What is content moderation?

What is content moderation?

What is content moderation?

We may not realize it, but each time we interact with any of the social media platforms, we are either consuming content that someone else has created or creating content that we would like others to consume. A review I wrote of the last book I read, photographs of my niece’s wedding last week, an update on travelling to the Maldives, are different forms of content I am creating that I want to share with others, get them to read/ view it and interact with me.

Similarly, many other people I know are doing the same, with the same intent of getting others, like me, to consume and interact with them. In this case they are the producers and I am the consumer. Many platforms have also evolved as tools for disseminating information. It is common for authorities to keep their Twitter handle updated so that people can get accurate information on what is going on, especially in times of a crisis or emergency. During the Covid-19 pandemic, social platforms have widely been used by people to spread information on availability of beds in hospitals, drugs, etc.

Of course, social media platforms, while they have the potential for good, can also be abused, like anything else. They are often leveraged for spreading malicious information about communities and groups. They are used for spreading rumors and lies, to the extent of threatening the law and order situation.

 

Social media for business

An unimaginable amount of data is being created every moment that is being shared and consumed over social media platforms.

As consumers are spending so much time on social media platforms, it creates a natural interest for organizations who have always been seeking ways and means of reaching their target populations in the most effective manner. Hence, if consumers, of all kinds, are already present here, can businesses be far behind?

Social media platforms provide an opportunity for companies to interact with consumers in a most close-to natural setting as might be possible. They leverage these platforms to create awareness about their products and services, in other words promoting their products and services. At the same time, they can keep getting information on consumer tastes and preferences, a kind of a market research and survey in a natural setting, as opposed to the artificial setting of a survey form being filled.

On account of being digital platforms which require creation of a profile or account by users, the consumer demographic information is available to these platforms at a level of detail that was hitherto not possible. Advertising in tabloids and newspapers and billboards was like a scatter-gun approach; you spray a lot of bullets around in the hope that a few will find the target and hit them. In the case of social platforms, for a fee, the platform will make available demographic data to these companies who will then be able to drill down to the specific segment of people they wish to reach, without wasting their message on others. Thus, there is a greater ‘bang for the buck’ that is available to corporations.

 

The case for content moderation

Organizations are busy leveraging social media platforms to further their interests. They are busy creating communities and groups in a bid to bolster their presence and appeal and brand recall.

At the same time, the raw platform exists, for all users who may choose to sign up and create an account on it. They could choose to engage with their own groups and communities or the world at large. They could choose to become a part of the communities created and sponsored by other users, like the organizations we referred to, or create groups and communities themselves. Whichever their method of engagement, a wide choice of both consumption and production of content remains available to all users.

Taking the scattergun analogy a little further, we need to watch out for the ‘loose cannons’ amongst social media platform users. By and large every individual is a responsible, caring being. However, there could be some who are not. Without delving into the reasons that make them so, we know that crime is a reality, murders do take place, rapes and thefts happen. On the ‘civil code’ side of the divide, contracts get violated, leading to litigation and court cases.

Social media is yet another platform that is subject to all the variety and vagaries of the human mind and human psyche. For many, it is that safe corner where I can be me, away from the prying eyes of the world. I do not have a social setting where I am being watched or judged, at least immediately. This ‘safety’ of the world wide web can be toxic and heady and could lead people to create content that is not kosher for the rules that civil society has defined for itself. There could be graphic content posted that is poison for the young minds that throng to these platforms. There could be hateful content that could have the potential of inciting people against people and communities against other communities. Content could also be illegal.

In order that these platforms do not degenerate into a free-for-all or anything-goes, they need to be moderated, or watched over. This is the responsibility we have to ourselves and to civil society. This is what is commonly known as content moderation. It is a practice followed by all social media platforms that position themselves as open platforms.

oWorkers has established itself as a premier data services BPO. One of our key offerings is social media content moderation. We have supported global clients to manage increasing volume of content by deploying tools along with trained human resources to manage the activity. We have been identified as one of the top three data services BPO providers in the world.

With a presence spanning three geographies and ability to deliver services in over 22 languages, oWorkers is a one-stop shop for many of our clients.

 

How it works

In simple terms, it is the practice of monitoring content and moderating it, where required. Moderation can take two basic forms; the content can be modified, or it might be disapproved for display (or deleted). In other words, it will not be available to other users of the platform. Of course, each platform and community owner would have many different ways of executing these two actions.

Setting expectations is perhaps the logical place to start when one wishes to implement rules. While platform owners may have Terms and Conditions that they ask users wishing to use the platform to sign, organizations who leverage the platforms for furthering their organizational interests by developing, nurturing and supporting vibrant communities round their products and services, may also wish to lay down the Terms and Conditions, or Guidelines, for the users and visitors of their platform. That being done, it makes their task of taking actions like deletion and modification justified and simple. At least one will not get a “you never told me,” objection.

oWorkers runs a battery of tests before we hire people for this activity. As can be imagined, reviewing content that can be disturbing, has the potential of leaving emotional scars on the people reviewing it. oWorkers being a preferred employer in the regions we operate in helps in attracting talent and giving us choices. The hired resources are provided with training before deployment on client engagements.

Our access to a deep pool of resources also enables us to cater to peaks and troughs in volumes, which can be a costly exercise for clients.

 

Techniques of content moderation

You can choose from a variety of moderation methods. Of course, one will need to take into account the profile of users, purpose of the community, time sensitivity of content and other factors before deciding on one, or a combination of more than one, methods. The common ones are:

No moderation

This is also a choice, sometimes forced by circumstances. You may consider your community to be small, or made up of homogeneous, uniformly disposed people and hence decide upon no moderation. Or, it could be a principled stand that you take deciding upon no moderation. In any way you arrive at the decision, this is also a moderation method in a manner of speaking.

Pre-moderation

Content is screened by a moderator before it becomes visible or available on the platform. It becomes visible only if the moderator decides that it can be made visible.

The advantage of using this method is obvious. It gives the owner of the space the highest level of control. You can control exactly what you would like there and eliminate what you don’t.

On the flip side, this creates the greatest lag in making the content available. There could be peaks and troughs in volumes of course but any manual activity will consume some time, creating a possibility of backlog and delay. Users who are creating content may get put off by these delays and may look at the site as one that ‘manages’ interactions instead of letting them flow freely.

Besides, of course, it will be expensive as it uses human beings.

Post-moderation

The difference in this method of content moderation is that it allows the content to be published without passing through a checkpoint. The content is verified after it has already been published.

The big advantage this method has is that it satisfies users who like to see their content visible immediately. It will also make the community or platform appear to be open, permitting all content to be published.

On the flip side, it could permit content that needs to be deleted, to also be visible for some time. While it will be deleted, some viewers may have seen it, reacted to it, copied it and shared it further.

Distributed moderation

In this method you leverage your users, almost entirely, for the content moderation that needs to be done. The community is set up in a manner that users’ interaction with the content leads to its promotion and demotion on the platform. Thus, unpopular content or content that is voted down, will gradually cease to be visible to new visitors; unless they make the effort to scroll to the ends of the page/ community for the sake of finding that content.

This could be an effective method where the community is homogeneous and aligned on their views on appropriate and inappropriate not only within themselves but with the owners of the community as well.

Reactive moderation

This method assumes that all content is good, unless a consumer points out to the contrary. The site makes available reporting tools allowing offended users to highlight such content.

It is extremely cost-effective as far as the requirement of people for moderation is concerned. However, there is very little control on content. You are relying on someone to be offended enough to raise an objection so that you come to know of it, review it and take a call.

There is really no assurance that all content that violates policy, or is illegal or is hateful and hurtful, can be removed through this mechanism. Consumers also need to be aware and motivated to report.

Automated moderation

Then there are automated solutions, mainly in the form of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI and Machine Learning (ML) have gradually been gathering pace. While humans have almost perfected the art of getting machines to understand structured text, what we know as software code, doing the same with unstructured text has been a challenge. With AI, that frontier is also being crossed now.

Training data sets are being created that mimic human behavior and separate the acceptable from the non-acceptable ones, based on which AI models are implemented.

These tools have the advantage of speed and coverage. They can scan an input almost as soon as it has been created. In addition, they don’t miss anything. However, a human watch is still needed to tackle the issues beyond their ken, as well as ensure that their actions are correct.

