Third-party and internal providers try to spin the particular benefits of their approach to transitioning work into a global services model. However, when all is said and done, moving work from point A to B merely requires a simple, speedy and focused approach, and work plan, not invention and artistry.
The title of this article was borrowed from a book that my artist father wrote years ago to train art teachers. Himself a teacher of little children, he believed that any successful art project had to have three attributes. The project, whether it was making a mask or drawing a still life, had to be fast to complete, in one class or two, so that the interest, attention span and enjoyment of his pupils remained high, promoting a sense of accomplishment and completion. It was necessary that the project materials and methods were as clean as an art project could be so that he was stuck with a minimal amount of mess to clean up after the little darlings went home. And cheap was important so that his principal was happy and continued to give him the budget for the supplies he wanted.
Often, when transitioning work into a global services model, be it to a third party provider or an in-house captive, teams try to be too clever by half, trying to make transition into an art form when it should be simple and straightforward.
Why does the industry tend to complicate transition? First, it is human nature to think that complex solutions deliver more value than those that are crisp, transparent and simple. Second, complicating the process is a device that most of us use to attribute more importance to what we do, and intimate that it is worth more in terms of compensation. Last, if we can complicate a situation, we tend to think we can control it, giving us more wiggle room when things go wrong.
What contributes to a “fast, clean and cheap” transition of processes from customer to provider — whether external or internal? There are several factors which, if incorporated into the transition plan, suggest a higher success rate.
GOVERN FROM THE OUTSET
Many governance programs are subconsciously designed to sidestep the perils of transition and start the heavy lifting upon something approaching stabilization. It is often left to the program teams on both sides of the blanket to duke out the day-today battle, and keep the noise away from more senior members of the governance team.
Governance is designed as a structure for effective engagement, not an opportunity for the senior folks to sing songs around the campfire. Smart customers and their providers engage from day one, handing out the rules of play and proverbial body armor to all layers of the management team to force them to solve problems efficiently and effectively.
Most transition managers privately acknowledge from painful experience that the big bang approach to moving work from one team to another typically does not succeed. “Big bang” may appeal to the customer’s demand for quick return off of a global sourcing initiative, but it is normally a recipe for disappointment. And be cognizant of the agenda of the provider: Many service provider business cases are predicated upon big bang deployments, limiting the number of resources over time to support their economics.
The sheer coordination requirements of such an approach defeat even the most experienced customer program management office. And the service provider’s bandwidth — no matter how many armies of personnel and despite any claim to the contrary — is always considered as an issue.
START SIMPLE, MOVE TO COMPLEX
Smart teams know that the secret sauce of successful process migration is moving simpler processes first — those which have less potential for error in transition. Typically, the best initial candidates are those that are rules based rather than judgment based. Getting the first wave of transition right sets up the rest of the program for success.
“Trial and learn” may be a good way to implement transition. Trialing sourcing by transitioning simple processes, then applying the lessons learned to the transition of more complicated processes may be a smart move.
DE–RISK LARGER PROCESSES
Staging transition of larger integrated processes in sub phases effectively de-risks certain aspects of the transfer. There is no need to swallow the scope whole if the margin for error and the potential for risk outweigh the benefits of speed. And, with the inevitable rework that comes from managing too many moving parts, steady state will be reached so much later.
Invest in enablers that will promote successful transition, and allow the right amount time to implement them before full-blown deployment begins. The toolkit of enablers can include digitization such as scanning and workflow, training or in-depth change communication with the affected business lines. Although the tendency for most transitions is to hit the ground running as soon as the contract is signed or the decision to consolidate in a captive is made, the time invested in laying the groundwork has a strong payback.
START WITH THE BEST CANDIDATES
Processes with good documentation are generally the best candidates to select for early transition. The customer understands them and how they perform, so baseline performance is based upon facts. Not only is there a readily communicable understanding of the workflow, content and metrics which govern performance to the provider, but staging these processes early allows time for concurrent discovery and documentation of other, less understood processes in advance of transfer.
AGGREGATE BY LOCATION
Wherever possible, transferring an aggregate set of processes from one location to another at one time is optimal. This allows for economy of management, reduces disruption, and often
materially affects the business case if a customer site can be disbanded swiftly. This approach also mitigates the stakeholder attrition; staff retention is quite difficult in a location where the processes are slowly being migrated.
SEQUENCE TIGHTLY AND STAGE FOR VALUE CREATION
Designing a realistic schedule that swiftly shifts resources from transitioning one process or geography to another provides the program a very necessary structure. A well sequenced yet flexible plan should also be calibrated to the business case.
Economic benefits of a global sourcing program can be accelerated by prioritizing the geographies that yield the greatest economic benefit. For example, moving processes first from the U.S.A., where the benefits coming from labor arbitrage are high, and right to work rules mean that staff are off the payroll quickly may factor into a higher return on investment (ROI) over the life of the program.
ENGINEER SMALL VICTORIES EARLY ON
The most successful transitions yield some good news in the initial stages to offset the effect of the glitches and errors which characterize all but a few transfers. The ability to tout small successes, when the expectation is that the transition will only produce bad news, helps bolster the team morale. And do not forget the impact upon the end user. Quick wins/good news keeps the benefits of the implementation of global service sharply in the focus.
COMMIT TO COMMISSIONING ONE DEDICATED TEAM
At the very least, the team requires a consistent management structure — overall transition leader, subject matter experts, human resources support, technology advisers and risk managers. These folks should be on the payroll if at all possible since company intimacy is the key to avoiding cataclysm during transition.
While there is nothing wrong with retaining a very experienced contract resource to lead transition for the duration of the program, depending solely on a team of consultants is sub optimal. They are by nature journeymen, requiring more management than an employee, and having no strong allegiance to the company or to ultimate success of the program. So when the provider asks for a larger team than the customer can assemble responsibly to push through an aggressive deployment schedule, push back.
Can all transitions be fast, clean and cheap? As with every other situation, there are always exceptions? Some transitions are affected by a myriad of factors that throw a proverbial spanner into the works. Time may require that battles be fought on several fronts simultaneously, transferring multiple geographies, processes, or business lines simultaneously while developing documentation concurrently. But the majority of transitions can be streamlined and simplified.
Like most children, I often thought I was smarter than my parents. However, after experiencing a number of transitions on three sides of the table, I now know my father knew best. He never understood the principles involved in the implementation of global services, but his mantra is a great recipe for success.