BPO, Contact Centre, Customer service, Human resources

Managers must Manage their Bosses well

A key role of a managing director is managing his or her board. A well-managed board can be a great source of support, expertise and different perspective. A badly managed board can consume large amounts of management time, delay the making of strategic decisions and even lead to the removal of management altogether.

It is in the best interests of the whole leadership team to ensure that the board feels it is being heard, and that management is operating in a way compatible with the principles, intentions and strategic direction of the board. The relationship between a board and its leadership team is unique. When the board of company structure changes, so too should the approach the leadership team takes to its board management.

This is easier said than done. If a management team has invested heavily in devising its strategy, structuring the organisation and implementing new systems, it can get very attached to what it has created. Suppose the company is then merged or bought out, or the board changes for some other reason and the new board wants things done differently. How easy is it for the leadership team to back itself into a corner? Why change something that was working just for the sake of politics? Doesn’t it make more sense to invest time and energy in running the company than in answering a whole raft of questions from the board?

I remember working with two divisions of the same global company. The manager of one division thought the changed reporting requirements of head office were pointless and so ignored them (against, I might say, my advice). Not unexpectedly he was replaced. The head of the other division realised that unless he had the support of his leaders they would make his life and job untenable. He gave them what they wanted which allowed him the freedom to keep his independence.

Skills in upward management are essential for any leader. The job of a leader is to provide his or her superiors with information in the way they desire it so they can feel confident enough to grant a licence to operate. A licence to operate allows people to get on and do what they need to do to be successful.

By learning the political ropes and reporting in a way that builds trust, leaders create an environment in which their people can concentrate on the job at hand. This just doesn’t happen. The relationship between leaders up and down every organisation can be a winning tool for success or a constant block and annoyance. The difference is the willingness of each leader to manage his/her bosses’ need to know.

Margot is the creator of 12 Steps For Business; a strategic leadership and corporate transformation toolkit which enables leaders and organisations to envisage and achieve unprecedented levels of growth and success.

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

theOutsourcing-guide.com is the ultimate reference guide for the BPO and outsourcing industries and it will become the most comprehensive resource for organisations looking to engage BPO and outsourcing providers. As well as providing a range of eBooks, articles and whitepapers explaining the various aspects of BPO, theOutsourcing-guide.com provides an online directory of providers segmented by category and location.

theOutsourcing-guide.com is a vehicle for vendors and service providers to showcase their organisations and the outsourcing services they provide. Visit theOutsourcing-guide.com for more information.

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Strong Employee Engagement = Exceptional Customer Experience

Creating exceptional experiences for customers requires having engaged employees who are enthusiastic about their workplace and their role within the organisation. According to a recent Gallup study however, employees are disengaged at work – worldwide only a tiny 13% of workers are engaged.

Considering how much time we all have to spend at work, it must be soul destroying to go to a place everyday that eats away at the very fabric of your being. Of course if you are paying off a ridiculous mortgage like people do in Sydney then you may not have a lot of choice. The rat race is a very stressful endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. It invokes the image of the fruitless efforts of a lab rat spending its existence running around and around on a spinning wheel or maze. And remember at the end of the rat race you are still a rat.

In a parallel to the modern urban environment, many rats in a single maze expend a lot of energy running around, but ultimately achieve nothing either collectively or individually. The rat race is often used in reference to modern work places, particularly repetitive, monotonous and dull work. This terminology contains inferences that many people see work as a seemingly sad endless pursuit with little reward or purpose other than a place to go everyday so that they can pay their bills.

The increased image of work as a “rat race” in modern times has led many people to question their own attitudes to work and seek a better alternative; a more pleasant-sounding ‘work –life balance’. Many people believe that long work hours, unpaid overtime, stressful jobs, commuting, less time for family life and/or friends life, has led to a general malaise in our communities, an unhappier workforce who do not have time to enjoy the benefits of increased economic prosperity and a supposed higher standard of living. The output of this way of living is manifested in divorce rates in first world countries of over 50%.

The Gallup report also says that the vast majority of people, some 63%, are “not engaged,” meaning they are unhappy but not drastically so. In short, they’re checked out. They sleepwalk through their days, putting little energy into their work.