With its wide-ranging partnerships with technology companies, oWorkers is able to access the latest technologies relevant for moderation of content. These technologies are also deployed for client projects. Added to our GDPR compliance and ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certifications, gives us the width of capabilities to handle any moderation job for our clients.

 

Content moderation through an outsourced partner

The need has been established.

Will you do it inhouse? Or would you like to hire a specialist partner like oWorkers to execute on your behalf, like many other organizations have done?

The advantages of outsourcing are obvious:

  • You can focus on your core tasks
  • You get the knowledge and skills of an experienced specialist partner; otherwise you will have to build that inhouse
  • With its hiring and training ability, a partner like oWorkers can hire and attract the right talent for the best price
  • It is a more cost-effective solution

Of course, the choice is yours.

What is Business Process Outsourcing? How Does BPO Work?

What is Business Process Outsourcing? How Does BPO Work?

What is Business Process Outsourcing? How Does BPO Work?

“What is BPO company?” is a question that can be answered in a very simple manner by saying that “it is a company that does BPO work.” 

The answer, expectedly, would then lead to the next question, “what is BPO work?” or even “what is BPO?”

BPO is an acronym for Business Process Outsourcing, the all-encompassing term that encompasses a wide variety of industries and functions in its fold. It offers process outsourcing support services to clients. What it means is that it takes on processing activities on behalf of its clients, for a consideration, a fee. This typically happens when a client has a process which it believes can create greater value if done by a third party for a fee. As in other business engagements, the deal gets consummated when there is a buyer for a service and a seller offering the service and they are able to agree on terms that might be considered mutually beneficial for both parties. 

The ‘O’ part of the term gained currency because there was a third party involved that would be doing the work. Over a period of time, and as process outsourcing matured, many organizations found it worthwhile to set up processing centers of their own. These have come to be known as Global Inhouse Centers (GICs) to differentiate them from BPO companies. In almost all cases, these processing units are set up as independent companies. This means that technically, the usage of the term BPO is still correct since the work is being ‘outsourced’ to a third party.

However, this is more of a ‘letter’ difference and not a ‘spirit’ difference. Though it is a separate company, the overall management is under the same umbrella organization. Besides, this may not be true in all cases.

To overcome this limitation, NASSCOM, the Indian IT and ITES industry body had suggested that people in the industry start using the term BPM (Business Process Management) instead of BPO. BPM is a wider term and would include not only outsourced work but also work being done by a separate unit of the same company. It would also reflect the aspect of ‘managing’ the work instead of just ‘doing it.’ Some people did start using BPM but BPO continues to be the most commonly used term by most people. Hence, the question still is, “What is BPO company?” and not “what is BPM company?”

oWorkers operates from three global locations, and is well known for its capability in providing BPO services to clients around the world. In its chosen area of specialization, offering data services, it has been repeatedly identified as one of the top three providers in the world.

 

Drivers of the decision 

The following could be the drivers of the decision to move work from a client to what is a BPO company:

It is a non-core activity

Every business has a reason for its existence, apart from that of making money for its owners. Each business has a defined way in which that money is expected to be made. 

An insurance company will make money selling insurance at reasonable rates after an assessment of the risks such that their payouts and operational expenses are less than their revenues.

A car maker will make money selling cars that they build, or assemble, with the help of many parts and components that they source from suppliers. Thus, they are already used to outsourcing, though sourcing of parts of product outsourcing and not process outsourcing.

A hotel will make money selling its rooms and F&B products and services such that it earns more than they spend on maintaining their facility and providing the services.

The same is true for many other industries.

From time to time, they will be called upon to perform tasks which run the risk of distracting them from their core activity. This could even be a perennial activity. The insurance company might need to set up a Call Center to service its growing customer base. The car maker might need to  

It does not possess the skill sets

In a way this is related to the earlier point, of being a non-core activity. A manufacturing company might hire engineers, a hospital might hire nursing and medical staff, a legal firm might hire lawyers, an accounting firm might hire accountants as their primary resource. These employees are perhaps adept at the work they have been hired for.

However, should the need arise for activities outside their core skill-set, like data entry in an Excel sheet, or tagging images for Machine Learning, they will be found wanting. Not just wanting, also unwilling. If they were willing, they could be taught, as these skills are taught by what is a BPO company to their staff. So, effectively, the company does not possess the skill-set to do many of these activities inhouse.

A related consideration is the potential impact on its regular business activities. If insurance sales people started doing Excel data entry, who will do insurance sales?  

Others can do it better

This is the value proposition. Inability to do an activity inhouse only holds value when there is an external party who can do it either better, or cheaper or create value in some other form. If none were present, the company with the need would perforce have to create the skills and infrastructure to be able to do it inhouse, blurring the distinction between what is BPO company and what is not.

However, the existence of what is a BPO company comes to the rescue here. These companies are geared to offer services that many large corporations, or even smaller ones, would like to outsource for either or both the reasons shared earlier. They have created an infrastructure for providing these skills. Like oWorkers, for example.

oWorkers is a contributing member of the communities it operates in. This makes it a preferred employer and drives in walk-in jobseekers right through the year. This creates a ready source for fulfilment of manpower requirements of the projects it handles for clients, whether fresh or replacement. It even creates the flexibility to cater to staffing for peaks and troughs in client volumes. This is a significant benefit as it saves the client the expense of carrying peak level staff through the year. The ability to right-staff is supported by its training team that fulfils the skilling requirement for enabling an employee to work on a client project. Their training capability enables them to hire relatively low-skilled staff and train them up, keeping salary costs in control. The knowledge that has been transitioned from the client to oWorkers via the transition or project teams.

With its partnership with a number of IT companies, oWorkers accesses cutting edge technologies and deploys them for client delivery. This way its clients also get the benefit of current technologies. We are GDPR compliant and ISO (27001 :2013 & 9001:2015) certified.

 

What is a BPO company – industry view

One of the definitions used for a Central Bank in an economy is that it acts as a bank for banks. It Takes in deposits from banks and lends money to them. It is kind of a banker of last resort.

From the industry perspective, BPO could be viewed as something similar. Of course, we will need to ignore a fundamental difference that a Central Bank is usually a statutory body, a kind of a quasi- governmental undertaking, while a BPO company is another commercial organization, interacting with other commercial organizations.

As companies in different industries have gone about doing their business, they have realized that they have to perform many activities and tasks that they are not equipped to handle as effectively. Here they have been supported by the emergence of what is a BPO company that specializes in many tasks that they are not able to do. It could be handling their Call Center operations, or monitoring their social media handles, or replying to their chat messages, or converting legacy information into digitized content, there are a host of such activities.

Moreover, since there are many companies who seek to outsource that work, the vendors come into a position where they can consolidate the work across different clients and create excellence in that activity. They could even develop the ability to invest in technology as a result of the application of the technology being across multiple clients. A single client, for that work, would never have been able to invest in technology or process enhancement measures.

So, in the first instance, the services offered by what is a BPO company led to the establishment of an industry, known as the BPO industry. Many such vendors became a part of this industry, distinct from the Shipping, or Banking, or Travel, or Airline, or Pharmaceutical industries that have been in existence for a long time. Some also like to refer to it as the ITES, or Information Technology Enables Services, industry. Either way, it managed to establish an identity for itself. 

In the early days, the identity of these providers used to be fluid. When they spoke to a bank, they became specialists in banking services. When they pitched to a pharmaceutical company, they made themselves out to be specialists in that industry. 

However, with time, and the growth of the industry, has come some amount of crystallisation of identity. This also got coupled with the tendency to create finer and finer niches and segments as something matures. BPO has been no different. It is likely that now we will find BPO providers who specialize by industry. Some might position themselves as specialists in catering to one particular industry and a set of others might specialize in another industry.

 

What is a BPO company – functional view

A similar process has been under way on the functional side. 

As companies in different industries have gone about doing their business, they have realized that they have to perform many activities and tasks that they are not equipped to handle as effectively. They might need to do hiring, which they don’t have much experience in. They would need to comply with financial and taxation related regulations which their engineers and bankers are ill equipped to do. They might need to carry out maintenance of the facilities they operate from, and abide by municipal guidelines on fire safety and other health and safety related issues. These could also give them sleepless nights as this is not something their knowledge and experience equipped them to do.

