It is a pretty common sight all across the world now: Students dutifully logging on to the internet to attend classes. Even tiny primary school children are learning from their teachers and interacting with their classmates on phones or laptops. The global pandemic has sure locked us down in boxes.
What has helped tremendously in coping with the situation is the proliferation of conferencing and collaboration tools, such as MS Teams, Webex, Zoom and so on. With the Covid-19 pandemic as a backdrop, usage of such tools has increased by an estimated 1,000 percent over the last five months.
It’s not just the millennials who are making the most of it, the supposedly “technologically challenged” senior citizen population too, is using such tools to connect with others. If school-going children can adapt to change so seamlessly, functional adults can certainly make a run for it. A lot of training programs, both academic and corporate, have thus moved online. The number of webinars being conducted by various interest groups and corporates has also seen a sudden rise.
The question that now arises is, how does such a situation impact the outsourcing decisions of businesses?
Learning to be virtual
A few organisations that are currently in the midst of finalising outsourcing deals for their process and technology services are facing a dilemma. The need for outsourcing to enhance user experience, improve effectiveness and reduce costs, has never been more pressing. Still, there is a slight hesitation amongst a few.
A key factor that influences outsourcing decisions is how well the service provider can understand the operating nuances of your business processes. Typically, such a relationship is built by in-person interactions and office/floor visits. Subject matter experts (SMEs) would transfer their expertise through in-person discussions and knowledge sharing.
But with restrictions, and reluctance as well on both domestic and international travel, face-to-face discussions for knowledge transfer is not much of an option.
So, what do we do? We can learn something from our kids.
Just as they learn from their tutors, SMEs can share knowledge on operating processes using conferencing and collaboration tools, which allow real-time sharing of screens and instructions. While allowing for collaboration, such tools narrow the gap between virtual and in-person meetings through video, which can be leveraged during the subsequent phases of the outsourcing partnership.
How does a teacher measure the performance of students and their grasp on a subject? They may delegate assignments or quizzes to test a child. Similarly, in a process outsourcing context, the service provider’s consultants could demonstrate their understanding of their client’s processes by playing back to the SME. Of course, the time-tested practice is to document the learnings. This is typically in the form of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document. When the SMEs validates SOP, you not only endorse the consultants’ understanding but also sign off on the former, such that the service provider can perform the processes based on an authorised SOP.
Why is digitisation useful? For one, it makes any subsequent changes arising out of process improvements easier. It also provides for quick production of training videos out of the digitised process steps. Additionally, digitisation can also help in creating application simulators from the same set of inputs. These simulators, as the name indicates, can help employees be prepared for process implementation, before actually working on client processes. Lastly, the digitised process can be used to identify and implement process improvements and are key inputs to execute robotic process automation (RPA).
You may be wishing hard to send your kids back to school as soon as it is possible to do so safely, but when you consider the transition of business processes, virtual is the new normal. Remote transition is likely to become the dominant, and possibly the only way, to execute transitions in the near future.
The good thing is that just as with the kids, we don’t have to re-learn anything. We already are familiar with remote or virtual meetings. We just have to be ready for the next frontier.
The writer is VP & Head, Global Transitions and Solutions at Infosys BPM