A full 24% are what Gallup calls “actively disengaged,” meaning that one quarter pretty much really hate their jobs. Ouch! That cannot be a good thing for employee or employer. They act out and undermine what their coworkers accomplish.

Add the last two categories and you get 87% of workers worldwide who, as Gallup puts it, “are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.” In other words, work is more often a source of frustration than one of fulfillment for nearly 90% of the world’s workers. That means that most workplaces are less productive and less safe than they could be and employers are less likely to create new jobs.

The major challenges with employee engagement starts with defining the term. Employee engagement is a workplace methodology designed to ensure that employees are committed to their organisation’s goals and values, inspired to contribute to organisational success, and are able at the same time to enhance their own sense of well being.

Author of Employee Engagement 2.0 and Employee Engagement for Everyone, Kevin Kruse, states, “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company.”

The definition of employee engagement and how one measures it depends on which part of the organisation and how the organisation is structured. Charlene Li, from Altimeter highlights how HR will have a program to increase employee feedback, communications wants everyone to read the latest company newsletter and the Social Media team wants everyone to participate on the enterprise social network.

Research recently published by Altimeter revealed the following challenges when it comes to employee engagement[i]:

  • Most organisations don’t have a well thought out employee engagement strategy
  • Authentic employee engagement only happens when there is trust in the relationship — only 43% of survey respondents believe they have an organisational culture of trust and empowerment that supports employee engagement.
  • Part of the problem is that there is no owner of employee engagement. In 41% of organisations, HR leads employee engagement efforts, while 17% and 11% have Employee/Corporate Communications and Marketing leading efforts, respectively.
  • There remains significant untapped opportunity to use digital tools to enhance employee engagement. Only 36% and 25% of respondents have organizations where many employees use their internal collaboration platform and enterprise social network, respectively.

Mapping the Employee Journey

Creating exceptional customer experiences and engagement requires understanding and mapping the customer’s journey. Likewise employee engagement is dependent on creating exceptional experiences based on understanding and mapping the employee’s journey. The nature of the experiences an employee has will impact the level of engagement they have with your organisation’s goals.

It’s about understanding their role and the experiences they have of the organisation from their perspective. It’s going beyond the typical hire, train, and retain approach to HR and exploring how relationships can be deepened to drive business results and organisational change.

Employee engagement is not about establishing a specific state, but building relationships that can be developed.

There are differences between attitude, behavior and outcomes in terms of engagement. An employee might feel pride and loyalty (attitude); be a great advocate of their company to clients, or go the extra mile to finish a piece of work (behavior). Outcomes may include lower accident rates, higher productivity, fewer conflicts, more innovation, lower numbers leaving and reduced sickness rates and in the BPO world better NPS scores.  In reality all three – attitudes, behaviors and outcomes – are part of the engagement story. There is a virtuous circle when the pre-conditions of engagement are met when these three aspects of engagement trigger and reinforce one another.

Engaged organisations have strong and genuine values, with clear evidence of trust and fairness based on mutual respect, where two-way promises and commitments – between employers and staff – are understood, and are fulfilled.

Just like the customer journey. Company silos, overly strict and inflexible rules and poorly integrated systems and processes can impact the employee journey. The frustrations an employee can feel in trying to do their job can easily be passed on to the customer. In an outsourcing environment it’s the kiss of death.

Steve Rogers of Rusher Rogers HR Solutions, a leading HR practice in Melbourne Australia, offers this bit of sage advice, “If you have got your employee engagement model in place you still want new hires who are most likely to embrace your model, fit in with your culture and achieve the outcomes you need. You need to identify the behaviors that your star performers, who are most engaged, exhibit and the look for evidence of the same behaviors in the candidates that are applying for your roles. But remember look for “evidence” of behaviors. Not their opinion.”

In the BPO and outsourcing world where customer engagement has been outsourced to a third party , having disengaged employees / agents is bound to bring down measurements like NPS scores. Happy engaged employees really do equal happy customers.

Discuss.