Here too, they have been supported by the emergence of what is a BPO company that specializes in many tasks that they are not able to do. 

Again, as there are many companies that seek to outsource these services, the provider is well placed to consolidate and invest in technology and process improvement initiatives. There would also be a tendency to create niches based on capability and knowledge, to position themselves more strongly. The trade-off, as usual, is between having a diffused presence in a wide market or a sharply focused presence in a small market. To each their own strategy.

 

How does BPO work

Simply stated, a BPO engagement is like any other business engagement. There are two parties to the arrangement, a client and a provider. As it is a B2B engagement, it often requires several rounds of discussions to come to reach agreement. The client specifies the services they want and in what manner. The competing providers showcase their capability and make an effort to convince the client that they will be able to create the greatest value for their business. The terms and conditions of the arrangement are worked out, the client makes a choice and offers the business to one of the bidders, while keeping one or more as backups for the eventuality that the original vendor agreement does not work out for some reason. Usually there are two levels of contracts. There is one overall, overarching agreement, generally known as a Master Service Agreement (MSA), that defines the main or broad contractual obligations of each party. A second layer of contracts works under the MSA and are known as Statements of Work (SOWs). These are drawn up at the level of a service or a project that is unique to the relationship and defines in greater detail how it will be executed. For every new service agreed, which is unique, a new SOW will be drawn up. 

 

Get the oWorkers advantage

oWorkers is led by a team with over twenty years of hands-on experience in the industry. In the eight years we have been in existence, we have transitioned over a hundred client projects. Our clients from the US and Western Europe report savings of almost 80% after outsourcing to us. 

oWorkers is your answer to the “what is BPO company” question.

How to stand out from the crowd in the BPM Industry

How to stand out from the crowd in the BPM Industry

How to stand out from the crowd in the BPM Industry

The rapid growth of the Business Process Management (BPM) industry over the last few decades has been fueled by simple and, if we may say so, common business ambitions; of finding the best value. Its growth has been in-step with the transformation taking place in digital and communications technology at the same time, and the expansion of the internet to the deepest corners of the world.

With low skill requirements, and the technology backbone becoming a commodity, there have been few barriers to a provider setting up shop, making the industry extremely competitive. Many don’t survive, unable to face the rigors of drumming up business from clients while ensuring a steady supply of resources who will do the work.

Of course, many others do survive and thrive, from large companies with a wide variety of offerings, to small, niche players.

Like oWorkers, a niche player operating in the space of data-based BPM services. It has made an outsized impact in its eight plus years of existence, being recognized as one of the top three providers in the world.

 

Historical driver – labor cost arbitrage

The industry has been driven by the desire to find the best prices for human resources, which is the major resource deployed by the industry. The industry handles business and transactions that need human intelligence to be performed. What could be automated has been automated, the rest is handled manually. No doubt, as technology develops and advances, it will take over more and more work that is currently done manually.

With the expansion of the internet and the world being truly connected to the World Wide Web, along with greater bandwidth being available for the smooth flow of information across the networks, much of the work today can be done from anywhere in the world. Thus, the industry has kept expanding in search of the best labor costs, along with suitability in terms of education and skill sets. Other costs like real estate are also important, but, in general, they have also tended to be lower in geographies where labor rates are lower.

oWorkers attracts a steady stream of walk-in applicants, as they are regarded as preferred employers in each of the geographies they operate in. Over and above the labor cost benefits provided by their delivery center locations, this stream of applicants saves advertising cost for attracting talent. Eventually, the savings get passed on to clients through the pricing model

Challenges with the model of labor-cost arbitrage

The labor-cost arbitrage driven model, though it has served the industry well, has limitations. It cannot go on endlessly. Most of the geographies with a supply of skilled resources in large numbers have been taken, whether it is India, or the Philippines, or Egypt or Nigeria. There is very little untapped real estate or population centers to go to now.

Driving greater productivity from a human resource is not an endlessly achievable goal. At some stage it will be maxed out.

The low cost is already baked into the calculations of clients. Providers can no longer say that they have halved the processing cost. That was done years back. The halved cost is now the baseline. Where can they take it from the half? Clients are always hungry for more.

Over time, with work moving from higher to lower-cost resource pools, the relative cost advantages can be expected to reduce, even as prosperity rises. Thus, the industry can also be viewed as a channel for the promotion of financial equality around the world.

oWorkers provides labor market benefits that few competitors can match. Clients swear by their ability to support unexpected and unplanned peaks in demand by providing up to a hundred additional resources within 48 hours.

 

Future drivers of the industry

As the industry evolves, how should participants prepare for a future that is at least as exciting and profitable as the present?

Go from BPO to BPM

BPO to BPM is a step forward.

How?

The usage of the term BPM over the more traditional reference of BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) is itself a reflection of the change taking place.

The concept of BPO assumes that the provider is an ‘outsourcing’ partner who is able to perform activities that they have been asked to by the client, and only as well as the client can do themselves. It assumes a relationship where the provider had a somewhat subservient role to the client, even where the provider and client were two parts of the same company.

BPM, where ‘management’ replaces ‘outsourcing,’ takes the relationship to a level of equality. It says that the engagement is a partnership where the provider is being engaged because they are better equipped to manage the transactions that need to be done, and in a more holistic manner that adds value to the client’s business.  

oWorkers has organically developed the capability of multi-lingual support and can, today, support clients in over 20 languages. This is another example of the ownership oWorkers demonstrates over the projects assigned by clients. They manage the work completely and do not merely turn around outsourced transactions.

Lead with technology

That technology will continue to be a significant factor in our lives and that it will continue to change and advance, are a given.

Providers need to come out of the clients’ shadow. Instead of continuing to use their technologies for processing, they need to start implementing best-in-class technology solutions for an activity and soliciting business from a position of strength.

They have the advantage of volumes. One client may not be able to justify investing in a technology, say for invoice processing, either because of lack of volumes or because it is not a revenue-generating activity. Providers, however, can tick both these boxes and invest in technologies that are advanced.

With technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPO) looming on the horizon, these could be exciting times for BPM providers with the appetite to invest in technology.

oWorkers operates from super secure facilities & protocols for client data security requirements, with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015). They are also GDPR compliant. They have deep relationships with technology providers, enabling them to adopt state-of-the-art technologies for client projects.

Not just lower cost

Instead of operating from the shadows, with clients unwilling to openly acknowledge and recognize the relationship as sometimes happens, BPMs need to move to an open, public relationship with their clients.

This is important because the channels of engagement with customers are rapidly expanding., Customers are no longer coming through only the Call Center. They are coming through every nook and corner they can squeeze through. Even back-office transactions handled by vendors eventually impact customers. Even without running Call Centers, BPM will be the one who will either impact a customer’s experience through their transaction processing capabilities, or be the first to know customer feedback and reaction.

BPMs will need to demonstrate their willingness and capability to operate as extensions of the client who can add to their top line, instead of being a cost center that has to be managed to lower its cost.

Clients testify to savings up to 80% when outsourcing to oWorkers, especially for clients from Western Europe and North America. However, clients keep coming back because oWorkers operates like a partner, not a vendor.

Pricing model

For the longest time, the full-time equivalent (FTE) based pricing has been the default model in the industry, which is also known as the input-price based model, which defines the resources that are contracted to be deployed for the job. Output and outcome-based models have been experimented with but have found, at best, limited success.

With the FTE-based model as the standard, vendors have traditionally had little incentive in delivering processing efficiencies. And understandably so, as delivering efficiencies would mean a reduction in headcount and consequent reduction in revenue. The only time vendors do make an attempt to deliver efficiencies is when they are pitching for new business; in other words, when they really have no clue what the business is about.

What is the solution?

Though outcome-based models have not caught on widely, they seem to be the way to go. Getting a reasonable set of performance parameters to base it is tricky, but worth striving for.

Vendors have to evolve to gainshare-based models in pricing; a model where the vendor is incentivized to deliver efficiencies by getting a share of what is gained by the client.

These are arrangements a mature industry will expect.

oWorkers has pioneered pricing models, including their much admired one of offering a choice to clients between an input and output-based pricing model. They initiate gain-share model discussion at an early stage in client negotiations and solidify the model if the client is willing.

