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Let’s Work Together

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By Martin Conboy

collaboration


“Together we’ll stand
Divided we’ll fall
Come on now, people
Let’s get on the ball

And work together
Come on, come on
Let’s work together
Now, now people
Because together we will stand
Every boy, every girl and man

People, when things go wrong
As they sometimes will
And the road you travel
It stays all uphill “
Canned Heat

Canned Heat is an American blues band that formed in California in 1965.

Back then in the hippy era it was all about finding ways for people to collaborate with each other. It’s fundamental ethos — including harmony with nature, communal living, artistic experimentation particularly in music, spread around the world during the counter culture of the 1960s. A move away from the command and control environment of previous generations. The hippie movement has found historical precedents as far back as the Mazdakist movement in Persia that advocated communal living and the sharing of resources. In other words the movement grew because of a shared state of mind.

The world has moved on from those heady days however a lot of very valuable lessons were learnt. Fast forward to today and a key ingredient in building successful, innovative and strategic BPO relationships is collaboration. In other words, the ability for organisations to go beyond the typical vendor/client arrangement to work together for shared goals and objectives. If we want to change the status quo from the master/ slave relationships that largely exist in BPO relationships today we are going to need nothing short of a revolution in the way that we think and in the ways that BPO contracts are constructed.  Contracts cannot be so written that they give a disproportional level of power to one side or the other, as the dominant side may act arbitrarily in the absence of any constraints to the detriment of the other side.  We need to think of a contract more as a ‘living’ contract, in so much as it can be changed as required to make it work for all parties.

However for it to work it needs more structure that what was on offer during the hippy era. In part, this requires a governance model based on joint management structures and committees, but more importantly it requires the client and vendor to possess attitudes and behaviours that promote partnership and collaboration.

These days clients expect their provider to drive transformation and improve legacy processes, but, as Adam Cummins, Principal for Pace Harmon points out, letting go of old processes, approaches and perspectives and allowing the BPO provider to make changes to deliver improvements, efficiencies and savings can be a challenge[i].

The biggest challenge is that the client does not have the attitudes, behaviours or talent and skill sets necessary for collaboration. In all fairness these may also be lacking on the vendor side of things. Research[ii] from the London School of Economics and sponsored by Accenture, highlights that implementing joint operating, management, and executive committees, without having the right partnering attitudes and behaviours in place may inhibit rather than promote the success of a BPO relationship.

Governance structures are important, but the client must fully appreciate the provider as a strategic partner rather than as a vendor[iii]. A true partnership needs to display behaviours such as resolving conflicts fairly and protecting both parties’ commercial interests. Contract constructed around an adversarial approach usually only produce winners and losers, business environments change -likewise BPO relationships need the flexibility to meet shifting market demands and commercial realities. Thus contracts that allow for a team made up of executives from both sides to investigate the facts of a contract failure as opposed to an adversarial approach when one side wins may be worth considering.  After all a loser means that one side will have little or no interest in maintaining the contract.

Internal silos a barrier to collaboration

The inability for organisations to collaborate with a partner can stem from internal silos and reluctance to share information within the organisation. Client executives and leaders need to promote collaboration with their internal teams. Collaboration requires, first and foremost, a change in attitude and behaviour of people throughout the client organisation.

Client teams need to work with teams from the provider just as much as they need to work with other internal teams.

Trust and respect each other

Trust is the belief or confidence that one party has in the reliability, integrity and honesty of another party. It is the expectation that the faith one places in someone else will be honoured. The client and provider need to establish trust between their respective teams before they can effectively collaborate.

Teams that are suspicious or cynical of each other will not share information or collaborate effectively, and may even work to undermine each other.

Relationships develop and change over time. The ones that endure and stand the test of time are based on trust and  allow for a true collaborative approach rather than one that gets bogged down in the governance structures imposed by a contract.

[i] http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/bpo-transformation-common-roadblocks-steps/

[ii] http://www.accenture.com/us-en/Pages/insight-high-performance-bpo-collaborative-bpo-governance.aspx.

[iii] http://www.accenture.com/us-en/Pages/insight-high-performance-bpo-collaborative-bpo-governance.aspx.
April 21, 2015
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