[i] http://www.altimetergroup.com/2014/12/strengthening-employee-relationships-in-the-digital-era/

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

theOutsourcing-guide.com is the ultimate reference guide for the BPO and outsourcing industries and it will become the most comprehensive resource for organisations looking to engage BPO and outsourcing providers. As well as providing a range of eBooks, articles and whitepapers explaining the various aspects of BPO, theOutsourcing-guide.com provides an online directory of providers segmented by category and location.

theOutsourcing-guide.com is a vehicle for vendors and service providers to showcase their organisations and the outsourcing services they provide. Visit theOutsourcing-guide.com for more information.

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Multi-sourcing: When One is Not enough

The trend in outsourcing and BPO deals towards smaller deals continues. In managing smaller deals multi-sourcing offers significant benefits but there also challenges. The greater number of additional  vendors involved increases the level of complexity and management resources required to ensure the different parties work effectively together.

Businesses are no longer willing to sign up large outsourcing deals that span multiple years due to concerns over vendor lock in and the lack of transparency, among others, and best-of-breed solutions emerge as the better option. However, while a multi-sourcing model may offer benefits such as higher flexibility and less dependency on a single vendor, it can be extremely complex to manage and may require additional management resources that some companies may not have.

Additionally, outsourcing lets organisations convert a fixed cost into a flexible expense, and transfer risk and management to another party

Multi-sourcing allows organisations to employ the best vendor in terms of price and capacity for a particular activity. Multi-sourcing promotes competition among various providers.  Best-of-breed sourcing recognizes that providers have different strengths and weaknesses and carves out work best suited for each of several providers.

It can cut costs related to repetitive service contracts and improve quality. Vendors must bid more frequently because contracts are shorter, suppliers face more competition because smaller-sized deals mean that more vendors qualify to bid, and suppliers need to attract more customers in order to meet growth targets.

Scott Feuless, principal consultant with outsourcing consultancy Information Services Group, recently said, “The number of service providers each company uses will grow dramatically, driven by growing popularity of cloud in general and Software-as-a-Service [SaaS] in particular”.

These multiple companies need to be managed and monitored. The job is made more difficult if they are off shore and hard to travel to.  Governance requirements can greatly magnify in multi-vendor BPO and outsourcing environments.

In multi-provider environments the resources needed to manage outsourcing can cost between 4-15% of total contract value.

Organisations pursuing a multi-sourcing arrangement should craft strong internal governance strategies with regard to vendor relationships and share the details with all of their service providers to promote better cooperation and more seamless delivery of services across organisational lines.

There is more risk in depending on one or two providers as much depends on their capabilities and their financial strength, for example. With multi-sourcing the risks move into other areas, including cracks between service, security issues,  hidden costs with continued monitoring and renewal of contracts, and possible replacement of providers.

Multi-sourcing can limit the scope of innovation you can expect from an outsourcing relationship in regards to a particular business function or IT service. IF there’s a range of vendors who are focused on their small bit of the equation there’s unlikely to be enough incentive for any of them to view what they do from a broader perspective.

Partnering with a single provider who can assist in reshaping an entire business process from end-to-end, will offer greater scope for innovation. Rather than a series of smaller contracts focused on transactions.

Moving from a single provider to a multi-sourcing environment or vice versa requires some considerable adjustment to how you manage your outsourcing relationships. You must change your contract negotiation strategies, procurement practices, and the governance models for you outsourcing contracts.

I recently consulted with a client who had a single vendor for the lion’s share of the work that they outsourced. As additional projects were being outsourced they asked the vendor to become a ‘master’ vendor and manage (for a fee) the other smaller vendors. The problem was that they constructed a complicated and very legalistic contract that was never going to achieve what was intended. They basically set and forget and were relying on a legal document that ended up making the parties adversarial. In the end when it came around to renewal time the whole process broke down with the vendor having to be dragged kicking and screaming to the table to honour a deal that it was getting smashed on. Malicious compliance was the end result and it did not end well.

Multi sourcing provides companies with lower cost options to get their outsourcing service delivered. However multi-sourcing relationships’ must be maintained and closely monitored to deliver the best possible outcome.