Specialization

BPM vendors are well placed to develop specialization in certain types of transactions and processes as a result of handling them for a bouquet of clients. A client, on their own, will only know about the work in that area they do for themselves, never for others. A BPM provider, on the other hand, by virtue of handling transactions for different clients, is in a position to understand the best way of processing and also implement learnings from one client into the processing of another client.

Higher aggregated volumes also provide them the leverage and ROI to invest in both technology and process improvement that, once again, individual clients on their own may not be able to.

Process and vertical specific knowledge and capability could be the key to unlocking value for clients as well as for providers. Providers are well placed to leverage the sweet spot created by the intersection of their knowledge of the client industry, emerging relevant technologies and customer needs as, in many cases, they are the closest to all three.

oWorkers has led from the front in specializing in services that are of more recent provenance and have gained expertise in them. Community content moderation, data annotation and invoice processing are a few of these services in which they lead delivery.

Outcome based commitments

A B2B decision is never an easy decision, as it involves a significant shift. There are likely to be doubts in the mind of the client whether such a move will create or destroy value, especially for clients attempting it for the first time. At the time the matchmaking is being attempted, vendors make an effort to present a rosy picture of the outsourced future that could look ‘too rosy’ to be realistic, creating further doubts.

Outcome based pricing has been discussed elsewhere in this piece. Experienced vendors could make a bold statement about their capability and seriousness by making efficiency commitments, and demanding pricing or value sharing in return. This will lead to driving the doubts and uncertainty out of the minds of decision-makers and expedite closures and faster adoption of such arrangements.

With an employed workforce, as opposed to the freelancer and contractor workforce preferred by some competitors, oWorkers is well placed to commit outcomes to clients as they have an understanding of the competence of their staff. Not any staff but staff who regularly rate oWorkers at 4.6 and above on external platforms like Glassdoor, leading to easing client worries regarding the outsourcing engagement.

 

Conclusion

“What Got You Here Won’t Get You There,” the Marshall Goldsmith book that talks about people and behavior, could be a relevant read for industry professionals.

The industry has matured. Vendors need to evolve and be on the lookout for opportunities of creating value for clients by differentiating themselves. The differentiation could be through technology, it could be through pricing, or through specialization or through other means. Being the partner likely to be the more experienced in the ways of the industry, they need to show the path to potential clients and create confidence for them to make the transition quick and smooth.

With a leadership team that has over 20 years of hands-on industry experience, oWorkers is well placed to be a leader in the evolving BPM industry.

The increasing importance of workforce planning and management

The increasing importance of workforce planning and management

The increasing importance of workforce planning and management

The march of innovation and digitization is unrelenting. It has the capacity to disdainfully sweep away any force that dares to stand in its path. Though probably an apocryphal story, the belief held by some over a hundred years back that everything that had to be invented has been invented has been proven misplaced again and again. Change and innovation, if anything, have been happening faster and faster with the passage of time. It is now believed that the rate of change is only going to increase in future, not slow down.

As a new entrant into the BPO space, oWorkers bring with it fresh ideas, technologies and processes, to augment the learning the industry has gained over many years. It has already carved a name for itself and been awarded as one of the top three global BPO vendors in the field of data related offerings.

 

The human challenge

But the one challenge that the march of automation has not been able to address is that of human beings; how to become smart enough to replace them? To the relief of many, it is now clear that Robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not likely to replace human beings, at least not anytime soon.

What does that mean?

The only thing they are probably going to do is to automate jobs where the skill required, usually measured in terms of the amount of human decision-making needed, is low, and most of the tasks are repetitive.

At the same time, the number of people required with higher skills, evaluated in terms of the number of occasions and complexity of human decision-making required, will increase. After all, the automation tools and algorithms that drive mechanized work will need some supervision and maintenance and control.

With its access to deep talent pools driven by its positioning as a preferred employer, oWorkers is able to choose ‘horses for courses.’ It selects the most suitable skills for its various client projects and then trains them to be job-ready. It has been witness to a rising level of complexity in the positions it hires for in client projects. Thankfully, oWorkers can access talent pools with adequate skills for all positions.

 

Customer experience

For organizations, customer experience will be the holy grail, and the complex new jobs that get introduced as a result of automation, will be goaled to drive superior customer experience. In a world with information symmetry, customer experience will be the primary differentiator, even though customers, at least of retail franchises, will almost always be interfacing with tools and technologies for their needs to be served.

Smart companies have known it for many years, perhaps decades, but the world is becoming increasingly aware of customer experience being directly proportional to how engaged its employees are.

With the employee skill level rising, it is a given that in any given situation, the number of customers as a ratio of the number of employees will be a rising graph. This means that an employee will have the capacity to influence a much larger section of the company’s customers through his/her actions, both positively and negatively.

Eventually, whether we interact with a customer or not, the end goal of a business is customer satisfaction and delight. oWorkers is conscious of this fact and endeavors to deliver the best service and quality on all projects. Clients also save up to 80% when they outsource to oWorkers, without compromising on quality and timeliness of delivery. That combination is difficult to beat.

 

Challenges for workforce management

Workforce management emerged as a distinct discipline with the rising size and spread of companies, especially those with retail franchises. There was a need to manage large numbers of employees and ensure they were adding value to the company. Many different software tools such as Genesys, Verint, NICE and Aspect came to be regarded as essentials for companies that had a large employee pool to manage. The accent was on ensuring that staff members were utilized efficiently and that the wastage and down time was minimized or eliminated.

The wheel, however, seems to have now come a full circle. Increasingly, the focus is shifting from demanding efficiency from employees to ensuring that they are well looked after and their expectations are being met. The Great Resignation is an event that many companies would rather forget.

With the shift in focus in how employees are managed, one might intuitively assume that the heyday of the workforce management (WFM) technology is in the past. However, that is not how it is playing out. From being focused on extracting efficiencies from the workforce, WFM technologies are evolving to blend efficiency enhancement with the business goal of enhancing customer experience while ensuring the employee needs are being met.

With its multiple partnerships with leading technology companies, oWorkers accesses the latest technologies for use in client projects.

 

Evolving role of WFM

Technology and tools will keep developing, advancing and changing, in tune with developments taking place in the world, with the objective of retaining and expanding their relevance in the changed world.

That is the easy part.

The more difficult part is the behavioral change required on part of the people involved in the process and their evolution to stay in step with the changing requirements of a changed world. As we have seen earlier, one of the outcomes of greater automation and digitization is that simpler jobs will be automated, while there will be a rise in the number and type of more complex jobs that require human intelligence for execution.

There is no reason why WFM jobs will buck this global trend.

With the integration of customer experience as one the goals, in addition to the legacy goals of efficiency, staff members holding WFM positions will need to step up to the plate quickly and ensure they are able to pick up the skills required for them to do a more complex job for best results for their organization. With omnichannel customer experience also becoming a part of the strategy of many organizations, WFM staff have work to do to stay relevant.

Creating efficiencies in a scenario where there are many similar jobs may have been a far simpler goal to manage than doing the same thing in an environment where each job could be different.

oWorkers has worked with teams both large and small while managing its workforce. Its 22+ language service is a case in point. Some of the languages that are less popular usually have only one or two practitioners who are deployed in a manner that maximizes efficiency and utilization.

 

Scheduling and rostering

Employee dissatisfaction owing to rostering and scheduling related issues are not new. They repeatedly rear their head in most employee engagement surveys carried out around the world in the last few years, regardless of the software tool that is used by the WFM team that is usually responsible.

Would the disruption to business activity owing to Covid-19 have made the task of WFM departments any easier?

Unlikely, as there are added complexities in the new world.

For one, there has been a huge shift with the acceptance of work from home as a viable option for work in many industries. Besides, as the world emerges from the shadow of the pandemic, it is increasingly becoming clear that a hybrid model, with some combination of work from office and work from home, is the likely norm in most companies, with each settling down in a comfort zone that is unique to them.

The gig economy is another reality all businesses will need to contend with, sooner or later, with all its peculiarities and flexibility.

Driving efficiencies in manpower utilization itself is expected to be a tall order in this new normal. Add to it the expectation of contributing to a positive customer experience, and you could have a complex but powerful role being played by WFM.

