How Culture And Innovation Play A Key Role In BPO Digital Transformation

How Culture And Innovation Play A Key Role In BPO Digital Transformation

As I mentioned in my recent article, the entire Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector has been forced to change the way they operate and also how they address the market because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Operations have largely moved to a work-from-home (WFH) delivery model, but I have seen many companies in the sector grappling with the idea that they might also need to reposition their branding.

This is only natural. Most of us avoid change where possible, but that is really the point here – it is no longer possible to avoid. Almost every company across the world is now exploring digital transformation either because the pandemic forced them to change immediately or because this unusual market environment allows future plans to be accelerated.

Since the pandemic began, I have been involved with half a dozen major rebranding or re-messaging initiatives with BPOs all over the world – preparing them for the digital transformation they need to embrace a post-pandemic business environment.

But transformation isn’t just a new website and new logo. BPOs are forever saying “we are more than just a contact center” and then selling agents in a contact center as their primary service. If you want to genuinely be seen as a full partner that is trusted to advise on customer experience (CX) strategy then you need a plan and structure in place to drive your own transformation.

Building a flexible and innovative organization doesn’t happen because you use some stock photography on your annual report, visualizing how innovative your company really is. To systematically embrace innovation, especially inside an organization like a BPO, you need a genuine cultural shift. The organization will need to adapt so innovation is supported.

To transform a brand you must influence and change your culture. To change your culture you must create a focus on innovation that supports the change.

Changing culture head on by announcing you are “going to change the culture around here” is a bit like hugging a cloud. You know it’s there, but you can’t actually get a grip on it. You can put up inspirational posters and host as many hackathons as you want and keep reminding your people to “be innovative today”, but if you don’t do anything beyond the communication then nothing will happen.

In fact, the worst situation of all is where you hire smart people and ask them to innovate and improve the BPO processes, but don’t give them the tools or freedom to experiment and make changes. The most common problem is how innovation requires failure, but most managers don’t like to see projects failing – and many will punish failure. If you ask your people to be innovative, but fire them when a project fails then what message are you really sending? Don’t change anything around here!

It’s easy to see how people can become cynical. So many attempts at innovation and transformation are reminiscent of David Brent leading his team in The Office. In the warp speed change that we are now seeing after the pandemic, you really cannot afford to just be giving motivational pep talks. You need to really make this happen.

Think where and how your brand should be changing and improving. Where might innovation be possible? Systematically stand by innovation councils, governance to recognize innovation and explore every process and supply your people with proven methods and tools to help channel their ideas and energy in the same direction. Give them the scope to test out ideas and empower them to retire ideas that don’t work quickly, rather than firing them for failure. Fail fast and learn from it.

“Stand up an innovation growth council, catalyze innovation on the front lines, and build a system of identifying key innovations and scaling them across the enterprise”

I always like to say, give them the black and the white and then let them push the grey areas. The grey is where the innovation lives.

If you make it clear that you trust your colleagues to improve their work processes and you make the tools available then the culture will really start taking care of itself. Just trusting people and equipping them with the tools they need to improve the business means that they will start doing it. That’s already a cultural change.

Innovation and digital transformation can only work when the culture of the company changes, but to make that cultural shift you need to do more than just ask for innovation.

Please leave a comment here with you own view on BPO innovation or get in touch with me directly if you want to ask about the BPO and digital transformation programs I have worked on since the start of the pandemic.


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