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

theOutsourcing-guide.com is the ultimate reference guide for the BPO and outsourcing industries and it will become the most comprehensive resource for organisations looking to engage BPO and outsourcing providers. As well as providing a range of eBooks, articles and whitepapers explaining the various aspects of BPO, theOutsourcing-guide.com provides an online directory of providers segmented by category and location.

theOutsourcing-guide.com is a vehicle for vendors and service providers to showcase their organisations and the outsourcing services they provide. Visit theOutsourcing-guide.com for more information.

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Take Me To Your Leader!

“Take me to your leader” is a science fiction cartoon catch phase, said by an extra-terrestrial alien who has just landed on earth in a flying saucer to the first human it happens to meet. It suggests that every organisation has to have someone in charge.

Leadership has been described as “a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”  (Chemers M. (1997)

Many organisations struggle with leadership development at all levels. Recently, Deloitte unveiled its Global Human Capital Trends 2015 report, highlighting leadership as a top ten concern for most companies. The success of any outsourcing relationship is dependent on the quality of leadership from both the vendor as well as the client. Unfortunately, too many organisations adopt a one-size fits all approach to leadership development.

What is leadership?

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Leaders help themselves and others to do the right things. They set direction, build an inspiring vision, and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to “win” as a team or an organization; and it is dynamic, exciting, and inspiring.

Yet, while leaders set the direction, they must also use management skills to guide their people to the right destination, in a smooth and efficient way.

Anyone in any position of authority likes to think they are a good leader. We can all think of examples of good and bad leaders, no matter what the incumbents thought themselves. Each executive, manager, team leader, and supervisor in your organisation most probably has his or her own definition of what leadership is.

Everybody has his or her own ideas about what it takes to be a good leader. For some it’s about having a strong vision and the capability to share it and have others support it[i]. For others it’s about empowering people to achieve their best. While some view leadership as the ability to encourage others to be leaders.

Leadership is all these things.

Fundamentally leaders are people who know how to achieve goals and obtain the necessary support from others to make things happen. Good leaders are necessary for organisations to grow and succeed. Good leaders are inclusive and bring people along with them.

Companies and BPO providers invest small fortunes in leadership development programs. Around $US 170 billion is spent globally on corporate training each year with 35% of this being spent on leadership development[ii].

Why many leadership programs fail

Many leadership programs assume that one size fits all and that the same group of skills or style of leadership is appropriate regardless of strategy, commercial situation and organisational culture[iii]. A BPO service provider may need to develop different styles of leaders depending on the contracts and nature of the clients they need to work with. It may need different leadership styles depending on the industries they target and general economic conditions.

Is the organisation in a fast growing and dynamic space requiring leaders brimming with ideas and technical know-how, who are prepared to take risks. Or is the organisation facing sluggish market demand and needs people who can control costs and streamline processes.

A good starting point for developing leadership within your organisation may be to come up with your own definition or range of definitions for the term. Define what characteristics are necessary for someone to be a good leader in your environment and at what level within your organisation.

Characteristics may include things like honesty, active listening, the ability to delegate, confidence, good communication, be organised and so on. What characteristics you choose and the importance you give to each will depend on the culture and objectives of your organisation.

Are good leaders made or born?

There are various debates about whether leaders are born or made or some combination of both. One thing that is fairly certain is that a brilliant leader in one situation does not necessarily perform well in another[iv].

As an employer you must decide which characteristics or skills you can help people develop to become good leaders, specifically within your organisation and what characteristics do they need to bring with them when they are employed.

As the BPO industry continues to evolve, diversify and adapting to an ever-changing world and business environment, leadership is becoming increasingly complex and demanding. Meeting that gap is a significant challenge requiring more than a one-size fits all approach.

And lastly: “My Religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”    The Dalai Lama

Kindness is a leadership characteristic that will deliver financial and humanitarian returns beyond imagination. It helps us create work environments that are based on trust and that allow people to express and experience meaning and purpose at work.

Kindness is the willingness to open one’s heart to another and to do so as instinct, not as calculation. Kindness is a show of respect for someone, whether you agree with his or her point of view or not. Kindness leads to listening, to curiosity and to the creation of environments at work, home and in the community, where there is an unspoken covenant of honour and of worthiness. It helps us internalize and cultivate an understanding that none of us can survive or achieve personal or organizational success alone.

