirement

Many business deals do not succeed because the client (buyer) is not clear on the requirements. What are they buying? Why are they buying? What problem will it solve? What value will it add? Identification of your need is a good starting point. Additionally, some clarity on success (or failure) criteria will be even better.

Advertise requirement to outsource Invoice Data Entry

Once it is clear that you would like to consider outsourcing as an option, you would need to make known to the prospective vendor community about it. This can be done in many different ways:

  • Reaching out directly to vendors who may be providing similar services to competitors.
  • Advertising in trade circles, if you are a part of them.
  • Issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) which is like a standardised proposal form where you specify the information you are looking for in each proposal.
  • Looking up prospective vendors online or through directories like Yellow Pages and informing them one by one of your requirements. They will respond if interested.

Shortlist vendors

By now you would have hopefully received some interest from prospective vendors. If you have been flooded with responses, at this stage, based on information received, you should shortlist down to a few, perhaps two or three, with whom you can engage in a more detailed manner. A B2B engagement is a time-consuming affair. The larger the shortlist the more of your time it will require.

Detailed discussion

This is where the detailed discussions will happen and both parties will be required to share information. In most B2B cases, this will be preceded by the execution of a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) which binds both parties to treating the information received as confidential and enjoins them to ensure it is handled with the utmost care. This is the stage where the potential vendor will make a case for being selected, scope of services will be discussed, including indicative pricing.

Shortlist down to 1

After detailed discussions with the shortlisted few, which might require multiple discussions, site visits, interacting with staff members, exploring combinations, negotiating on price and service levels, you will shortlist down to the most suitable vendor to whom you will offer contractual terms, which would have been already discussed during the previous stage. The others will not be rejected at this stage as they may still need to be called upon if this one does not work out for some reason.

Finalise terms and sign contract

The formal agreement is executed based on mutually acceptable terms and conditions.

Trial Run

If a Trial Run has been agreed this would be the time to initiate it. The contract would define the success criteria for this step and the rights of the client and vendor based on various outcomes possible.

Implementation Project Plan to outsource Invoice Data Entry

If this has not been done at the contracting stage, the parties will develop and agree on an Implementation Plan which defines the steps each of them need to take to reach a steady state. In other words, reach a point at which the activities envisaged in the contract are running at the expected level. The timelines are also defined in the Implementation Plan.

Vendor to Identify team, and gear up

The vendor will need to identify the team that will support activities under this contract. The various supporting teams will be informed about the new contract and they will begin to play their roles, like the hiring team will source people, the IT team will work towards a technology handshake with client systems, etc.

Initial training and hand-holding

You will probably need to do the initial training to familiarise the vendor staff on your systems and processes and ensure there is an alignment of objectives. Generally, future training requirements, either on account of replacement of staff or hiring additional staff to cater to increased volumes, will be handled by the vendor.

Begin work, test and then go full steam

Work begins. If volumes are large, there is a ramp-up generally provided for in the Project Plan. Staring slowly, the work gradually ramps up to handle the agreed volumes.

This is an indicative sequence of steps and not mandatory. Not all steps will be needed in all cases. In some cases, the sequence could also change, like a Trial Run could happen before a contract is signed.

Oworkers provides comprehensive support to clients seeking to outsource Invoice data entry. With experience in the area with clients from different industries, Oworkers is well placed to act as a Consultant right from identification of need and building a case for it, providing information on contractual formats, through to the trial phase, ramp phase and eventual settling down of the process and realisation of investment through delivery on agreed SLAs.

Guide on how to Outsource Data Annotation for the Healthcare Industry

Guide on how to Outsource Data Annotation for the Healthcare Industry

Guide on how to Outsource Data Annotation for the Healthcare Industry

 

The world is an unforgiving place. One has to keep running in order to stay in the same place; at least in relative terms. Everyone else in running, hence so should you.

It applies to healthcare as well. Patient expectations of treatment and care are rising, while expecting to pay less for the same, as treatments become mainstream and acquire volumes.

What is a business engaged in the healthcare cycle, either a pharmaceutical company producing drugs and medicines, or a hospital, providing treatment and care, or an insurer, creating financial solutions for people to pay for healthcare expenses?

 

What are healthcare solution providers doing?

They are harnessing data and employing smart technology solutions to move forward at a rapid pace, even as breakthroughs in science and medicine happen as and when they do.

Pharma companies are making progress in formulations, repurposing and targeting efforts based on analysis of patient records and clinical trials.

Biotechnology device makers are leveraging data on health outcomes to produce better devices that can peel more layers off a condition.

Insurers are mining information from health plans and correlating with claims to make health insurance cheaper by isolating instances of fraud and predicting claims with greater accuracy.

Hospitals are developing algorithms for efficient allocation of their scarce resources so that a greater population segment can be served with the same set of resources.

As are many others providers engaged in the healthcare industry in one way or another.

The technology solution that has been requisitioned by all of them is what is fairly well known now as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the process of Machine learning (ML) on which it depends for the level of efficacy with which it can perform.

 

Data annotation for the healthcare industry – enabling AI

Data annotation is the bedrock on which the superstructure of AI engines is built. The stronger the bedrock, the more reliable the AI engine.

While we may have an understanding of the terms ‘data’ and ‘annotation’ separately, the meaning of the term ‘data annotation’ bears repetition, because of its position as an enabler for the AI which is enabling healthcare industry participants to do more.

AI is the technology that seeks to undertake many tasks done by humans today, using human intelligence.

Like identifying tumors. Or detecting kidney stones. Or teeth degeneration.

To be in a position to do that, AI engines need to be trained to learn how humans think and behave. This training, thankfully, can only be done with the help of humans, by creating training data sets.

The usage of human intelligence to make sense of what we may call raw data, is not a facility available to a machine, or a software program. What a software does have is the ability to ingest information, understand patterns, and apply them without human bias to the next set of data that it comes by, to arrive at conclusions it has been taught to arrive at.

