Sustaining Innovation

When you’re so busy DOING, it’s often easy to lay aside THINKING.

Many of us who participate in the ecosystem called the global outsourcing industry have enjoyed a long period of unbelievable activity. It all began in the mid-1990s in earnest, and it hasn’t really let up.

That’s not to say that the world hasn’t changed in the intervening years. The fact of the matter is that today’s outsourcing industry is a far cry from that of a decade ago. We have a strong and growing offshore community of participants, educated and experienced clients, service providers that have figured out that profitability is more important than revenue (market share), and lawyers that are opening their eyes to value-creation balanced with risk-mitigation.

A few months ago, several of us at TPI compared notes after one of our client conferences and came to the realization that the world was changing so much and so fast that we needed to help keep the players on the same field. The worry we held was that the promise of outsourcing – defined services delivered with varying volumes at defined prices – was being challenged by certain legacy attributes of the commercial marketplace.

I can’t tell you how often I am asked about analyst commentary about "failed" outsourcing relationships. It’s frequent! The empirical data is clear – abject failures are quite rare. But this doesn’t mean that those relationships aren’t seriously challenged in practice.

So we compared our thoughts with some of the best and brightest law firms and many of the industry’s most committed service providers. Then, we revisited with a broad cross-section of experienced clients across the globe – and they told us that we were on to something.

It was clear that we needed to educate the buy-side and the sell-side participants on the realities of the new world. Less "same mess for less" outsourcing and more accelerated transformation. So we created the Innovation Agenda for the global outsourcing industry.

Working through this set of four seminal topics – Refreshed Terms & Conditions, Benchmarking, Gainsharing, and Change Management – with colleagues who are truly remarkable for their expertise has been one of the more exciting experiences of my career. We’ve considered some of the "sacred principles" of the industry in the new light of a flattening world and experienced participants.

I just spoke about one of the four Innovation items – Gainsharing – at a conference in the UK that was very engaging on the possibilities. While that item is still in refinement, we’re beginning to publish some real results.

Better yet, we’re seeing the results of a better-informed ecosystem as we help develop the relationships between clients and service providers that share a renewed definition of win-win.

Thinking can make the doing more relevant.