Focus on happiness

What about your company makes you happy? What makes you unhappy? By asking two such simple questions, a manager can discover how best to motivate his employees, persuade his customers, and support its shareholders. According to the Dalai Lama, happiness is the highest universal form of motivation. A happy company is a successful company. You are more invested in success when you care about where it comes from.

[i] http://www.businessnewsdaily.com/3647-leadership-definition.html

[ii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2014/02/04/the-recovery-arrives-corporate-training-spend-skyrockets/

[iii] http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/leading_in_the_21st_century/why_leadership-development_programs_fail

[iv] http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/leading_in_the_21st_century/why_leadership-development_programs_fail

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

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Let’s Work Together

By Martin Conboy

“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.

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com


theOutsourcing-guide.com
 is the ultimate reference guide for the BPO and outsourcing industries and it will become the most comprehensive resource for organisations looking to engage BPO and outsourcing providers. As well as providing a range of eBooks, articles and whitepapers explaining the various aspects of BPO, theOutsourcing-guide.com provides an online directory of providers segmented by category and location.

theOutsourcing-guide.com is a vehicle for vendors and service providers to showcase their organisations and the outsourcing services they provide. Visit theOutsourcing-guide.com for more information.

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Learning how to tame your wicked problems

By Martin Conboy

Wicked problems are problems that cannot be solved. But they may be tamed. Obesity, climate change, the war on terror can be classified as wicked problems. To tame these problems the usual problem solving techniques based on rational linear analysis do not work. Customer service, particularly in the age of digital disruption, may be viewed as a wicked problem.

“It is hard to say what the problem is, to define it clearly or to tell where it stops and starts. There is no “right” way to view the problem, no definitive formulation. There are many stakeholders, all with their own frames, which they tend to see as exclusively correct. Ask what the problem is and you will get a different answer from each. Someone can always say that the problem is just a symptom of another problem and that someone will not be wrong. The problem is inter-connected to a lot of other problems; pulling them apart is almost impossible. In a word: it’s a mess.” – Jay Rosen of NYU

The term “wicked problem” was coined in 1973 by UC Berkeley scholars, Rittel and Webber. Essentially a wicked problem is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, conflicting and changing requirements. C. West Churchman, systems scientist, describes wicked problems as “a class of social system problems, which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing; where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values; and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing”.

The ongoing challenge of satisfying and exceeding customer expectations, which vary from customer to customer and are constantly changing, meets the criteria of a wicked problem. In this age of digital disruption, where social media and mobility are redefining the relationship between brands and consumers, organisations need to be more creative and innovative in their approach.

We are seeing a whole new suite of service offerings around the ‘customer experience’ and there are plenty of people claiming to have discovered the holy grail of what defines the customer experience. The challenge is that each and every customer is unique and we can no longer lump customers into the easy to manage, and understand segments of a few years ago.

Within an enterprise there are numerous stakeholders with different objectives, including employees, partners, management and shareholders. They each have different perspectives and aims, which may vary, dramatically from the goals of the company.

There’s the basic conflict of trying to deliver improved service, so as to improve loyalty, value and revenue from customer relationships, versus the costs associated with restructuring the business to offer better service. And the needs and requirements of customers, as individuals and as a group, can be largely hidden from managers and executives within an enterprise.

To solve their customer service issues, which also impact their sales and marketing objectives, organisations try to design and build systems and implement strategies. However, many traditional problem solving and project design approaches do not work. And despite their verbal commitment to innovation and improving the experiences of customers, many organisations remain fairly inert and their initiatives are simply tick-the-box exercises.

According to John Kolko, in his article Wicked Problems: Problems Worth Solving[i], most organisations are focused on one type of problem – differentiation. Innovation entails some form of differentiation or newness. But in product design and product development, tiered releases and differentiation often replace true innovation. Every year there’s a new iPod or iPhone. Every year there’s a new version on a car model. Each new release incorporates only slight or cosmetic changes.