What needs to happen for this is for that raw data to be converted to a format that is meaningful for a machine to ingest based on which rules can be taught.

If an MRI scan is the tool based on which the presence of a tumor can be confirmed or denied, then the software needs to be taught how to read an MRI scan which, otherwise, is a meaningless set of pixels for it.

This is done by creating data sets for ML.

A particular specialist doctor might review a hundred MRI scans every week and arrive at a conclusion based on what he sees in them. To enable a machine to be able to do the same, he needs to mark/ highlight/ point the aspects based on which he has reached his conclusion. This needs to be done in a manner that can be understood by the engine that is being trained. It could be through highlighting the size of a particular organ and attaching an outcome to it, which is then uploaded to the software through ‘computer vision’ that enables the software to ‘take in’ this information.

When done repeatedly, the software is built to create associations such that when the next MRI scan comes to it without any markings, it is able to reach the same conclusions as it has been taught to do by the ML data sets.

This is data annotation. To be more specific, data annotation for the healthcare industry, is the process of converting ‘raw’ data to ‘smart’ data for the purpose of training an AI algorithm. As the annotated data set provided to it keeps getting bigger, the AI engine keeps getting smarter, helping in establishing patterns. A kind of equation building process which will enable it to find an ‘x’ the next time it encounters a set of ‘y’s.

 

Why outsource data annotation for the healthcare industry?

If we are brutally honest with ourselves, data annotation is a critical but perhaps one of the most monotonous, dull, unappreciated jobs in the whole AI and ML process. And, whether we like it or not, if we have to achieve some sort of progress on AI, this process needs to be done by human data annotators.

In many other industries, data annotation may be a monotonous but straightforward task that can be done by anyone with a little training, like identifying objects on a street while building a training data set for autonomous vehicles. To annotate data for the healthcare industry is a different ball-game altogether that needs to marry a certain amount of knowledge of medicine and healthcare with all the other skills required for the task. Lives will depend on their work.

After all there are only so many ophthalmologists and endocrinologists whose priority is patients, not marking MRIs and CT scans for building AI models. This is where specialised medical data annotators complete the jigsaw.

With the development of AI, the task of data annotation has become a job category by itself, under which medical data annotation could be a further specialisation. They are available in larger numbers than doctors and for more reasonable prices too. Hence it stands to reason to permit this group to do data annotation for the healthcare industry.

The choice should be quite clear. To engage an outsourcing outfit that specialises in data annotation solutions. That lives and breathes Data Annotation.

Of course, at the start of any exercise, experts in the particular field, radiologists or cardiologists, may be required to ‘show the way’ and train the resources who are going to be doing the major part of the exercise.

 

Choosing a partner

The decision to outsource having been taken, selection of a provider would be the logical next step. What parameters would you use to separate suitable providers from the unsuitable ones?

Prior experience

It would be desirable to select a partner with prior experience in data annotation for the healthcare industry. Though experience of providing these services to competitors is ideal, as they are likely to be the most similar to your work, it could create an additional sensitivity of data security as one is always interested in knowing what a competitor is doing. Hence, this may need to be viewed in conjunction with the partner’s ability to provide comfort on data security.

oWorkers has successfully executed a wide variety of data annotation projects covering a wide range of data types and annotation services, over the eight years of their existence.

Accuracy and quality of delivery

The final goal is great quality, irrespective of the type of work, regardless of the type of data annotation. When we enter into a commercial contract, while we are looking for many things, the one thing we always want is great quality of work. Of course, at times we need to make compromises because of budgetary constraints and other reasons, but for a given set of constraints, we want the best quality.

The provider should be able to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide superior quality and accuracy. Testimonials from existing clients is generally accepted as a good way to establish the quality and accuracy delivered on existing contracts.

99% is the accuracy oWorkers delivers across contracts, across different measurement systems, and the same is on offer for your outsourcing project. Many of our clients can be referenced.

Speed and turnaround time

The faster you finish a task, the more you will be able to do, is the simple logic. Business always wants more. Why should healthcare be any different?

To annotate data for the healthcare industry could be a painstaking activity, to be done with care, where data keeps building up gradually. Speed in this context refers to not only the rate at which each transaction is processed, but also to the partner’s ability to find the capacity to process greater volumes so that the AI engine for which it is being done, can be up and running.

With three global centers and 24×7 operations, oWorkers can not only deliver to exacting turnaround time expectations, but also create capacity to work with specialists in order to deliver larger volumes.

Access to talent pool

Human input being a pre-requisite to annotate data for development of AI, the need for human resources in the right quantity with the right skills and training is a dependency. Attrition being a feature of the BPO industry, the need for hiring is continuous, even if the business is not growing, as there will be a requirement to fill the gaps created by people leaving the company. Hence, access to a talent pool for year-round hiring is a requirement.

With the deep commitment to the communities we work in, oWorkers is seen as a preferred employer and benefits from a regular flow of interested candidates approaching us for employment. This also keeps our hiring costs in control as we do not need to spend money on attracting talent. With our philosophy of working with employees, and not freelancers, gives oWorkers the flexibility of deployment based on requirements, and helps create long-term relationships.

Commercials

An essential part of any commercial engagement, a party delivering goods or services under a contract receives value for it, usually in money terms, based on agreed terms. Also called ‘pricing.’ In a B2B engagement, the basket of services and products provided is unique to the buyer, as is the price for it. While low is desirable, the outsourcer needs to ensure that the pricing terms offered will add value to their business instead of opting for the lowest number.

At oWorkers, with our nearshore and offshore centers, you have the potential to save up to 80 % on your cost prior to outsourcing. We also offer you a choice between rate per unit of output and rate per unit of resource in a transparent manner.

