With 2016 drawing to a close, we took the time to sit down with Managing Director, Colin Gray. Discussing his experience in outsourcing, business tips and Brexit, Colin gives us an insight into his professional life.
Can you tell us about your relationship with DDC OS and Outsourcing in general?
I have been Involved with DDC Outsourcing Solutions for around 12 years now. When starting out, outsourcing seemed to imply offshoring and that meant lower cost. In some people’s opinions, this also meant lower quality, when actually it should have meant the same if not better quality.
I was always impressed with the work ethic and approach found in the Philippines, which has been one of the key reasons for our continued relationship with the DDC team over there.
During my early days in outsourcing, prior to DDC OS, I had many experiences with India, another of the top offshore destinations. Offshoring seemed mainly to relate to voice activity (call centre operations), and although it was cheaper, customer satisfaction dropped. This proved a point that offshoring wasn’t always the answer, even when outsourcing often is. What needed to be established was people choosing the best location for their activity. This experience ultimately resulted in a lot of offshore work being moved back onshore during that period.
What were the key outsourcing trends from the offset? How did this then develop?
The choice of offshoring locations has changed certainly; in the early days, India was the top choice for the UK and Europe. In the US, the Philippines has always been a favoured option. Over the years a whole number of locations have been seen as positive places to outsource.
Although not naturally English speaking, many cheaper European countries comply with EU data protection laws and therefore, became more popular destinations. Locations such as Egypt and Ukraine, who have promoted offshoring heavily, have clearly become more challenging due to political and security situations. This shows that not only cost should be taken into account, but also risk factors.
The sort of work that can be, or at least is, outsourced, has changed. Originally the majority of the work was voice based. Now we are seeing a lot more administrative and back office based projects being outsourced. The outsourcing industry continues to explore new and exciting opportunities, testing the capabilities of all involved. Anything that is non-core for the customer can be outsourced and handled effectively.
Finally, I would say that the actual way in which work is undertaken has changed; the industry no longer looks to immediately take jobs out of the UK to a cheaper destination. More recently we are seeing a move towards improving processes, greatly improved by the advances in automation. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a popular term at the moment. Certain elements can benefit from it, but equally, a lot of work that is labelled as RPA is actually work that was being improved before the term RPA came in, especially in areas like data processing. For example, the use of OCR and ICR technologies has been available for a long time, before the RPA buzzword came in. These phrases can be useful, but also a detriment, if someone is adamant they want this latest trend when, with your experience, you know an alternative would be better suited.
Do you think this is an exciting time for the industry and us? Where do things seem to be heading in your opinion?
It’s a very exciting time for outsourcing with more and more opportunities, and these importantly will be new opportunities, as opposed to changes in suppliers etc.
For us at DDC OS, I think it’s important to note that a lot of the projects we do are UK based, making the most of our skill set here before considering offshoring. Our offices in the Philippines and Sarajevo also offer a superb alternative when offshoring is the best option for our clients.
I think the general trend seems to be towards Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). The legal sector, in particular, has embraced outsourcing, specifically in the KPO area. Different markets are quite averse to it but are, for lots of reasons, gradually looking towards outsourcing as a solution. Most industries can benefit from economies of scale and utilising experts in process improvement and efficiency, in the right location, making knowledge-based decisions; at least that’s our key growth area.
Looking into the future, a lot of start-up companies will now have a business model centred around a core business need, with non-core activities being outsourced to experts in that field, to avoid expensive overheads.
Did you always see the potential for the growth we are seeing?
We have clearly grown, in terms of size and the services we provide. An investment of time and money in our marketing has reaped rewards and supported this growth.
Our clear strategy allowed us to expand the depth of our involvement with current clients and build up strong networks and relationships. Referrals have been key, due to our dedication to our customer relationships, and this has led to a number of strategic long-term partnerships and key contracts for us.
The reality is it’s anyone’s guess. I don’t think there will be a huge negative impact on us or the industry as a whole. I may be proved wrong but my view is that work will continue to be outsourced where it is.
Currency fluctuation will create pressure on pricing, and this factor will need to be solved during the uncertain periods. This requires a sensible view and strong relationships that allow for the adult conversations needed. As a company all we can do is to try and shield clients the best we can.
Top tips for new starters in the industry?
Keep eyes and ears open when talking to customers and potential customers. Think of outsourcing in the broadest sense; think of where there are opportunities to outsource not just what we currently do and are asked to do.
Know what should be outsourced and what shouldn’t. Don’t be afraid of technology; instead, harness it where appropriate. The days of outsourcing simply meaning labour arbitrage are long gone.
Also, make sure you really know your clients. That way you can give the best advice on what they need, not just what they want or think they need.
Consider all the job opportunities in this industry, from; accounting, finance, marketing, HR and operations – this isn’t a narrow industry.
Is leadership difficult to sustain in such a changing environment?
I think where there is a lot of change, leadership is vital as change can lead to uncertainty in people’s minds. People question if their jobs are safe due to offshoring and technological advances. We don’t always get it right but we can be clear on what our views are and what our strategy is.
Our vision now moving forward…
Our vision at the moment is to create a very clear message about what we are good at; which is working closely with clients in diverse industries offering them best advice to deliver what they need, at an acceptable cost, and creating efficiency gains, whilst maintaining an excellent standard of service. We want to replicate some of the great work we are doing for current clients and spread the client base more widely.