But improvement alone may not be enough. Look at what airbnb or Uber are doing to the hospitality and taxi sectors without actually owning anything. There are macro forces at play that are hard to understand i.e. The Cloud that is disrupting established and proven economic business models.

For most companies it’s all about staying ahead of the competition and ensuring quarterly results. This may very well prove to be very short sighted.

Just recently Apple shipped its 1 billionth mobile device, amazing success by any economic standard, but did anybody stop and think about what this really means? We are now so connected with technology that people are constantly burying themselves in their phones that we seem to have lost the art of real communication. So we had disruptive innovation on a grand scale but lost the ability to talk to each other – a very wicked problem. Depending upon your point of view that might be a good or bad thing!

Characteristics of a wicked problem

Horst Rittel highlights ten characteristics of a wicked problem[ii]:

  1. Wicked problems have no definitive formulation. The customer service issues facing one industry or organisation can be fundamentally different to another.
  2. Every wicked problem is unique.
  3. It’s hard, maybe impossible, to measure or claim success with wicked problems because they bleed into one another, unlike the boundaries of traditional design problems that can be articulated or defined.
  4. Solutions to wicked problems can be only good or bad, not true or false.
  5. There is no template to follow when tackling a wicked problem, although history may provide a guide.
  6. There are multiple explanations for a wicked problem.
  7. Every wicked problem is a symptom of another problem.
  8. No mitigation strategy for a wicked problem has a definitive scientific test because humans invented wicked problems and science exists to understand natural phenomena.
  9. Offering a “solution” to a wicked problem frequently is a “one shot” design effort because a significant intervention changes the design space enough to minimise the ability for trial and error.
  10. Designers attempting to address a wicked problem must be fully responsible for their actions.

How does one tame a wicked problem?

The term wicked problem emerged to address problems in social planning and designing public policy. Design problems are typically wicked because they are often ill defined (no prescribed way forward), involve stakeholders with different perspectives, and have no “right” or “optimal” solution.[iii] Thus wicked problems cannot be solved by the application of standard methods; they demand creative and unique solutions.

To tame a wicked problem requires collaboration and creativity. Processes need to be developed to ensure all stakeholders are involved in finding ways to manage the problem[iv]. This will make the planning process more complex, but it also expands the potential for creativity as well as achieving buy-in from all involved.

The ultimate aim should be to create a shared understanding of the problem and encourage a joint commitment to possible ways of resolving it. Not everyone will agree on what the problem is, but stakeholders should be able to understand one another’s positions well enough to discuss different interpretations of the problem and work together to tackle it.

[i] http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/wicked_problems_problems_worth_solving

[ii] http://www.ssireview.org/articles/entry/wicked_problems_problems_worth_solving

[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicked_problem

[iv] https://hbr.org/2008/05/strategy-as-a-wicked-problem

Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

theOutsourcing-guide.com is the ultimate reference guide for the BPO and outsourcing industries and it will become the most comprehensive resource for organisations looking to engage BPO and outsourcing providers. As well as providing a range of eBooks, articles and whitepapers explaining the various aspects of BPO, theOutsourcing-guide.com provides an online directory of providers segmented by category and location.

theOutsourcing-guide.com is a vehicle for vendors and service providers to showcase their organisations and the outsourcing services they provide. Visit theOutsourcing-guide.com for more information.

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Using Gamification to solve business problems

By Martin Conboy

Children have always been taught games to help them learn, adopt appropriate behaviours and adapt to life’s challenges. Brian Burke, research VP for Gartner, highlights how gamification uses game mechanics and game design techniques in a non-gaming context to solve a range of business problems and challenges[i]. It’s a tool to engage employees, customers and the public.

Gamification has proven to be successful in engaging people and motivating them to change behaviours, develop skills and solve problems. Gamification is currently being applied to customer engagement, employee performance, training and education, innovation management, personal development, and a range of other areas. It has the potential to redefine the nature of BPO and outsourcing relationships, and the value they deliver to clients and providers.

However it is not without its challenges, toward the end of 2013, Gartner released a report predicting that 80 percent of gamified apps will fail to meet their objectives by 2014. The report cites poor design, including meaningless points and badges, as the top reason for the failure of these applications.

