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Effective engagement is the missing link in business outsourcing success

Clients and experts agree effective engagement moves the nature of a business outsourcing relationship from a functional contractor to trusted partnership that can add real business value.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to developing effective engagement. Each organisation, relationship and agreement is different. But, there are a number of common factors that appear as recurring references throughout our research, expert interviews and client stories.

Clients cite trust, flexibility, collaboration, commitment and mutual understanding as contributors to the overall approach, supported by a structure that enables rather than restricts – especially as a relationship evolves. So, how do all parties involved ensure effective engagement is in place?

1. Right from the start

Think about how effective engagement can be tested during the tender process – through client references or scenarios to evaluate teamwork.

“arvato’s pragmatic approach during the tender process also helped – it was important for us to be able to separate out the sales pitch from real insight and practical advice.” Kyle Christensen, Sr. Director, Customer, Program and BPO Operations at Microsoft

2. Create an enabling contract and objectives

Contracts and KPIs are still the back-bone of an outsourcing partnership but should build in flexibility to deal with inevitable change. Consider both parties’ overall organisational objectives and create a win-win framework.

“The agreement of a framework up front helps to define boundaries, but this must not be adhered to religiously. Contracts and relationships shift during the lifecycle of the engagement.” Jens Butler, Principle Analyst, IT Services, Ovum

3. Cultivate ‘one team’

Maintaining a ‘them and us’ approach to outsourcing will always limit the ultimate success of a programme. You may need to adapt your usual way of doing things – as either a client or a provider – to create one team.

“There’s a middle ground here where industry best practice is adapted and tweaked to fit the specifics of the relationship and the two organisations involved in it.” Eleanor Winn, Director, Source

4. Instil an open door policy

Both Huw Bowen from Chesterfield Borough Council and Clive Smith from Universal Music Group cite the importance of open, honest communications.

66% of respondents to the industry survey claimed more frequent communication would improve the relationship between client and BPO provider. Coleman Parkes Research

5. Develop real understanding

As Margaret Rawding from Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council explains so well, it’s not about whether you like the people, or even if you can work with them, but rather you need to know that the outsourcing provider would make the same decisions as you would.

“Arvato knows our business so well that the team often anticipates issues and tackles them before they hurt us... At every turn, Arvato operates as an extension of our business.” Clive Smith, Director of Supply Chain, Universal Music Group

6. Embrace change and continuous improvement

There are few constants in today’s ever-changing economy. As long as flexibility is considered at contract stage, adapting to change is down to the people involved and the organisations’ mind-set.

“One of Arvato’s key attributes is the ability of management at all levels to manage change.” Investors in People report on Arvato’s partnership with Chesterfield Borough Council

7. Build trust over time

When outsourcing clients talk about trust, it doesn’t just mean trust in a provider’s ability to deliver KPIs but a commitment to seek and do what’s right for the partnership.

“People talk about ‘building trust’, but you only do that by taking real risks or going well beyond what you are obliged to do.” Marcus Alexander, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School

8. Going the extra mile

Providers should demonstrate a willingness to deliver and step beyond contractual agreements to try fresh approaches or amend priorities to deliver real value.

“It’s not just that we successfully delivered… but the manner in which it was done that has really helped fast-track our partnership. The commitment, dedication and teamwork on show made the difference.” Nick Wilson, Logistics Director for Bosch in the UK

9. Controlled flexibility

The ability to define, deliver and then re-define success in a continually evolving business makes the difference. But this needs to be managed to be effective.

“Sefton and Arvato had to make difficult decisions, but we did so with a common purpose; in the interests of our long term commitment to doing what’s right for the businesses and residents of Sefton.” Margaret Rawding, Head of Corporate Finance and ICT at Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council

10. Leave the contract in the drawer

Rather than sticking religiously to what’s in the contract, a trusted partner will deliver results and focus on what’s right for the partnership in the long-term.

“Getting the right deal in place is not just about getting it down on paper. When you’ve found the right partner, it’s about making the relationship work once the contracts are signed. Establishing an effective engagement approach means that the contract can stay in the drawer to enable the best outcomes.” Matthias Mierisch, Chairman and CEO, Arvato UK & Ireland

The Arvato way

Our mind-set is shaped by our culture of partnership, our client-focused structure and our entrepreneurial people. It’s about listening, understanding and  delivering, together with our clients.

We believe that this approach allows us to build trusted partnerships that enable change and drive growth for our clients and ourselves.

If you’d like to hear more about how our approach to effective engagement could support your organisation, please get in touch via email at openoutsourcing@arvato.co.uk