Not many people have noticed the practical disappearance of the term “outsourcing” from the services dictionary in recent years, but the evolution of heritage “outsourcer” WNS into a firm much better described as a “business operations partner” was highly visible in the annual US WNS client/analyst briefing event.
We predicted that 2019 will be the year of “How” and so far it is turning out to be true. The “Why” (customer experience, revenue impact, internal alignment) and the “What” (combination of emerging technologies across automation, AI, and analytics) for transformation have become fairly clear after intense debate for the last couple of years. But the “How” to go about executing on the aspirations is still confusing - at best. This existential question of “How” was clearly on display at WNS’ client event.
Value-based Partnerships are a Critical Part of Execution
“I’m a long-time outsourcer, first time transformer,” said a WNS client at their annual analyst meet last week. This sentiment resonates with many companies that are looking at their outsourcing vendors and partnerships with a fresh lens. It is becoming clear that in order to compete, it is imperative to shift away from low value, cost and efficiency focused vendor relationships to partnerships that foster collaboration for “how” to approach their automation efforts, customer experience improvements and other key business initiatives.
HFS has known WNS and many of its key clients for over a decade and it has become very apparent that their key relationships have moved up the value chain from the time when the firm was considered a “safe pair of hands” at low cost. Today, clients are frequently citing the firm’s willingness to create analytics solutions, help them explore robotic software transformation, and work with them in a “co-creation” model where they are trusted to help them design and achieve challenging outcomes. In short, many of WNS’ key clients – some of whom were presenting at the event – are willing to take a risk on longer term, higher-stakes partnership with the firm.
This change is already starting to pay off for enterprises that are embracing collaborative partnerships. An HFS survey revealed that higher performing companies have moved beyond traditional outsourcing to seek out partnerships that foster innovation and co-defined outcomes (exhibit 1).
Exhibit 1: Highest Performing Enterprises have evolved from “Traditional Outsourcing” to “Value-based Partnerships”
WNS’ Strategy to Focus on the “How” is Paying Off
WNS has witnessed an envious topline growth of ~14% CAGR over the last 5 years where the broader industry has gone through a slowdown. Its stock price at the time of writing this article was at an all-time high at $57.09.
It has achieved this growth on the basis of its focused customer-centricity – by simply focusing on “how” it can help its clients achieve their goals by ensuring the present and insuring for the future. Its winning theme lies in co-creation with clients.
The Bottom Line: Execution Requires Integration in Every Sense of the Word - Technology, Talent, Organizational Change and Leadership
Clients at the WNS event shared several ways that their partnerships are fostering greater collaboration and better performance at their organizations. Here are some of the key themes we heard that will help those who are looking to partner for business outcomes in 2019:
Well executed change management is at the heart of transformation. A privately held hospitality company which transferred its finance operations to a WNS-operated COE emphasized the importance of change management in working with partners and internal employees. Communication is key; even overcommunication at times can drive home the message and further the spirit of transparency.
Leverage cross industry best practices. WNS clients discussed the merits of leveraging partners not only for industry best practices, but for understanding of larger trends and ideas. Collaborative partnerships will often not just rely on a partner’s depth of industry expertise, but also a willingness to share and implement best practices from other clients across horizontals.
“Trust but verify” when deciding on service partnerships. One client described the shift away from a vendor contract to a more collaborative partnership with WNS. A lesson learned from the previous relationship where the vendor became complacent was to solicit and listen to feedback from existing clients of the prospective partner during the RFP process, where they likely would have learned that the incumbent partner was not prepared to “walk the walk” on its promises.
Welcome proactivity and new ideas. The most fundamental piece of the value-focused partnership which is a 180-degree flip from the “lift and shift”, client dictated approach to one where clients welcome ideas and suggestions not just to improve processes but how to better their business. One client shared the success which came from WNS’ suggestion to expand its Service Now usage from strictly IT helpdesk to order management and other processes. Collaborative partners should be coming to you regularly with new ideas – and you should be listening and ready to collaborate on solving problems and capitalizing on opportunities.