I have been invited to moderate a customer panel on next-gen BPO at the Cognizant Community event next week. The theme of the conference is “The Future of Work”. When I look at the wide range of industries represented on the panel, the economic models behind today’s BPO, the technologies which are influencing every business process, it is a good time to revisit Dr.Michael Hammer’s seminal 1990 Harvard Business Review article .
The article spawned a wave of process reengineering, process benchmarking, shared service consolidations and first wave BPO in the 90s. Unfortunately, way too many companies ignored the “don’t automate” part of his message and there was also plenty of wasted dollars around ERP, Y2K, ebiz projects which they are paying for even today. (To be fair, he sent mixed messages by aligning with SAP and Deloitte – their “do automate” messages were fairly loud).
Twenty years later, we find every company under pressure to redo technology and older forms of outsourcing. The consumerization decade is exposing how poorly in contrast enterprise technology has performed. As Cognizant executives like to say “After Sunday night with home based technologies, it is quite a let down to go in to work technologies on Monday morning.”
The challenging economy and rapidly shifting industry lines are forcing companies to evaluate what is “core” and what is “context” (to use Geoffrey Moore’s terms) – shows in the panel that vertical process BPO is growing much faster than traditional horizontal BPO. Clouds and SaaS business models are allowing companies to look for BPO and other outsourcing which is much more variable and results based.
And technology is allowing us to rethink just about every process. RFID and other tags are redefining asset management processes. Social networks are reshaping CRM processes. QR codes are redefining expense tracking. As companies introduce “smart products” for their industries they are having to factor support for embedded technology in their R&D, customer support and product management processes.
I dare say if Dr. Hammer was still alive today, he would agree the time is right for plenty of process obliteration and plenty of process automation.