It is the height of summer and I can’t help but reflect on how fast the year has gone by and how amazing the first half of 2012 has been. In the midst of all the things that make SIG what it is…a community of sourcing professionals who readily share best practices and network to improve knowledge and advance the industry…we have had a number of firsts as well. This summer marked two new opportunities to expand SIG’s global reach and open our minds to new outsourcing destinations.
In early June we hosted our first-ever International Outsourcing Expedition (IOE) to China. After stops in Shanghai or Beijing, our 20-person group convened in Changsha, a tier two outsourcing city, that none of us had ever visited before. From the perspective afforded to us in terms of education, networking and deepening our respect for the Chinese people, the event was flawless. Changsha has a long way to go before it becomes an outsourcing destination powerhouse, however with their passion, commitment and local and central government support, Changsha will accomplish in five years what most nations couldn’t do in 15. Although there are clear beneficial reasons for choosing a tier 2 city vs. the coastal and other major cities in China, my key takeaway for what Changsha must do to rapidly advance as an outsourcing choice for Fortune 500 companies, would be to improve fluency of the English language in the workplace. Many (if not most) of the business owners we met with brought an interpreter because they lacked English fluency. This is, in large part because they are working primarily within China and have not yet bridged their understanding of the United States and what companies need on a larger scale. The more robust companies have Chinese American representatives in the United States who know how to sell to the American audience and can translate these requirements to the Chinese. Overall, the problems Changsha faces can be chalked up to the infancy of the city as an outsourcing destination. The exciting part, on the other hand, was the diversity of BPO and ITO in which companies specialized and the talent they require to meet the capability needs. The good news is that education is clearly being emphasized in China, and with the variety of specialties and sheer number of graduating students, the talent pool is amazing.
In a completely different part of the world altogether, earlier this month I visited Nicaragua with the Nearshore Executive Alliance Board of Directors to deliver a program on ITO and BPO on behalf of PRONicaragua. What a difference a trip makes. The comparisons between these two regions really don’t even belong in one article, and yet in some ways it makes perfect sense. Whereas China has the masses, Nicaragua as a country has a smaller population than most cities in China. Where China has effectively developed a middle class, Nicaragua has not. Where there are about 500,000 English-speaking natives in Nicaragua, China graduates far more than that annually. While China has a strong economy, Nicaragua’s is developing. Yet, both countries demonstrated that when it comes right down to it, where there is a will, there is a way. The people from Nicaragua showed their commitment to making the country a successful destination for outsourcing. In Nicaragua, we saw a state-of-the-art call center facility, easy access to Wifi, and a small but strong investment agency that is doing a great job showcasing their country. And while the similarities are few and the differences great, visiting one country right after being in the other made the point clear to me that there are times when each destination might be more favorable than the other.
These unique opportunities allow us to demonstrate to SIG members that there are numerous options for ITO and BPO and we need to think about these outsourcing destinations as highly skilled emerging regions with costs and capabilities that will become increasingly competitive over the next few years. For me, it was a reminder to keep our eye on the prize, but our feet on the ground and to continually test the waters and commitment of emerging regions.
At our upcoming Global Leadership Summit in October (9-11, 2012 in Scottsdale, AZ) we will host several nearshore information sessions and workshops. I encourage you to come experience first hand why you might want to consider nearshore opportunities as part of your global sourcing strategy. While you are at it, stay tuned for our next IOE and experience these emerging and evolving destinations first hand.
To round out my travel this summer, I will be spending the next few weeks on the west coast with the SIG leadership team, where we will examine the results of our recent membership survey and determine additional ways to add value to SIG memberships. If you missed the survey period, but would like to share your thoughts, please reach out. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your summer and let it be a time for you to relax, regroup and recharge!