Multi lingual

The consistency of processing enables an organisation to expand the volume of processing and build connectors to processes in and out of it. When you seek a partner to annotate data for the healthcare industry it is important to have a partner who is able to offer multilingual processing support as that will be a key factor when the business grows and expands across the globe, as we are, today, more global and connected than we have been at any point of time in human history.

Across the three centers of oWorkers, support is provided in over 22 languages for a wide variety of data services.

Internal Quality

Whatever be the business process outsourced, Internal Quality has come to occupy an important role in ensuring that delivery teams stay true to the task committed to a client and there is a system of monitoring in place before gaps, if any, become visible to the client. Outsourcing of data annotation for the healthcare industry is no different.

With a mix of QA (Quality Assurance) and QC (Quality Control) processes supported by technological tools, oWorkers delivers best in class performance which also supports our delivery of over 99% accuracy. The Quality team, with independent reporting lines directly to senior management, also ensure that the leadership team is kept abreast of developments and are equipped to intervene as and when a need may arise.

Access to Technology

To annotate data for the healthcare industry might sound like ‘technology for the sake of technology’ as it needs to be done to create a functional AI engine, which is, again, technology. But on a deeper look we will find that AI is not the end game. The AI is being created for a purpose, which could be to analyse MRI scans faster, or evaluate many more CT scans as compared to a human and do it more accurately.

Advancements in technology are changing the world, even to the extent of accelerating the development of technologies like AI. Access to technologies for doing data annotation is a useful resource for this purpose.

Our partnership with leading data annotation tool owners for both NLP and Computer Vision projects gives oWorkers access to the best technology solutions, including upgrades to newer versions as and when they take place.

Data Security

Data security is linked to technology through an umbilical cord, since data is stored digitally and moved digitally for transaction processing. Data being a critical resource for a business, ensuring its security becomes a key determinant in vendor selection. When the same vendor works for competitors too, which gives them the benefit of prior experience and knowledge, it becomes even more important.

Firstly, GDPR compliance is a requirement for oWorkers, not a choice, as we operate out of the Eurozone. In addition, we offer super secure facilities and protocols for your data security with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015). Our staff also sign NDAs (non-disclosure agreements).

Scalability

Variation in volumes is a common feature of business. The business of data annotation for the healthcare industry is no different. Some businesses retain staff at the peak levels so that transaction flow can be handled. These extra resources, during lean periods, are an additional cost for the business. Some other businesses are able to handle short-term peaks by taking on short-term additional resources and staying lean the rest of the time. BPO providers, if they offer the facility of short-term resourcing, can be of great service to clients, as it enables them to stay lean.

For most projects, our local community associations enable oWorkers to ramp up and down fast. To be more specific, by a hundred headcount in 48 hours.

 

The oWorkers Advantage

As a pure player, specialising in Data and Content services with multilingual capability, oWorkers stands tall amongst its competitors. Our delivery centers are located in three global locations providing the benefit of business contingency in times of need.

All our workforce remains prepared to work from home when required. Our management team has over 20 years of hands-on industry experience. Locally registered in the global centers it operates from, oWorkers has been a consistently profitable enterprise.

As a result, we have been a trusted partner of several UNICORN marketplaces over the years.

Partnering with us creates positive social and economic change through employment in underserved communities. By working with us, you help bring motivated individuals into the global digital economy.

Fundamentals of an Operational Optimization

Fundamentals of an Operational Optimization

Fundamentals of an Operational Optimization

They say that you need to get down into the trenches to fight a battle. It cannot be done merely making strategy in a safe war-room. It is great, and important, to make strategy, to plan, and a lot of very able and experienced people do that, but at some point someone needs to go beyond and fire a bullet, hammer a nail, till the soil, whatever, if any results are to be expected. Merely making strategy and thinking about possible actions will not go very far.

The same is the case with operational optimization.

It is a great idea. Every business leader is not only aware of it, but also buys into it. They are all aware that in a competitive world, it needs to be a continuous process. Everyone in the business should be thinking about it all the time, because their competitors are also doing it.

But eventually, after all the ideating and sermonizing and strategizing is done, it needs to be done.

There are some areas which have been found relevant by many BPOs, as areas that with some focus are capable of delivering enhanced performance. These could benefit the client if specific to a project, or could benefit the supplier, or, as is most likely the case, both. In a partnership, benefits realized by one often spill over to the other. Perhaps true for hindrances as well.

In order that you do not miss the low hanging fruit, not from the ease of benefit realization perspective but more from the perspective of knowing where to look, 8 such areas have been identified and listed in this article.

oWorkers is committed to its niche of data entry services in the BPO space. It is identified as one of the top 3 providers of data services in the world. With expertise gathered over 8 years, it has been working with over a hundred clients and looking for opportunities to make improvements in extant processes. 

Higher customer satisfaction (or experience) score

Customer satisfaction is the holy grail for any business that interfaces with customers. And that means all. A business needs to have customers for it to be one. Often, BPO partners also interact directly with customers. In fact, in some cases the partner perhaps handles a lot more customer interface than the client whose customers they are, particularly when customer interface channels like Call Centers have been outsourced to suppliers. Improving the customer experience has to be a primary variable for any operational optimization envisaged by a company.

Whoever does the interface, customer satisfaction is in everyone’s interest. When he sang “Everything I do, I do it for you,” Bryan Adams may have had amorous intent. However, a business could just as easily sing the same song for its customers without changing a word. They are the reason for their existence, survival and (hopefully) prosperity.

Regardless of the type of measure deployed, with the two most common ones being Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT and Net Promoter Score (NPS), the objective has to be to enhance satisfaction and reduce dissatisfaction.

An NPS survey is usually done at a point of contact or transaction while a CSAT survey is an aggregate that is done periodically. Some companies believe surveys are subject to human bias, of the customer in this case, and prefer to use objective data points like repeat contacts made by a customer if she is calling in, to assess how long it took to resolve the issue. The fewer the contacts, the quicker the resolution.

