Reimagining the BPO promise

Business process outscoring has a bad rep around these parts, having been the “failed” poster child for Kenya’s entry into the digital knowledge space. Government agencies such as the ICT Authority of Kenya had bold dreams of hiving off market share from regions such as India that for decades have creamed a large percentage of the global outsourcing business whether on software development or the customer service cum support side. This saw huge investments into the then greenfield opportunity with entrepreneurs putting up call centers – the definitive interpretation of BPO then, backed, perhaps blindly by the mantra build it and they will come. A mix of circumstances led to what I consider an epic fail that saw only a handful of ventures escape the dead pool and achieve a descent level of sustainability in what is obviously a very volatile and unpredictable market if gauged from the original market sizing and opportunity description.

BPO is dead. Long live BPO. The sad tale of BPO’s beginnings ends here and its nascent promise is born. If we are to look at its very definition, we will see that we have been lost in translation having taken the deep dive into setting up “seats” that we can sell to companies and provide them with certain services. Business process outsourcing by definition “involves the contracting of the operations and responsibilities of specific business functions (or processes) to a third-party service provider.”

Thought about differently and hinged on this definition you can see that any information technology centered service that handles any part of a business process for an outfit other than itself can firmly be considered a BPO play. This should have you take a second look at cloud based service offerings such as; customer relationship management, accounting, inventory management, payments processing, lead generation and digital marketing.

The government and SME market are the prime candidates to drive the growth of “internal” BPO, shifting the focus away from the capital intensive brick and motor call center – which still have a role to play, to a more scalable and profitable model. Similar to the push in the tourism sector, if we can scratch our own itch, we can grow our BPO sector just from in-country business and empower our technology entrepreneurs with expansion capital to go regional with the originally intended benefits of the ICTA led BPO evangelism and funding in line with Vision 2030, firmly in our sights.

An Africa based entrepreneur in the pursuit of opportunities without regard to resources currently controlled striving to build services that have real-world value for my beloved continent and beyond while having fun along the way.

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