Intelligent Innovation

6 Jan

BPO and ITES companies have now recognized the significance of IPR and are moving up the value chain through innovation, which happens not by ‘chance’ but by ‘choice.’ In today’s dynamic world, innovation is the hallmark of a competitive and leading organization. Innovation is the essence of Intellectual Property Right (IPR) and has become the most indispensable component in any organization. With attrition rates and competition in the BPO and ITES sectors rampant, innovation is the logical solution to stem the rot of this exodus and surge ahead of competition. Innovation, however, is not about discoveries or new inventions; it is a concerted initiative to implement new ideas and methods of doing business to increase the overall efficacy of results (read topline and bottomline). Innovation in BPO and ITES sectors is now picking up after companies have woken up to the fact that innovation is indispensable for survival and also in creating a competitive edge. Innovation occurs not randomly or accidentally but when there is a proper system/structure in place to encourage it. Any business is the sum total of its capabilities, which may differ from person to person. Nourishing innovation involves understanding the various capabilities in an organization and harnessing them to the best of its ability. These capabilities include:
  • Differentiating capabilities – an organization’s primary assets that describes its special nature and the real differentiating factor
  • Core capabilities – those that are critical to the organization’s survival, but may not necessarily help in differentiation
  • Support capabilities – those that support the organization’s core capabilities and foster them.

Intelenet Global Services, one of the leading BPO companies in India and rated among top-10 by NASSCOM, offering BPO and technology consulting services to clients in various sectors across the globe, has capitalized on its capabilities through employee innovation practices. To eliminate the boredom of the employees and keep them motivated to give their best for continuous value-addition to their clients, it offers its employees three career paths in the form of vertical growth, horizontal growth, and shift to parent company. While 70% of promotions in the organization are internal, only 30% is external. After 2 years of service, if an employee doesn’t want to be a team leader (vertical growth), but desires to get into HR or training or other areas, he is allowed to shift diagonally across functions. Moreover, if someone who has worked for 2 years wants to move from nightshift to dayshift, then he is given first preference, subject to a vacancy in the parent company. Intelenet has sponsored offshore domain specialization training programmes for its employees, besides certification programs such as ‘Train the Trainer.’ It has sent its employees to participate in seminars and conferences of top management institutes and also got them ‘Customer Operations Performance Centre’ (COPC) certified. Similarly, Prudential Process Management Services (PPMS), the wholly-owned BPO subsidiary of Prudential UK, also offers vertical and lateral growth for its employees, thus enhancing value for its clients as well as employees through employee innovation.

eFunds International, a US-based company providing technology solutions in financial risk management and electronic payments, and consultancy services, is creating continuous value for its clients through employee innovation. Whenever an employee joins the organization, he is given a ‘Magic Score Card,’ which serves as a ‘training passport.’ eFunds provides its employees training expertise in domain areas and also focuses on leadership skills. Says Atul Kunwar, MD of global outsourcing, eFunds International, “There is a whole range of other skills. For those interested in enhancing their writing talent we have a tie-up with NETg, while those wanting programming skills are encouraged to take the relevant courses.” Because of its innovation initiatives, eFunds’ net revenues increased 11% from $532 million in 2003 to $552 million in 2004. Its year-on-year growth of net income for the year 2004 witnessed a 41% increase, while its Earnings Per Share (EPS) rose to 36%.

Infowavz, another BPO company, offers a 1-year ‘Management Development Program’ for fresh employees who join the company after completing their MBAs. It also offers an ‘Accelerated Career Development’ programme for highly motivated and self-driven employees who look for continuous challenges and opportunities to maximize their potential. It has designed a unique “Team Innovation” programme for top performers who are associated with new projects at the pilot stage or ‘proof-of-concept’ stage. Infowavz lucidly communicates its career path to employees at the recruitment stage, defining the Key Result Areas, and conducts an exhaustive ‘Training Needs Analysis’ programme to identify the deficiencies and build employee competencies.

In 2002, PTC, The Product Development Company, which offers product development and Product Lifecycle Management solutions to companies, won a silver award for call center innovation at the Casques d’or. PTC developed a unique Product Development System (PDS) and patented it. PDS is a combination of PTC solutions and is uniquely designed and tested to offer companies the necessary capabilities essential for successful product development. PTC was judged on four factors: query processing, delivery of solutions, cost-profit ratio, and the efficacy and impact of company staff. This award symbolized PTC’s endeavours to match challenging customer support demands by restructuring its services into two skill-based levels, substituting its earlier system that was based on geographical location. PTC processed an average of 2,500 calls per week in 8 languages, while 60% of these calls were settled in less than an hour. The restructuring that categorized employee skills into various levels facilitated knowledge-sharing and value-creation.

In 2004, the call center innovation award went to Jacada Fusion, a leading software provider of contact center productivity solutions. Jacada Fusion observed through its experience that the complexity of agent’s desktop was a major impediment to providing high customer service. Jacada Fusion possesses patented technology, which enables companies to simplify agent’s interaction with business applications on their desktop without rewriting or substituting any of the current systems. Jacada Fusion streamlined the complexity of business operations involved in handling long calls and expensive training programmes, reduced the high call turn-over, and thus, increased customer satisfaction levels.

It provided a focused approach for integrating all desktop applications in delivering a new, customer-friendly process and interaction. Says Holmes, Executive VP of Jacada, “The award affirms what we are hearing from our customers, that Jacada Fusion provides a first-of-a-kind solution to solve a significant productivity and efficiency problem for call centers. For the first time, companies can rapidly implement their own vision of ‘The Perfect Interaction’ between people, process and information – creating and changing the process as needed, regardless of how many or what types of systems they use.” Similarly the 2005 call center innovation award was conferred on Five9 Virtual Contact Center for creating a breakthrough CRM or call/contact center service.

24×7, a leading BPO in India, achieved a breakthrough innovation in call centers when it announced that it would be offering website development and content management services, something unprecedented in the BPO industry. According to Shane Miller, CEO of the company, traditional web development process involved static HTML pages that were hosted on a server. Hosting and website development were seen as two disparate products. 24×7 views the two as one product and integrates static website accounts into dynamic framework. This integrated framework provides powerful capabilities of website maintenance and support services without the assistance of an external webmaster or programmer, thus saving costs for the company. Says Miller, “We are setting the trend. At the moment, it is unprecedented…we are the first. However in the future, everyone will understand web development and web site maintenance to be call center services. It just makes sense. Why hire a programmer when effective use of technology and training can enable much more cost-effective call center agents to provide even better services, for less money?”

It would be very difficult for innovation to thrive without IPR, which offers protection to all kinds of intellectual property (IP). All the BPO companies mentioned above protected their innovations – technological or business methods – through IPR registrations. Innovation enabled the companies to create value and enlarge their client/customer base by offering their services and solutions to a cross-section of the industry, while robust IPR protection ensured them huge profits by protecting others from copying their invention/innovation. Innovation and IPR have thus come to coexist in an era where intangible assets such as knowledge and intellectual products are valued higher than the tangible assets (cash, land, building, etc.). IP, without an iota of doubt, now holds the key to innovation in the future.   

(c) 2007. P. Mohan Chandran. All Rights Reserved.

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