The key is to establish a baseline measure that is suitable for you, carrying it out repeatedly, identifying the variables that impact scores, to the extent possible, and working on them for resolution.

Reduction in customer dissatisfaction and complaints

Reducing dissatisfaction is at least as important as enhancing satisfaction because in a competitive world, customers often ‘vote with their feet.’ They have no responsibility for telling you what they are dissatisfied about and simply get up and walk away to your competitor, without you ever knowing what went wrong or what you could have done better.

Also, a disengaged customer is perhaps less interested in providing feedback to the company if requested, as compared to a still-interested customer. Hence, it is possible that CSAT and NPS surveys report an inaccurately high positive picture drawn from them. 

Some companies make an extra effort to surface customer dissatisfaction with the objective of identifying them early and heading off the point at which the customer ‘votes with her feet.’ Before she reaches that point, she is likely to have gone through stages where she was perhaps still trying to seek resolution but the responses she received kept pushing her towards the exit door.

While customer dissatisfaction scores are important, some companies, in the belief that these could be biased, try to base their efforts on objective data like customer complaints. Their operational optimization efforts rely on a detailed analysis of customer complaints combined with monitoring trends to ensure they are headed in the right direction.

oWorkers has been trusted by several unicorn marketplaces with their operations. In addition, a large section of our clients are technology companies. This also keeps us on our toes and ensures we deploy the best technologies available.

Reduction in idle time

Idle time could be defined as the time, or duration of time, when paid resources are not engaged in activities that contribute to their assigned work. It could be on account of inadequate work in the queue, it could be because the process is setup in a manner that waiting cannot be avoided, or it could even be a consciously provided idle time in order to prevent resource burnout, especially in repetitive tasks.

Leaving aside conscious idle time, the company will benefit from a reduction in all other forms of idle time. It could be through a tweak of the process sequence or it could be through updated load balancing, as this is time already paid for, without additional cost there is an opportunity of getting additional units produced.

oWorkers works on an employee model, and not a freelancer model. Though it creates the responsibility for managing the careers and growth of staff, it provides us greater flexibility in terms of deployment, helping us review measures like idle time and take steps to keep them in check. With our deep connections in local communities, we are able to offer just-in-time hiring to clients, enabling them to minimize idle resources during lean periods.

Enhancement of output for operational optimization

Doing more with the same, doing the same with less and doing more with less are the eternal mantras of all organizations that are the surrogate variables that enable the organization to move towards its goal of maximization of profit.

Enhancement of output is a key variable, since business is about producing a product or service that gets purchased by a client and generates a revenue stream that goes towards meeting costs as well as profit. If there is no revenue, there is no business. And revenue is an aggregate of products and services sold.

The more the number of units of output, the greater the revenue, and consequently profit, opportunity. As we have discussed elsewhere, this enhancement has to ensure that nothing else changes, or changes only within defined parameters. If you are hiring more people or buying more equipment for increasing output, then it is an expansion, not an improvement or optimization play. But, enhancing output without increasing production costs is an improvement that we should all strive for.

With a culturally diverse team across its three centers, oWorkers offers support in over 22 global languages and works with clients to explore output enhancement options on a continuous basis.

Employment of fewer resources

Operational optimization through deployment of fewer resources is like a mirror image of output enhancement. In terms of units produced per unit of cost or investment it would perhaps achieve similar results. If today we produce 100 units at a cost of $25 per unit, we might try to improve that to a lower number, as would be the case with production enhancement with the same cost structure.

The deployment strategy would depend on the other variables in the mix. Is there a demand for the enhanced production? Are additional resources available at similar or lower costs? Does the company have cash available to invest in more equipment?

Of course, better than producing more with the same and producing same with less would be producing more with less. All options should be kept open. Eventually all roads that lead to the attainment of the goals of the business should be kept open and paved and free from any potholes that could slow us down.

oWorkers is GDPR compliant and ISO ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified. This makes our processes sharp and ensures we don’t carry fat in any part of our operations.

Shorter training duration

Joined at the hip with hiring in a BPO is training. There is usually an almost continuous working of the hiring machinery that keeps providing fodder for the training machinery that smoothens the rough edges and produces diamonds that step out and deliver on client processes and projects.

Though some may argue that it is dependent on the hiring machinery and does not have control over its destiny, others might disagree and argue that any process that needs to be performed as a conscious effort, and involves people, has opportunity for review and improvement. The training process in a BPO is no different.

For the many BPOs that provide training to new hires at their own (the company’s) cost, each minute spent in training is a cost. Hence, if they can find ways of providing the same quality of inputs in a shorter duration of time, it will again contribute towards the end goals of the company.

E-learning technologies have emerged as likely saviours of training teams, equipping them with tools through which they can do more with less. After an initial investment in creating the automated content, e-learning could provide a quick payback in terms of saved trainer time and physical classroom space, leading to operational optimization.

Many clients have reported savings of upto 80% over their pre-outsourcing costs. With the help of initiatives like a close monitoring of training duration, we are able to keep costs reasonable and share the benefits with our clients.

Reduction of manpower attrition

Attrition in the industry has often been compared to a leaking bucket. All efforts at shoring up manpower resources come to nought as the resource bucket the hiring team is trying to fill up has many leaks. Resources keep leaking out of this bucket through attrition, often faster than the hiring tap is filling it.

Of course, it varies from company to company, process to process and location to location. Numerous attempts have been made by the employers to find the root cause and characteristics for it that could enable them to take corrective steps and continue to be made. Do female employees have higher attrition than male? Do graduates attrite more than non-graduates? Do people who need to travel far have a higher tendency to leave as compared to people who live close to the workplace? Is attrition based on the management style of individual team leaders? Is the nature of the client project a determinant in attrition levels? Do centers in big cities face higher attrition than those in smaller towns?

