Offshore success does not end in choosing the best outsourcing partner. It is also important that you provide the right onshore guidance and support.
Business leaders can choose to learn the hard way by outsourcing their operations on their own. Anyone can call themselves an “offshorer” and find resources elsewhere. However, to build a strong baseline for sustainable growth, it would require some expert help.
It’s a smart move to choose a well-established outsourcing partner that you feel comfortable working with – one who understands your business and knows where the opportunities are. One that keeps you informed by providing a range of operational and service level reporting on a periodic basis.
Join us in this interview with Jamie McBrien, CEO of optiIBPO, as he talks about what needs to be done to develop a successful relationship with your offshore team.
Wayne Bucklar: Jamie McBrien, CEO and Founder of optiBPO. Welcome to the show.
Jamie McBrien: Hi Wayne, thank you for having me again.
Wayne: How can your partnership with a business process outsourcer in the Philippines become successful?
Jamie: Wayne, we have talked about it before but a really important part of creating offshore success is getting things in order onshore. I think it’s difficult to do that without the right guidance, and advice and support onshore to be successful. It’s important to work with an organization that you feel comfortable with who understands your business, who understands where the opportunities are in working with you. Otherwise, you’re kind of shooting blind. You run your own business day in, day out, you don’t want to be learning how to offshore on the go. So, you need to make sure that you have the right level of support onshore that help lead you through some of those key steps.
Wayne: Without a company onshore to provide support, what can a company do?
Jamie: A lot of the time it is people learning the hard way, by doing it themselves. Look as I’ve said before in previous discussions with you Wayne, anyone can call themselves an “offshorer,” anyone can find resources. There’s an evolution though, a lot of our clients might start with a freelancer type of person but then they realize that that’s not scalable. They might evolve go from there to get a single dedicated resource. However, to start thinking about those other key strategies of how do we change our business fundamentally, how do we build a baseline for sustainable growth, how do we enhance our services, sometimes require some expert help? They’re pretty difficult things to work through if you haven’t worked through them before, and it’s better to pay to learn. It’s going to cost you a lot of money, and you’ll make mistakes. But if you get the right advice, you get the plan in place, it’s going to get you to a better spot quicker.
Wayne: What are the offshore support structures that people can expect from a high-performing BPO to be successful?
Jamie: Importantly, it’s not about set and forget. You put a person in an offshore location, you expect them to work out and nothing comes back to you. You should be expecting a range of operational and service level reporting on a periodic basis. Just because you might not be offshoring 200 roles to Accenture, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have quality reporting. There’s no reason why are those things that happen at the big end of the town shouldn’t translate into other parts of the offshoring marketplace. Being kept informed on what’s happening with your team in terms of who we’re hiring, who’s turned up for work, where’s the time and attendance, all those operational activities, are critical. On top of that layer, we need a more periodic maybe monthly report where we’re going out and engaging with that team to understand how they’re feeling, if they’re having a good time, how long have they been engaged for, are there any other questions around salary or other actions that we need to think about? Without that, you’re flying a bit blind and there should be a baseline minimum expectation for whoever you work with.
Wayne: Do some people think they can pay them less attention to their onshore teams?
Jamie: Yes. We’ve found a few organizations that we know of that haven’t been successful because they haven’t had the right onshore lead. It does require a level of management that is different in managing a local team. Nothing to do with the Philippines, it’s got nothing to do with culture, it has a fair bit to do with the fact that given your team is remote,, you’re going to have to be a little bit more proactive engaging with them. Like in the office where you’re walking you say, “Hello” to everyone in the morning where you’re all together. With an offshore team, that’s easy to forget and it’s really critical and it’s critically important to make sure that you are proactive in that engagement which sometimes doesn’t come naturally to everyone. So finding the right person in your organization here in Australia, or in the UK or in the U.S. is critical to getting it right.
Wayne: How important is finding the right onshore leader for your outsourced work?
Jamie: One of my clients asked a question in his team members, “Are you in the tent or you’re out of the tent?” and if he’s listening to this, he’ll know that I am referring to him. But you’re right Wayne, to get the change correct, it’s important to have someone who is engaged on this conceptually. We have another client that the person at first was against it but then soon had the realization that this process was going to happen with or without her. Since she has got onboard to help support and help drive it forward, she has become one of the best managers of offshore teams that we know of. So, people can change, if they are willing to make the mindshift.