This isn’t exactly surprising. Gamification is approaching the peak of its hype cycle, and, as a result, it’s being tacked on to applications even when it doesn’t make sense for a particular business. Many apps are adding badges and other game mechanics simply because they could appeal to potential investors (or because current investors insisted they be added).

What is gamification?

The oldest examples of gamification are frequent flyer programs that airline companies offer as a part of their customer loyalty programs. Gamification was a term that was first coined in 2003 by Nick Pelling, but did not gain popularity until 2010[ii].

Gamification harnesses the basic desires and needs of users (such as competition, status, altruism, and collaboration) to help them reach their goals and objectives. Typical elements of game playing (i.e. Point scoring, competition, badges, rules of play and winning) are applied to other areas of activity, such as marketing, customer engagement, employee training and education, innovation management and so on.

Innovation Management

Gamification is playing a key role in innovation management. Combined with crowdsourcing it allows organisations to engage a target audience and leverage the collective intelligence of the crowd to generate and develop ideas. According to Gartner[iii] the increasing sophistication of innovation game design along with broader target audience participation and more organisations engaged with this approach, will result in an explosion of gamified, crowd sourced innovations by 2020.

Employee Performance

Organisations have been using game mechanics to improve employee performance for some time now. Most contact centres run competitions based around performance and / or number of sales. Unfortunately most of the games designed are crude and rather limited, producing varied results at best.

Most current applications of game mechanics, as you will find in your average BPO contact centre, rely on monetary or other extrinsic rewards and competitive game constructs, where success is limited. These games reward a few top performers, while the rest of the team’s performance lags and continues to fall behind.

Gamification uses the currencies of social capital, self-esteem and fun, as opposed to extrinsic rewards, as motivations for improved performance. It’s based on collaborative rather than competitive games that maximise business outcomes, rather than rewarding a few top performers.

Customer Engagement PlatformsGamification has the potential to revolutionise loyalty and marketing applications. Consumer brands such as Samsung, Nike and Pepsi are leading the way. And though big brands have the resources to develop customised gamification applications, there is a tremendous opportunity for coalition loyalty platforms to develop that aggregate loyalty programs from many retailers, services and brands.

Consumers are tired of participating in dozens of brand-based loyalty programs where the rewards are small and the investment in time is significant. According to Gartner[iv], by 2020, a small number of dominant coalition loyalty platforms could emerge, driven by a number of factors:

  • Cross-brand sponsorship and participation — Loyalty platforms are attractive to consumers if many of the retailers, services and brands that they already use are part of the program.
  • Aggregation of points and levels — By aggregating points, rewards can be more significant, and players can level-up by virtue of their total program involvement, rather than involvement with a single loyalty marketing program.
  • Levels are broadly recognised — Becoming silver or gold member provides recognition and entitlement across the brand network.
  • Players become loyal to the platform and the brand community — Brands that are not part of the community become “outsiders” and less attractive to consumers.
  • Points become a transferable virtual currency — Points can be broadly exchanged for goods, services or other rewards, and can be transferred to other people.
  • Platform consolidation will occur through network effect — Multiple customer engagement platforms will consolidate to create a small number of dominant platforms.

Combining gamification with big data

The benefits of gamification can be greatly magnified when combined with big data analytics. Big data allows business to capture and analyse customer behaviour[v]. The insight gleaned from this analysis can be used to design games and activities that generate more engaging experiences for customers, measure the performance of those games and activities and identify areas for improvement.

All in all it’s about increasing loyalty by creating an enjoyable experience that connects with the user above and beyond the extrinsic rewards such as money.

[i] http://www.gartner.com/technology/research/gamification/
[ii] http://badgeville.com/wiki/Gamification.
[iii] http://www.gartner.com/doc/2226015?refval=&pcp=mpe.
[iv] http://www.gartner.com/doc/2226015?refval=&pcp=mpe.
[v][v] http://badgeville.com/wiki/Gamification#how gamification and big data are driving.

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Originally Published in the Sauce eNewsletter – theOutsourcing-Guide.com

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