Companies have been trying to answer these questions with a view to taking strategic decisions in order to have a favorable impact on attrition numbers. Attrition is a significant cost. Not only in terms of resources expended in the hiring process, but also in training them. In addition, possibly lower quality delivered at the start by new hires could also be considered as a cost to the business.

Over a period of time, some companies have reached the conclusion that while lower is obviously better, it is a fact of the industry and needs to be managed. Hence, some of them focus on reducing the cost impact caused by attrition and not necessarily the actual number of people leaving. Early go-live and a higher component of performance-based salary have been experimented with by some organizations. As are efforts at setting clear expectations at the time of hiring, which was not always done as the hiring team is goaled on the quantity and speed of hires.

Though oWorkers has been best-in-class as far as attrition is concerned, it leaves no stone unturned to match hiring to client requirements to ensure processes are not adversely impacted at a later stage due to incorrect hiring and attrition. It employs a variety of tools, including emotional and psychometric assessments, to identify the right resources.

Reduction of wait time for operational optimization

Wait time is the time a transaction needs to wait in a holding queue before it is picked up for processing. It does not necessarily apply only to inanimate transactions that typically sit in a queue. It equally applies to a customer who calls in but needs to wait in a queue before the next agent becomes available.

Reduction of a customer’s wait time in a holding queue can positively impact the customer experience.

Reduction of a transaction’s wit time in the processing queue could enhance the efficiency of the overall process and might also impact the customer experience if the output needs to go back to the customer.

Essentially, wait time reduction relies on the ability of the provider to forecast volumes reasonably accurately and set up the service arrangements to match those volume flows. Product mix can change, as can consumer behavior, and service technology. Hence, processes need to be reviewed with a pair of fresh eyes and perspective for identifying opportunities of wait time reduction.

The 20 years plus hands-on experience of our leadership team comes in handy whether it is reducing wait time or any other initiative that helps the company achieve its goals.

The oWorkers advantage

The Quality team of oWorkers is an independent team that reports directly to senior management. Not only does that keep senior management informed about developments on the shopfloor, it also enables the Quality team to keep a check on the output of the delivery team. It leads and guides all improvement initiatives undertaken in oWorkers and is staffed with experts on various quality systems.

9 Tips to Help You Improve the Accuracy in Data Entry

9 Tips to help you Improve the Accuracy in Data Entry

9 Tips to help you Improve the Accuracy in Data Entry

 

An error in recording information pertaining to results of random tests done on drivers for driving under the influence could lead to hundreds of innocent drivers being labelled as drunk drivers.

An error in entering the time of calls could result in wrong calls being sent by a telecommunications provider to investigating authorities leading to innocent people being charged with a crime.

NASA sends a vehicle into space to circle Mars and take pictures to assess the presence of water. The vehicle misses the planet by 900 million miles and is now lost in deep space. Possible culprit: a data entry error.

These are hypothetical examples. But similar events have happened.

Data entry accuracy remains a key requirement for business. Why business, any organization. Or mankind. We all know the GIGO (Garbage In Garbage Out) principle. Output cannot be better than the input. If incorrect information is used for arriving at some conclusion or analysis, the resultant cannot be expected to be correct.

In a business situation, inaccurate decision making is the immediate, obvious result of incorrect data input. Lost revenues, increased costs, wasted media dollars, incorrect hiring decisions, wrong bids, inaccurate segmentation, can all result from a simple data entry mistake.

While it cannot be anyone’s objective to make mistakes, they do happen and often successful businesses get differentiated from unsuccessful ones because they are better able to manage their data entry process and control errors.

oWorkers has been supporting clients from around the world in various kinds of data entry projects. We have consistently delivered over 99% levels of accuracy (and 100% in projects where this was required) over a variety of input applications and measurement systems.  

 

1. Understand the big picture for data entry accuracy

One does not need a sledgehammer to kill a fly.

Different data entry projects have different objectives. Transcribing a handwritten prescription is different from entering the results of a blood test to check for the presence of alcohol. Each project and business has its own set of expectations and a different cost for errors.

Resources and capabilities are finite. If the company invests in sledgehammers for killing flies, it may not have the resources or inclination to buy another sledgehammer when a bigger pest comes around.

Hence it is important to understand the big picture. What is the cost-benefit analysis of investing in error elimination? Till what point? Do we need 100% accuracy or can we make do with 95%. The greater the accuracy requirement, the greater is likely to be the cost associated with it.

oWorkers has a well-oiled project machinery that has transitioned over a hundred projects, including data entry projects. Our project leaders engage with the client in an effort to understand and thrash out the expectations, based on which the contract is written and work done. Understanding the clients’ goals empowers us to take the right decisions when the time comes for a decision.

 

2. Define expectations and set goals

In a setup where people are required to perform mechanical tasks, it is possible, and useful to define performance expectations and set up accuracy goals. Clarity is of utmost importance in achieving data entry accuracy.

Even though at the project level the goals may be understood, the work will eventually be done by individuals. Hence, it is important that each individual involved in the execution understand the expectations and the consequences of doing well or poorly against them.

If there are large teams engaged in execution, it would also be important to ensure that the goals set are equally fair and challenging to all. If some people are assigned lower goals on account of their inexperience, the resultant payouts should also be lower.

oWorkers works with employees, and not freelancers or contractors, like some of our competitors do. We take it upon ourselves to define goals for each individual and also provide growth paths. Regardless of whether an employee is working on data entry or any other assignment, goals and expectations are in place for each individual, with a system for periodic tracking of the same followed by feedback.

 

3. Hire the right resources

For a job that is to be done manually, hiring the right resource will play a key role in the output. Organizations with large data entry requirements usually face a conundrum; what is the right level of experience and educational background to look for. Too qualified, and they may soon lose interest in a repetitive task like data entry. Too unqualified would reflect poorly on inner motivation and desire to succeed.