With each of its global centers offering a 24×7 operating window, oWorkers has long managed rosters and schedules for a workforce that needs to operate as a continuous process, and the associated challenges. While most rostering is done at a team level, individual preferences are taken into account.

 

Smarter workforce tools for a smarter workforce

While clearly WFM tools will keep evolving to stay relevant, WFM teams also need to reskill and re-goal themselves to ensure that they are catering to the expectations of a workforce that is moving up the skill curve and in keeping them aligned with the company’s goals. They also need to ensure that it is a participative decision-making process, rather than the top-down approach followed by many organizations with a formal workforce practice in place. Today’s workers don’t want to be told when to start work and how many hours to work; they want to make decisions themselves, while ensuring they are contributing to the employer’s goals and not taking away from them.

The differentiator is expected to be the capability of the WFM team in managing the larger set of variables in the changing world, overlaid with the need to manage customer experience.

That being said, for WFM teams, the immediate goal should still be the satisfaction and experience of employees as satisfied and engaged employees can be expected to deliver a superior customer experience.

The ability of oWorkers to provide additional staff at short notice is a stellar example of their workforce management capability. They can offer up to a hundred additional resources within 48 hours if a client experiences unusual or unexpected volumes.

 

In summary

While it is a tautology, it must still be stated that a mix of technology and well-trained and engaged WFM teams will be crucial to delivering a great employee experience which, I turn, will lead to great customer experience. WFM is no longer a support function; it will be a critical function in the journey of delivering a great customer experience.

The components of a successful strategy are expected to be:

  • Identifying the right technology for the WFM function; that can keep changing with time
  • Training and right hiring for staffing the WFM teams, which could even be an outsourced partner, that can focus on the end goal of customer satisfaction via delivering great employee experience
  • Alignment of goals and strategies between the larger organization goals and the departmental goals of WFM

oWorkers offers security and comfort to clients with its super secure facilities and ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015). Its GDPR compliance only adds to its credentials.

Hybrid Workforce Likely to be the Model of Choice for Most Companies

Hybrid Workforce Likely to be the Model of Choice for Most Companies

Hybrid Workforce Likely to be the Model of Choice for Most Companies

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the world in some fundamental ways. One of them is regarding the place of work.

For long, a clear separation between work and non-work places has been understood to be the optimum strategy for a productive workforce. In fact, many companies in the Business Process Outsourcing industry have explored the possibility of introducing a work-from-home (WFH) option many times in the past. However, for one reason or another, usually related to possible data security and privacy issues and the clients’ reluctance in being served by a widely dispersed organization, such moves have amounted to nothing. What did happen, though, is that hub-and-spoke models got established as a method of expansion into geographies that could not support large centers. That being said, the spoke was still another office location, not an ‘anywhere’ site.

oWorkers has traditionally operated out of its centers in three of the most sought-after locations for BPOs in the world. With the onset of the pandemic, it has created capabilities to enable its employees to work from home.

 

BPOs rise to the challenge

With the pandemic resulting in non-negotiable lockdowns and restrictions, work related activities came to a grinding halt as it meant a bar on traveling to a place of work, except for exempt emergency services. In such a situation, it became necessary to explore other options for work, if the company did not want to see its revenues dwindle down to nothing. Many industries, such as airlines and hotels, have been severely impacted, dependent as they are on people traveling, moving around and socializing.

The BPO industry rose to the challenge when it mattered most and ensured that the business of their clients that they were responsible for, could continue. 

oWorkers has been amongst the leaders in equipping its staff to be able to work from home, ensuring that the business of their clients stays unaffected. Not for nothing is the company feted as one of the top three BPO providers in its category, in the world.

 

Technology is the enabler

Of course, nothing stays the same forever. Earlier hesitation in permitting working from home might have been a wise decision for the times and tools available at the time. The acquiescence of business leaders today is perhaps based on the capabilities of today’s technology.

Collaboration tools

With the proliferation of the internet to the darkest corners of the world and ballooning bandwidth available to users, virtual meeting technologies have become commonplace. These collaboration tools are unifying remote workers under the umbrella of their employer, that might have been difficult just five years back. With cameras turned on, even keeping a virtual eye on their teams is now possible for supervisors.

Thanks to the partnerships with leading technology companies that oWorkers has nurtured, it is now in a position to access the latest technologies from these companies, and use them for client projects. It also helps that a number of its clients are technology companies.

Data security

Secure exchange protocols are making it possible for customer data to be shared as well as transactional information to be worked upon without fear of theft or misuse. Even financial information sharing is par for the course today.

Operating out of secure facilities, the security of data has been a top concern of oWorkers. Clients have trusted its super secure facilities & protocols designed to keep data secure, further augmented by its ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015). oWorkers is also GDPR compliant.

Cloud solutions

With the cloud becoming an increasingly visible presence, employees are no longer tethered to a server accessible in a particular physical location. Cloud servers and cloud computing solutions can be accessed from anywhere, any time, and are seamlessly connecting teams spread throughout the world. Network utilization is being constantly monitored by network optimization tools, silently, unobtrusively, in real time.

Thanks to its investments in technology infrastructure, oWorkers is in a position to offer a 24×7 operating environment to its clients.

 

Present state

With some sort of normalcy returning to the world, and pre-pandemic like interactions becoming possible, companies are unsure in terms of the appropriate staffing model to adopt. And understandably so, since none of us have been here before. Like all of us discovered coping and handling mechanisms for the pandemic together, companies are destined to experiment, make some mistakes, and figure out their own right model along with others.

The Great Attrition has already impacted many companies during this phase of experimentation. Clearly, the pandemic has given cause to employees to evaluate their life and situation and it appears that they are likely to make their employment choices with greater care and caution than might have been the case earlier. This will make it necessary for employers to take their preferences into account while charting out their strategy for work, whether from the workplace or from home.

As a preferred employer, oWorkers draws the best talent in the catchment area, in each of its centers. This has enabled it to offset the impact of the Great Attrition, without any impact on its clients. Working with employed staff, and not freelancers and contractors that are preferred by some of its competitors, is an advantage for oWorkers as it is able to take them into confidence and discuss the development of a suitable strategy with them.

 

Future state

At this point in time, even as companies experiment with models, it does not take a genius to figure out that WFH is here to stay. The question that each company may need to answer for itself is: what role does WFH play in their ongoing staffing and manpower planning strategy?

A digital-first strategy, where possible, is likely to be the strategy of choice.

We are also likely to see the emergence of an ecosystem for supporting the new work environment, with new centers designed to support the hybrid model. Hiring, Training, Onboarding functions will probably need newer versions of themselves. HR and IT support systems will also need to evolve to keep pace. Terms of employment could be another area that could be impacted, with greater choice given by employers to their employees to choose the model they are most comfortable with.

oWorkers closely monitors developments both in the BPO industry as well as the industries of its clients, with the help of a management team that has significant hands-on experience themselves. Its operational efficiencies are well known, as it is able to offer some of the sharpest pricing in the industry, including the provision of choice to clients between output and input-based pricing. Clients can continue to expect huge savings when they sign up with oWorkers for outsourcing, in any of the 22 languages they support.

What is BPO and its pros and cons

What is BPO and its pros and cons

What is BPO and its pros and cons

BPO is an acronym for Business Process Outsourcing.

As the name suggests, it refers to the engagement when a business, since we are referring to business processes, engages, or contracts, another business, for the purpose of getting them to handle some of their processes.

According to Techopedia, “Business process outsourcing (BPO) involves using a third-party provider company for any business process that could otherwise be done in-house, especially those considered “non-primary” business activities and functions.

Examples include the outsourcing of payroll, human resources (HR), accounting and customer/call center relations, as well as various kinds of data gathering, front-line service work, among others.

Some types of BPO are also known as information technology-enabled services (ITES).”

 

Evolution of BPO 

While attempting to understand what is BPO, it would be relevant to also look at its journey and the path it has traversed over the years.

A free market creates a competitive business environment. Each business makes an effort to open up a distance between itself and its competitors in an effort to maximize the profits and returns over a long period of time.

This is done through strategies that either increase the revenue or reduce its expenses so that the gap between the two, known as profit, that is attributable to its owners or shareholders, is increased. This is, of course, a simplistic view, more for the purpose of illustration, as the real world is complex and there are multiple variables at play at all times that determine the success or failure of a business.