Wayne: What are the cultural considerations when managing an offshore team?
Jamie: Look, there are few. I know as an Australian, one of the things that I do even within Australia is talk way too fast. The Philippines is the third largest English language speaking country in the world. That being said, a lot of them have grown up speaking American English, and we all know that even if we go to the U.S. as an Australian or a Brit and we speak too fast, we won’t be understood, so even more so in the Philippines. So that’s pretty important to understand to slow yourself down, and to drop the colloquialisms. Also, there’s some additional considerations around what we call “False Positives” where you might be told, “Yes, something is going to happen.” Or “Yes, I’ve understood” but the full clarity isn’t there. It’s important to take the time to ensure that they’ve understood what it’s been said and if need be and repeat back to yourself to make sure that the things are right. There’s just a little bit of learning on the way through. No one wants to say they didn’t understand or they didn’t know, that happens everywhere in the world, but a little bit more so in parts of Asia, and that includes of course the Philippines.
Wayne: What’s the importance of the offshore leadership?
Jamie: Just as we talked about Wayne, the importance of having the right person onshore being able to identify and potentially build up that offshore lead is important. Lots of client either do it with either a country manager or someone who has oversight of the team. No, you don’t, not as a discrete role. However, if someone early on who’s the pioneer, the person who helps bring the team together that the committee, the big cohesive unit and to help facilitate some of the coordination, other activities are important in getting a team up and running. So that is a critical role and if that person naturally bubbles up, that’s a fantastic outcome.
Wayne: Is it necessary to have a local staff in a pioneer role for an onshore team?
Jamie: Look, there’s no need to have Western leadership sitting in the Philippines. If you start with a small team, you’ll soon identify naturally within a group someone that might have those right characteristics to provide that leadership capability and hopefully they can take it on and run with it, that’s a great opportunity for them. And the person that gets it right will help you drive your success.
Wayne: As an employer how do you help young newly graduated staff become successful?
Jamie: We actually had a client catch up today with an organization. They’ve got a team of eight to begin with, and one of the things that they said was that they were amazed and shocked at the ideas coming back from their team and including their pioneer or local team leader. I think it’s important to give them the room to come up those ideas. We provide support as well and we have our team members in the offshore location. Spend time with your team members to understand how things are going, and where are the issues and ideas. So they have a forum to table these things. We talk to clients about a range of things that they should do including daily updates, weekly updates and how they can be proactive in getting their team members to forward ideas for improvement.
Wayne: How important is it for employers to spend time with their offshore team?
Jamie: If you can find opportunity to get to the Philippines and spend time with your team, it pays for itself over and over. If you’re from Australia today, it’s only a 7 to 8 hour flight to Manila. If you’re from the U.S., it’s not much further and the UK, well a little bit further, but worth it. It’s not that big of an effort to get up there, the cost isn’t high and to spend time with your team “one on one” to get to know them as individuals, and as a team.
Wayne: How important is maintaining communications with your offshore team?
Jamie: As I said earlier Wayne, being proactive in your engagement is critical including your team in everything that you can is important. With technology now, with the likes of Zoom, video conferencing which is fantastic, and it works really well. It doesn’t have the glitches of previous technology. You’re able to spend a lot more time with them. In our office, we have large 33 inch monitors, and noise cancelling headphones which means at any point in time, we can have direct conversations with our team, ask them how things are going, where do they need help, as well as including them in team meetings. Just because they’re not in your office, including them in those team meetings is fantastic and there’s a lot of ways to do that.
Wayne: Is partnering with a high-performing BPO works for just about any sized business in Australia?
Jamie: We’ve got clients from five million dollars to two and a half billion revenue. Each one of them it’s the first time they as an organization to have offshored, and the people to have exposure to it. As a result, guidance and education is a critical part of it and over time, however, the aim is for an organisation to build the knowledge internally themselves.
Wayne: How can people get in touch with optiBPO?
Wayne: Jaimie, it’s been a pleasure having you with us. Thanks for making yourself available.
Jamie: Thanks Wayne.