The consensus that seems to have emerged is that hiring people with basic educational skills is perhaps the right approach. It is supplemented through the provision of job-specific training once hired, to enable them to deliver.

oWorkers is deeply committed to the communities we work in. This makes us a preferred employer in all our locations driving traffic of interested candidates through our doors. This provides us with a choice of qualifications needed by different projects while keeping hiring costs low that are shared with clients. This also gives us the flexibility of ramping up and down at short notice, a service that is useful for many clients as there are invariably some seasonality or strategy-driven peaks and troughs in business volumes.

 

4. Provide training support enhances data entry accuracy

The training team is joined at the hip to the hiring team in most BPOs. It is perhaps the training team that has played a key role in BPOs employing thousands of people who are now able to contribute to the organization and earn a living thanks.

Data entry needs a special mention in this space. It is now widely agreed that the job of a data entry operator does not need any specific educational qualification or work experience. All it really needs is willingness to work and interest in picking up the skills. These rough diamonds are then worked upon by the training team and polished to the point they can deliver.

oWorkers has a dedicated training team at each location we operate from, staffed by professionals who not only make new hires fit for purpose, but also keep assessing tenured staff to identify areas and opportunities for training and upskilling. After all, it is also the organization’s responsibility to ensure that its employees are able to grow.

 

5. Human Resource management for data entry accuracy

Hiring the right resources is clearly an important step, but keeping them engaged and motivated is perhaps an equally important one. This is most relevant in the area of data entry. On account of being a mechanical and routine job, it has the capacity to create mental dullness in the people assigned to the task. It is also easy to get burned out doing the same thing day in and day out, without much scope for mental application.

It starts with ensuring the workload is reasonable and goals are fair. Unreasonable goals and workloads can lead to staff employing short-cuts that are likely to lead to more errors. The compensation matrix should be geared towards rewarding good performance like accuracy in case of data entry.

The surrounding environment should be conducive to producing work of good quality. It could be comfortable chairs, good quality audio systems, breakout areas, healthy snacking choices, timely breaks, neat and clean workplace, or anything else. The more we permit employees to focus on their work, instead of worrying about ambient sounds, creaking furniture and illegible computer screens, the better is the likely output. Set up your employees for success, not failure.

While oWorkers has always prided itself on providing clean, hygienic, modern office spaces, even for people who opt to work from home, we ensure a virtual environment and technology that is conducive to good quality work.

 

6. Deploy an independent Internal Quality team

The Internal Quality team is a fixture in most BPOs. In organizations trying to achieve data entry accuracy, they have an important role to play. Apart from the process improvement measures they seek to bring about to enhance efficiencies, they are also involved in keeping a check on the work done by the delivery teams. They are like an internal ‘external’ party who report not to the delivery organization but to senior management. This enables them to maintain the independence of their work and produce insights that are honest and reflective of the real quality. In addition, they act as the eyes and ears of senior management who they report directly to.

The senior management, since they cannot be everywhere, rely on the insights produced by the Internal Quality team to get an understanding of process health and get more deeply involved if required.

oWorkers uses the full range of services of the Internal Quality team, from continuous improvement to process adherence. The leadership, though they have over 20 years of hands-on experience between them, also rely on this team for keeping track of the multiple projects that are operational at any given time.

 

7. Leverage technology solutions

This is perhaps a no-brainer.

At one level, this might mean automation. If the advances made by technology enable you to automate certain data entry processes that were done manually earlier, chances are that it will happen, once the technology becomes deployable in a commercially feasible manner. Optical Character Recognition OCR), Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) and Speech to Text are some such technologies that are being used.

However, what about the data entry that still needs to be done manually?

Since a computing device has the ability to understand each keystroke that is being pressed, it lends itself well to the production of reports and analyses on the data being entered. By producing reports on trends and exceptions and variances, it should be possible to identify a significant number of incorrect transactions of data entry which can then be corrected. Many tools also provide shortcuts and other utilities that reduce errors. In some cases, it should be possible to put validation rules that do not permit data to be entered unless it satisfies the rule. For example, if the mobile number has 10 digits in a certain geography, unless 10 digits are entered, the information cannot be saved.

oWorkers has forged a number of partnerships with technology companies. These partnerships give us access to the latest technologies introduced by these companies and deploy them for client projects. This way, we are able to control and manage the date entry tasks and mitigate errors. clients also benefit from the use of the latest technologies.

 

8. Implementing process control

Techniques like double key entry have gained in acceptance over a period of time as a method of achieving improved data entry accuracy. As data entry resources are inexpensive, many organizations get the same data entered by two different operators. This often works out better than getting another person to check the entry done by one person. Firstly, a supervisory resource who checks is likely to be more expensive and secondly, checking also being a routine task could suffer from the same issues of wavering attention while doing it, leading to ordinary results.

Depending on the differences in the keystrokes entered by the two people, the data entered could be dealt with in one of the following ways:

  • Passed without further interference
  • Rejected and asked to be input once again
  • Differences verified by a third person, resolved and passed

oWorkers has been doing data entry for clients for over seven years. We use many different techniques for ensuring accuracy of the data that has been entrusted to us for entry, double key entry being one of them. It is the result of process and client need and our experience.

 

9. Outsource to a specialist

When the volume of an activity rises in a free market, more providers emerge and specialization in roles and functions gets seeded. Date entry is no different. Even though automation is a constant endeavour, new tasks and functions emerge that have a need for data entry. Artificial Intelligence (AI), for example, is a new technology that may not have existed a couple of decades back. It has a need for a lot of data entry to be done to build a robust model on which it is going to operate.