BPO fits in with the cost reduction part of strategy in most companies.

As consumer franchises started growing, mostly in the western world to begin with, it created a pressure on manpower and real estate. Till then, businesses were used to operating out of real estate, depending on their pockets, in the big cities as that is where most business was generated from. With a rise in volumes, faced with the prospect of renting more real estate and hiring more expensive workers in the big city, companies stated exploring hiving off activities that were neither customer-facing nor needed to be done in real time, so that downtown real estate could be optimized and instead those activities could be done from a location that was not far off, perhaps only at an arm’s length, but much cheaper with access to lower-cost workers.

Businesses kept growing, as did competition. With the success of the initial outsourcing, and no longer having to clarify what is BPO to naysayers, the appetite for setting up processing further afield had developed, aided by the growth in air transport networks and supporting businesses like couriers, leading to the next phase of growth.

The growth had also given rise to a specialized kind of company that had expertise in business processing activities. Some specialized in activities like Contact Centers, while others offered a wider variety of services. Many companies have found value in not merely hiving off the non-customer facing and non-time critical elements of their processing, but to engage a BPO company that is often able to deliver better value than they would get by doing it themselves.

With the growth of telecommunications and related technologies, the dependence on physical documentation moving from one place to another also reduced. Source documentation could be scanned across to the processing center enabling work to be done without having physical documents available. This paved the way for anywhere processing which is what we have seen grow over the last 30 years or so, gradually penetrating to underserved geographies around the world in step with the expansion of the internet network.

With a pedigree of over 8 years, led by a team of professionals with over 20 years of hands-on experience, oWorkers is a credible player in the BPO space, especially adept at working on modern business processes.

 

What is BPO and the benefits it delivers

Cost Control

As we have seen, expansion of consumer franchises led to a substantial increase in processing activities and the need for more manpower and real estate. With the help of outsourcing, companies were able to keep these costs in check and deliver value to customers and owners.

At oWorkers, our clients, especially from the US and Western Europe, consistently report savings of up to 80% when they engage us for their BPO requirements. They also find our pricing strategy, where we give them a dollar per unit of output and a dollar per unit of input price, and ask them to choose the one they prefer, unique and beneficial.

Technology

Technology, as we know, is the facilitator of the BPO industry. What is BPO to some is ITES, or Information Technology Enabled Services, to many others.

An individual business may not have the resources or interest in investing in technology for improving its business processes. However, a BPO company, which is able to bring volumes of multiple clients together, develops the heft as well as interest, it is their core business after all, to invest in technology, leading to enhancement of processing efficiency.

oWorkers has forged lasting relationships with major technology providers. This enables us to access cutting-edge technologies for client needs. Clients benefit as it is their projects this technology is used on.

Speed of processing

With centers mushrooming around the world, outsourcing can result in faster processing and shorter turnaround times. Time zones around the world act as natural speed enhancers. When the outsourcer shuts down for the day, the partner is starting work for the day. When they finish their day, the client is about to begin the next day at work. They find that yesterday’s work has been completed while they were sleeping.

In addition, many BPOs make it a point to ensure they are equipped to operate on a 24×7 schedule, if a client project requires it. oWorkers is equipped to operate 24×7 in all its three global centers.

Access to human resources

Each business expects its employees to be knowledgeable and experienced in ways that are conducive to delivering better products and services and creating value for shareholders. Each successful business has to often perform a variety of different functions, requiring different skills and knowledge in the people who carry them out.

For processing activities, often performed in large volumes, the level of skill and knowledge required is often different from the core functions of the company. It often leads to conflict in terms of hiring and training the right people, or ends up being uncompetitive in terms of cost. Hiving it out to a company that specializes in hiring and training resources that are suitable takes away a basic challenge from the principal.

As a preferred employer in all our delivery locations, oWorkers has access to the choicest talent. In fact, we even save money on hiring as we do not need to advertise, as we get a steady stream of walk-in applications in our centers. Our access to talent also enables us to handle short-term peaks for clients, which saves them money as they do not need to retain resources the rest of the year for the purpose of handling spikes. We can hire almost a hundred additional resources within 48 hours.

Though the industry was not well known a few years back, with our efforts, the ‘what is BPO’ question from jobseekers has more or less been answered.. They know what the industry is all about and they have been witness to its growth.

Specialization

The company that is outsourcing can continue to specialize in its core business while actually engaging another specialist who can, arguably, perform those activities in a more professional and efficient manner. Thus, it is a win on both sides.

In a competitive world, it is important to stay sharp with one’s core business rather than being distracted by activities that are in the nature of support.

oWorkers provides a wide variety of offerings in the broad area of data related services, to many clients from all over the world. We have been selected as one of the three top providers of BPO services in our chosen area of work.

Globalization of economic benefits

BPO has been a catalyst in globalization and delivering economic gains to many less privileged communities around the world. By moving processing activities to the most economically efficient locations, it distributes economic welfare around the world and draws marginalized communities into the technology revolution sweeping across the world. No wonder that political leaders are willing to give concessions to companies for setting up BPO processing facilities in their geography, as it will promote job growth.

Your work enables oWorkers to employ a few more people from the less fortunate communities we work with, and give them an entry ticket to the digital economy of the world.

Partnership for supporting growth

In their quest for growth, which is an imperative for all businesses, they look for partnerships that enable growth, and not block it.

A BPO partner is a good example. In a bid for growth, with a capable partner, a company has a much shorter worry list compared to what it might have if it did not have a BPO partner. Now it knows the BPO partner will make arrangements to provide support for the growth, as it is their core business.

For example, with its proficiency in 22 languages, oWorkers is well equipped to support the growth of its clients’ business even across multiple geographies and in multiple global languages.

 

What is BPO may be anathema to some

Occasionally noises erupt against companies outsourcing their business processes. These are normally ranged around two parameters:

Loss of jobs

This has been one of the shrillest cries against outsourcing business processes.

People who have never questioned buying Japanese cars and athletic shoes made in Bangladesh, suddenly become patriotic and start believing that globalization of business is bad for them and that they are entitled to keep their jobs doing business processes even though someone else might be able to do it better, faster, cheaper.

It cannot be denied that jobs will be lost in one place and gained in another. Hopefully, like water finding its path through the lowest areas, this is also a natural process meant to attain economic equilibrium.

oWorkers creates jobs for the less privileged, wherever it operates. It often receives invitations from political leaders from around the world for setting up delivery facilities.

Data security

Information is critical to a business. Information about products and services. Information about their customers. Information about the competitive landscape as well as competitors. All these are variables in the strategy that the company keeps refining in a bid to stay ahead.

Outsourcing requires vital information to be shared with the provider, otherwise how is processing to be done. While it is minimized, it cannot be eliminated altogether. While it cannot be guaranteed, beyond technology solutions for security, it is often argued that data security is subject to the integrity of individuals, the likelihood of which is as much or as little if the client were to process it themselves.

There could also be conflicts with national policies. Some countries may want to retain certain information on servers physically within the country. These have to be handled on a case-to-case basis.

Besides being GDPR compliant, which is a requirement as we operate from the Eurozone, oWorkers operates out of super secure facilities that are ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certified. We also offer physical segregation of projects through access control, if required.

Conveying the client’s brand and voice

This is particularly true when processing activities require an interface with the external world, such as customers. Each company has an ethos, an image that they project to the external world. When you outsource, do you compromise on that face, that brand value?

While there is no single or simple answer, it normally involves working with each other and narrowing the gap in that projection, if any, and ensuring consistency.

With the help of a dedicated training team, all new hires are required to undergo training before starting work on a client project. Training can vary from one client to another. Where the project has a front-facing role that would be visible to the external world, the training is much more detailed and covers all aspects of such an interface. Besides, refreshers are provided from time to time to ensure that staff is always updated.

 

Final Word

What is BPO is no longer the question. The answer is now well known.

When do we go the BPO way or which BPO to partner with may be the more relevant questions today.

oWorkers counts many unicorn marketplaces amongst its global clients. We hope you will choose oWorkers, as have many businesses around the world.

What does the future of business process outsourcing look like?

What does the future of business process outsourcing look like?

What does the future of business process outsourcing look like?