BPOs have emerged as specialists in the task of data entry that take on the responsibility over from clients. They have the ability to hire and train resources specifically for data entry which their clients might not have, engaged as they in their core business, be it extracting crude from oilfields, laying undersea cables for telecommunications or flying passengers in aeroplanes. With aggregated volumes across clients, BPOs also develop the heft to invest in technology as well as process improvement techniques to bring about efficiencies. Hence, entrusting the task to a specialist goes a long way in ensuring data entry accuracy.

oWorkers has supported over a hundred clients, and executed many data entry projects for them. Our clients claim savings of almost 80% when they outsource to us, without any loss of quality. We are GDPR compliant and ISO certified. With facilities in three of the most sought-after BPO destinations, we are able to provide support in over 22 languages most commonly used around the world. We count many technology companies as well as unicorn marketplaces amongst our clients. Your business also enables us to create employment opportunities in the communities we work with and issue a ticket to youngsters to enter the gig economy.

8 process optimization techniques: How to get started

8 process optimization techniques: How to get started

8 process optimization techniques: How to get started

A process is understood to refer to a series of steps designed to lead to a particular end or goal, in the common language sense of the term. 

In an organization, ‘process’ is used in almost identical fashion, and collectively signifies the sequence that needs to be gone through, or actions that need to be performed, to move from the starting point to the ending point, of that process, not necessarily of the entire product or service.

An organization is perpetually in the throes of trying to achieve something, because that something or the many somethings give it the reason for its existence. As an artificial entity, if it is not delivering or doing what it was created for, there would be no point in it existing. At any given point of time there are numerous processes in motion simultaneously.

Need to set up a meeting with the Finance Head? You need to reach out. Either offer your available slots or ask the Finance Head for the same? The other person then checks and confirms one. It is a process.

A new employee has been hired and needs to be onboarded. The identified HR resource will take the new hire through the onboarding process that will familiarize her with the company and enable her to function better. It is a process.

One of the clients has called in to report an issue being faced with your company’s SaaS solution that they had purchased. You will be logging it with the technical team. Based on priority allocated, they will take it up for investigation and resolution. They will implement the change that is required, through a process, and confirm to you. You will confirm to the client. It is a process.

In a way everything is a process.

But how did they come about? Who set them up?

The answer to this lies in the reason for the existence of the business that is being served by these processes. The big goal is well defined, that of making money, by engaging in a certain kind of work or activity. However, making money is not something that can be done. It is an outcome or resultant. Effort of various kinds needs to be put in so that the end goals might be realized. By breaking down objectives into distinct steps that need to be performed, we end up with processes. When referred to in the context of a business, they are also referred to as business processes.

Method, system, procedure, workflow are some of the other terms that are used in place of process.

What is optimization?

Optimization is the term used for the action of making the best or most effective use of a situation or resource.

Read together, process optimization is the action that seeks to run a process in the most effective manner possible to equip the organization such that it has a better chance of achieving its goals. It is also often referred to as improvement or continuous improvement in different organizations. A slightly broader term used in a similar context is quality or total quality.

Despite providing best in class pricing and services, like the ability to ramp by a hundred resources in 48 hours, like pricing that enables clients to shave off almost 80% of their pre-outsourcing costs, oWorkers comes packed with a slew of resources adept at identifying and delivering improvement initiatives for client projects.

Process optimization techniques

We just learned that all planned activities in a company are processes that exist with the objective of facilitating the achievement of its goals.

If all work in a company is done through processes, then even process optimization, a process that seeks to make other processes more efficient, must be managed as a process.

Ideas and inspiration can come from anywhere. But merely an idea is not enough until it is implemented. The process of implementation requires discipline and acceptance. While an individual or solo entrepreneur might go about bringing about change in her own defined way, larger organizations place their trust in time-trusted processes that have been built through the effort of many before them.

Man’s need for striving and doing better has resulted in the evolution of many standards and process optimization techniques that are now widely used around the world. Most of them evolved with manufacturing, which is where most business processes were run, and have only in the last few decades begun to be applied to processes in service industries as they have continued to acquire scale. An overview of some of the more common ones is provided here:

 

1. Customer Operation Performance Center (COPC)

Another adherent to the elimination of waste philosophy. It is a collection of many standards governing performance of different types of organizations, like Vendor Management, Outsourced Service Provider, Healthcare Service Provider, etc.

It is almost like an overarching management philosophy that seeks to guide operations every step of the way, with a lot of emphasis on data collection. For OSPs, the framework evaluates benefits in terms of cost savings, revenue gains, performance gains and intangible benefits.

2. Six Sigma

Six Sigma has come to represent the philosophy of continuous improvement and is widely followed in service industries around the world.

Six Sigma is a statistical concept originally used in manufacturing. A process was said to be operating at six sigma levels of quality if it kept defects to under 3.4 for every million units produced. It is a data-driven technique that seeks to drive out variations in the process so that customers get a predictable experience.

3. International Standards Organization (ISO)

ISO is a private non-profit headquartered in Geneva whose mission is to promote the development of standardization. In order to keep pace with changing times they have introduced a number of quality management systems like ISO 9000:2005, ISO 9000:2008, ISO 9004:2009

It seeks to document elements needed to operate a quality system and follow the documentation. It focuses on customer satisfaction, meeting regulatory requirements and achieving improvement.

It can be applied to any industry. More than 160 nations are members of ISO.

4. Kaizen

A number of quality standards and improvement methodologies developed in Japan during the period after the second world war when it was trying to come out of the devastation of that war. Kaizen is one such. ‘Kai’ stands for change and ‘Zen’ for good. The Kaizen philosophy seeks to bring about change for the better.

The core beliefs of the philosophy are:

  • Good processes bring good results
  • Manage with data and facts
  • Big results come from small changes, over time
  • Correct the root cause, the rest will follow

5. Lean

The Lean methodology seeks to promote a culture of continuous improvement. Its focus is the elimination of all non-value-adding activities throughout the entire process chain.