“I look to the future because that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my life.”

This quote is attributed to George Burns. The American comedian.

There could, perhaps, not be a better fitting quote for a business. Set up on the promise of what they can achieve, in the future that is going to unravel from that moment onwards, while they keep an account of the past, businesses must necessarily keep looking at the future every moment of their existence. Each moment presents a risk, as well as opportunity. What has happened has happened. They can only do it differently in the future, not in the past, not in the present either. While business schools may teach it as the ‘Sunk Cost’ principle, every businessperson worth his/ her salt knows this intuitively. The future is all that really matters.

The need to stand on tiptoe and peer out over the horizon into the future is a requirement for every business. They need to make an effort at understanding and even foretelling the future, as that is often the difference between success and failure. If Kodak had understood the future better and could better foretell the march of digital technology, they may not have been a part of history today. Facebook understood the oncoming age and created a platform that rode the internet backbone and launched the social media revolution.

With a laser focus on its chosen area of work, data based BPO services, oWorkers has stepped directly into the future of the BPO industry. Eight years old oWorkers is already recognized as a leader in its chosen space, and counted amongst the top three BPOs, bar none, in the world.

 

What about the future of business process outsourcing?

As an industry, it has continued to evolve and stay relevant over the past many decades. It provided support when businesses wanted to outsource processes away from expensive real estate in downtown customer centers when volumes started rising. It provided support when communication and air connectivity enabled taking business processes further into the country. It provided support both in the form of inhouse providers as well as third party providers. It provided support when the industry looked overseas for support. It provided support when the range of services grew beyond the basic and created solutions for specialized and complex services such as HR, Legal and Knowledge Process Outsourcing.

It has taken to post-digital evolutions like a duck to water. Many of the business processes that create a large volume of work for providers were not even a distant dream when BPO services started going over the expanding internet and telecommunications to far flung providers.

While oWorkers may have made educated and knowledgeable projections of the future, their work is not finished. There is always a future up ahead that we need to keep looking into and planning for. They are preparing for the future by putting the building blocks of a successful BPO in place, such as access to manpower. With their position in the local centers as preferred employers, oWorkers attracts a steady stream of talent. It not only saves them advertising budgets for inviting people, it also provides a ready pool of talent for all projects.

So, what does the future of business process outsourcing look like, for the industry as well as its participants like oWorkers?

 

The future in numbers

Since BPO is not a homogeneous industry, numbers can vary from one perspective to another and from one consultant to another.

However, whichever way you look, the industry has notched up impressive growth numbers if we look at historical trends and, even more importantly, is expected to continue to show strong growth numbers well into the future.

Most analysts seem to agree that the market size translates to hundreds of billions of dollars globally. Also, its growth rate, or CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) estimates range from 5% to 8.5%.

A Gartner study published in August 2019 forecasts the BPO industry to grow at a CAGR of 3.5% till 2023 over its then size of $154 billion, with digital services, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence being the key drivers.

A Fact.MR report published in March 2020 projects an impressive 7.5% CAGR growth rate. They expect customer complaint redressal solutions to be one of the drivers of the growth.

A Brand Essence Research publication in June 2021, pegged the value at $187.91 billion and expected it to grow to $314.81 billion, at a CAGR of 7.65%. According to the publication, low-cost talent pools in emerging economies coupled with retail and e-commerce would be the engines of growth.

Global Industry Analysts Inc. published a report in August 2021 where they projected the industry to grow to a size of $215.9 billion in 2016 from $161.9 billion in 2020. This growth translated to a CAGR of 5.2%.

Grand View Research Inc., in a report published in April 2021, has projected an 8.5% CAGR till 2028 which would make the size of the industry $435.89 billion. The drivers of growth, according to this research, would be the increased preference of new-age organizations to outsource non-core functions, as well as the need to drive costs down to remain competitive.

Technology is the great multiplier. It creates scale. Hence, ensuring technological currency is a key enabler that oWorkers achieves through its partnership with technology providers. These technologies are available to them even for the use of client projects.

 

What should we expect in the future of business process outsourcing?

OK, so most analysts and consultants predict strong growth for the industry. That is good news.

But what does that growth look like?

Is HRO going to be the star of tomorrow’s BPO? Or will it be KPO?

Will growth be driven by cost saving? Or will human resource availability be the determinant?

Let us be honest. The few of us who were associated with the industry when globalization and strong growth took off, could hardly have foreseen that social media moderation and data annotation for building AI models would be among the stars of today.

However, analysts must be analysts, and make efforts to peer into the crystal ball and hazard ‘informed’ guesses about what the future might look like for the industry.

What do they say?

Automation

Though the industry professes to do for clients what automation has not been able to, analysts see greater automation in the future of business process outsourcing. In fact, whether it is BPO or any other industry, the effort to automate is an ongoing one.

The reason is simple.

Companies have been trying to automate since time immemorial. Even before the digital age started automation was an ongoing effort, even though it would have looked different. In many cases, what could not be automated was outsourced.

It cannot be that the outsourcers have stopped trying to automate the processes that have been outsourced. Highly unlikely. They are probably continuing their efforts at it.

Now, an additional entity, in the form of a provider, is perhaps also trying to introduce automation in the hope of getting greater traction in sales and greater margins on the income statement. It could be a double-edged sword for providers. Once a technology solution has been introduced, the outsourcer might also be in a position to deploy it.

oWorkers operates out of super secure facilities & protocols for your data security with ISO certifications (27001:2013 & 9001:2015). It is also GDPR compliant.

New business requirements will emerge

Just like social media moderation and AI data annotation could not be foreseen before they arrived, quite possibly the business processes driving demand in future may be yet to be discovered or yet be attached to a business that is making waves.

As confidence levels in BPO services has gone up, the range of services has expanded beyond the standardized and tightly-managed processes where deviations were unacceptable, to processes less well defined where some personality of the doer is acceptable. There is no reason why creative services like designing and writing cannot be the next frontier of BPO.

Preferring to operate with employees, and not freelancers and contractors as some of its competitors seem to prefer, oWorkers retains the flexibility to train and deploy staff based on need as well as in response to emerging trends.  

Omnichannel customer service

What today is practiced by a few large corporations with deep pockets and technology investments, will become commonplace. Multi-skilled resources will be able to handle customer interactions, regardless of the channel they emanate from. New technologies will emerge to support this multi-channel interaction.

Though automation will chip away at the edifice of customer queries, real people to speak to and exchange messages with are not going away anytime soon. It is possible that access to them gets limited by the principal company.

People will be key

People are not going anywhere. They are the driving force of the industry. With increasing complexity of jobs, they will need to keep upgrading to handle a wider variety of issues or more complex ones, or both.

There will also be greater reliance placed on frontline staff members who are interacting with customers or doing transactions. The relevance of this model has already been tested during the outbreak of Covid-19 when BPO staff members were forced to start working from home, almost overnight, and lost the access to the support of supervisors and others that they were used to. In most cases they came out with flying colors. With Covid-19 related uncertainty continuing and work from home becoming a part of the equation, expect frontline staff to play a more important role in the future of business process outsourcing.

Staff, both present and past, rate the company well on external platforms such as Glassdoor, with 4.6 out of 5 being the average.

Geographical expansion will continue

As capacities in existing provider geographies get maxed out, expect the rise of newer geographies. With the internet and telecommunications being what they are, instead of the few (outsourcing locations like the US, UK, Europe, etc.) to few (provider locations like India, Philippines, etc.) mapping, expect a many to many mapping.

With the emphasis gradually shifting to the nature of the service, it is possible that geographical specializations, or centers of excellence, will emerge. Egypt could be the Finance and Accounting hub of the world while Madagascar becomes the hub for Legal Process Outsourcing.

Already operating 24×7 for clients, oWorkers is geared to meeting processing requirements in 22 languages.

Startups will drive growth

Legacy companies had to make a shift from inhouse processing to outsourced processing. Any change requires hurdles to be overcome, hence the adoption was slow.

New age startups are adopting BPOs from the get go. They do not have to go through a round of transitioning from self to a vendor, and all the attendant pains. With the boom in startups, and unicorns being minted every other week, if not day, a significant amount of business from startups is visible in the future of business process outsourcing.

For startups it is a win-win situation. They do not need to build the fixed costs that come with the creation of an inhouse delivery structure. They anyway have small budgets and would rather spend them on business. They are happy to outsource what can be outsourced.

oWorkers brings value in the form of an unmatched price point that results from efficiencies running through its operations. Many clients, especially from the US and Western Europe, calculate savings to the tune of 80% when compared to their pre-outsourcing days. The choice given by oWorkers to clients, of choosing between a dollar per unit of output or dollar per unit of input price is appreciated by most clients.

 

The case for oWorkers

oWorkers is well established as a value creator for its clients. It is also an opportunity creator for the communities where it locates its delivery centers and provides a portal for people from disadvantaged communities to enter the global digital economy.

In the future of business process outsourcing, your work could enable a few more to get that opportunity.

How Automation is Enabling BPOs Overcome Challenges

How Automation is Enabling BPOs Overcome Challenges

How Automation is Enabling BPOs Overcome Challenges

In the third decade of the twenty-first century, the debate is no longer whether business process outsourcing (BPO) can save money and reduce turnaround time for client businesses or not. The debate is, by how much, so entrenched has the industry become and so widely accepted its offerings. Some functional areas, of course, lend themselves more easily to being outsourced, such as document processing, than others.

 

Document Processing and Invoice Processing

Invoice processing could be taken as an example of work entailed by document processing. The e-invoicing journey published by Bruno Koch Billentis estimated that in 2019, 550 billion invoices were generated. That is a serious amount of invoice issuance. Considering there are 7 billion people in the world, 80 invoices were issued by every individual.

Once issued, invoices would also need to be processed towards eventual payment and settlement. That is where the challenge starts.

Invoice issuance is usually the tail end of a sales or operational process and if often a part of an automated process. It then becomes the starting point of the invoice processing journey for the company receiving it, that has purchased some goods or services from the company raising the invoice. This company is likely to be using technology that is different from the issuer, and hence at least the initial part of the journey is often manual and error-prone. The same report referred above estimates that the delays and errors in this form of invoice processing is costing $60 billion annually, apart from impacting the customer life-cycle and decision-making.

Invoice processing is one of the specializations of oWorkers, a new-age BPO with eight years of experience in the field of data-based BPO services. It is recognized as one of the top three providers in its chosen space, across the world, no mean achievement.

 

BPO emerges as a solution

Business process outsourcing (BPO) has emerged as a savior for many companies that struggle with the manual processes that a document processing requirement entails. It is known and understood that BPOs specialize in breaking down manual processes into simpler tasks, accessing pools of talent that are available at much lower prices than available to clients, putting the two together and getting the job done efficiently while maintaining quality.

However, if a BPO partner simply copies and pastes the client process, they will most likely produce similar, if not identical, results. Hence, a simple lift and shift is not the best solution unless the BPO can add value to it through some form of transformation.

The desired solution is clearly a digital solution that is able to overcome the limitations of manual processing. BPOs have an advantage over their clients as they are better placed to invest in technology and processes as they can aggregate volumes of multiple clients. Individual clients, on the other hand, may not find it a compelling enough ROI to invest in digitalization of invoice processing, as it is not a revenue generator for them.

oWorkers has access to rich talent pools thanks to its pre-eminent position as an employer in local communities that form the catchment area for its delivery centers. This triggers a steady stream of walk-in job applicants. Combined with its training teams, they become a potent force to hire, train and release people to work in their various client processes.

 

Getting used to a new normal

The Covid-19 pandemic has upended many established business models. Work from home, which was a forced model, to begin with, on account of the inability to congregate or travel, has caught on as a model. In the foreseeable future, even assuming the world is fully cleansed of the pandemic, work from home, or, rather, work from anywhere is expected to continue to be a part of the options available to companies and their staff.

That, to be possible, would mean a substantial digitalization of existing manual processes. If an invoice has to be processed, the manual invoice received from the vendor cannot be physically moved from one location to another, but an image or digital information can be. It can be accessed and processed anywhere the internet can be accessed. The location of the processor ceases to be relevant.

oWorkers has been a leader in the transition to work from anywhere for BPO providers. It is armed with access to the latest technology thanks to its deep relationship with various technology creators and providers. Based on this access, and with its history of BPO delivery and development of processes, oWorkers has equipped its employees to operate from anywhere. oWorkers has managed to retain some of its differentiators such as support in over 20 languages, despite people working from home.

 

The challenges of Work From Home

Not that the shift is easy or natural. It requires effort. Moreover, the way many of us have lived makes it difficult to work from home. Assuming much of the processing is done by entry-level or junior operators, it can also be expected that they are likely to be living in more modest accommodation as compared to more senior people, making it difficult to segregate the working space from the living space. And, what if there is more than one person working from home and both have a conference call at the same time?

With BPO workers, who typically are drawn from less expensive talent pools, the issue is likely to be exacerbated. Even the required bandwidth could be a challenge, though telecom companies are rapidly expanding the reach and speed of broadband connectivity, including the last mile and even employers are willing to pay for the upgrade of home networks for ease of access. Questions have also been raised about the company’s ability to protect sensitive information when people are working from home.

These are teething challenges. No doubt solutions will emerge. oWorkers is well-positioned for ensuring data security with its secure facilities and ISO (27001:2013 & 9001:2015) certifications. The fact that it is GDPR compliant is an added plus point.

 

Intelligent Solutions

Automation yes, but not at any cost. The need of the hour is intelligent automation.

What does that mean?

Technologies will keep emerging and evolving. We have recently gone through a huge evolution in telecommunication services riding on the expanding internet. Social media and connection platforms have significantly influenced how people interact with each other. Today there is a huge buzz around the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain technologies and the many applications they can be put to.

Whatever the technology, it needs to have a clear business or real-life application. Till then, it should be considered as an academic construct.

In case of document processing, especially processing of invoices, data entry will remain a critical step. This is because the invoice is issued from a ‘foreign’ system and needs to be ‘uploaded’ or ‘manifested’ onto the system where the document will be processed. Based on the business requirement the technology should be selected. For the case in hand, OCR technologies may have greater application than AI which may become more relevant as the lack of structure in the information increases, like, for instance, on handwritten forms.

Intelligent automation also requires intelligent humans to handle. With an employed workforce, as opposed to the freelancer and contractor workforce of many BPOs, oWorkers is able to train and grow its staff members to supervisory positions. They are rated 4.6 or higher on a scale of 5 on independent platforms such as Glassdoor. Both present and past employees contribute to these ratings.

 

BPO and Technology

Inherently, a BPO partner is well placed to provide quality and service that is over and above what clients can achieve themselves. The reasons are not difficult to see:

For a BPO provider, this is the business that generates revenue for them. Hence, their best minds and resources are employed in this area. For a client, this is a processing cost and often secondary to their main line of business, whatever it might be.

BPO providers can aggregate volumes across clients and, with the help of those volumes, invest in the best technologies and achieve acceptable ROIs. For clients, especially those that are not large corporations, such an investment is often difficult to justify.

Of course, for all investment decisions, an evaluation is of utmost importance. Investing in a document processing solution is no different. Care needs to be taken that the system is not dated and is able to ‘talk’ to other systems for seamless transitions and processing. Data security is always a big concern and should be looked out for. And, of course, ease of use. Technology needs to be used by humans in many cases. Making it easy for humans to understand and operate is important. A wrong selection can set a BPO back by several years, apart from creating financial pressure.

With a large pool of technology companies as clients, including unicorn marketplaces, oWorkers is always on its toes with regard to technology. This awareness and alacrity eventually helps them deliver better on all client assignments.

 

The Future

As organizations seek to recover and find their own new normal after being bruised during the pandemic, the next few months will be important. They are expected to help employees and organizations settle down into a routine once again where they can stop worrying about what will happen tomorrow and instead focus their energies once again on their work.

Intelligent automation promises to be a savior for many, with its promise of enabling work to happen from anywhere, seamlessly. However, the business or real-life relevance will always be an important consideration in the choice of a technology solution, and will need to be taken with care.

For a world that now works 24×7, oWorkers is ready, with each of its global centers set up to handle client timing requirements, any part of day or night. With the able leadership and steadying hand of a management team that brings over 20 years of hands-on industry experience with them, oWorkers looks ahead to the future with confidence.