Some common examples of waste that Lean might focus on: Overproduction, Waiting time, Transportation, Scrap, Rework and Inspection.

It promotes techniques for running a process such that waste can be eliminated.

6. People Capability Maturity Model (PCMM)

PCMM, modelled on CMM (Capability Maturity Model) has become a useful tool in the services world, with its focus on people and their development. With a battle raging for attracting the best resources, PCMM establishes a program for continuous development of the workforce, with integrated process improvement, and enables adopting organizations to become preferred employers. It focuses on institutionalization of change and introduces practices that are repeatable and measurable, eventually leading to a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement. It covers a wide variety of process areas, Training and Development, Compensation, Career Development, to name a few.

7. DMAIC

DMAIC stands for the Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control sequence of steps that this technique proposes.

It continues to be one of the most popular techniques adopted by organizations for their optimization initiatives. It does not need linkages with any steps in the past or future. It can be implemented as an independent set of steps for any change the organization seeks to bring about.

It can be used as a standalone or in conjunction with other standards like Six Sigma.

8. PDCA

PDCA stands for Plan, Do, Check, Act and is another popular technique used in many companies for process optimization. The process takes followers through the following sequence:

P

Plan

Establish objectives and method to be followed

D

Do

Implement the plan. Collect data before and after implementation.

C

Check

Study data and review results.

A

Act

Bake the new method into the regular processes or initiate another PDCA cycle till you reach goals.

One can do repeated cycles of PDCA and keep modifying the methodology as one learns more.

With the support of an independent Quality team, oWorkers stands shoulder to shoulder with its clients in the quality journey, constantly searching for areas where process optimization techniques could be implemented to achieve improvement. It consists of people adept at several of the techniques and are goaled on the improvement they are able to bring about.

 

The starting point

Whatever be the methodology adopted by the company to achieve its goals, the starting point is always a challenge.

Is it more valuable to improve customer satisfaction or should we focus on bringing down the cost of delivery?

Would reduction of cycle time deliver great benefits to the client or should we first work on reducing our training period?

While benchmarks can be used, like comparison against competitors on key parameters, or financial performance of the company over several years, it eventually boils down to the understanding of the business by the leadership team. They may need to take a call on the focus area so that real work can begin.

With a leadership that has 20 years of hands-on experience in the industry, our senior management is well placed to identify areas that could do with some improvement.

Process optimization techniques – measuring benefits

The primary goal of a company being to make money for its owners is well known and understood. That it is sought to be achieved through a specific area of work is also well known and understood. It, therefore, follows that the primary benefit that is to be delivered through the application of process optimization techniques should be to improve the bottomline.

Different companies operate at different scales and levels of complexity. There could be an entrepreneur who provides fresh food to migrant workers who might be working alone. There could be a global financial institution operating in 50 countries with a workforce of over 100,000 employees. Process optimization holds value for both.

In the case of the entrepreneur, at this stage of her business, it is likely that complexity is limited and the impact of any single action is visible on the Income Statement. If she hires a person to deliver the food, she can immediately see the profit reducing. But, in a few days, if her orders have gone up as a result, she can also conclude that it was perhaps due to the additional service she is now offering. Hence, for a small business, it might be possible to quantify the benefit in terms of the impact on the bottomline.

In case of global behemoths like global financial institutions or technology companies or car makers, it becomes more difficult to trace each impact to the bottomline. How does a person who sells mutual funds to target customers in a branch in Accra in Ghana, see the impact of his actions on the Income Statement of the company? His contribution perhaps passes through so many levels of consolidation that it loses its color by the time it gets vomited on an Income Statement. Besides, even if visible, it will be lost on the rounding off that invariably must happen in consolidating numbers. Similarly, the process of Credit Card collections in Buenos Aires in Argentina cannot realistically see the impact of their actions on the Balance Sheet.

So, are these contributions not important? Should they be ignored?

Quite to the contrary, if the institution is big today it is only because of the combined result of thousands of such people and processes. They are the pillars on which its success stands.

This is where surrogate variables become useful; variables that can be used as interim measures as a representative of the real or final variable. Surrogate variables are what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of a vast number of people are based on and similar KPIs can be used as surrogate variables to measure the benefits of the impact of the application of process optimization techniques.

To ensure that we are always looking for opportunities to do things better, oWorkers works with clients in identifying a bunch of different such surrogate variables that add value to either the client or oWorker business, or both. Some of the improvement areas we have targeted are listed below:

  • Higher customer satisfaction score
  • Reduction in cycle time
  • Enhancement of output
  • Higher revenue realization per customer
  • Employing fewer resources
  • Shorter training duration
  • Faster turnaround time
  • Reduction of manpower attrition
  • Reduction in customer complaints
  • Lower number of cases opened for rework

‘Everything else remaining the same’ is the principle that should never be disregarded, whatever the area being targeted for optimization. A shorter training duration resulting in more errors is always possible, but cannot be called optimization or improvement. If we can reduce the training duration without increasing the number of errors, or without impacting adversely on customer satisfaction, is what can be called improvement.

Enhancement of output can be easily done by ‘throwing people at it’ if it is a manual process or buying more equipment. It does not require a genius to do it. However, it does require a genius to increase output without increasing headcount or without buying more equipment. That is optimization.

Hence, while embarking on an optimization exercise, it is equally important to understand the surrounding variables and parameters and ensure that they stay with acceptable ranges while you strive to optimize in a particular area.

Conclusion

Implementation of process optimization techniques is no longer a choice for organizations, it is a necessity, to keep themselves ahead of the curve.

With its focus on data based BPO work, and its selection as one of the top three providers of data services in the world, oWorkers remains a partner of choice for outsourcing your work to. We are GDPR compliant and ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified and have an independent Quality team that can guide the improvement project regardless of the framework adopted.