Agile Partnerships: Is it the future of business?

Business as we know it has been greatly affected by COVID-19, and that applies to all sectors and all sizes.

Agile Partnerships: Is it the future of business?

Business as we know it has been greatly affected by COVID-19, and that applies to all sectors and all sizes. As we bounce back, the outsourcing sector will be more relevant and more popular than ever

I would say that wouldn’t I? I run a leading technology business which offers virtual receptionist and telephone services as an outsourced partner service for organisations large and small. However, it all came about as the result of a personal business need. 

A less-than-happy experience with a more traditional call centre type answering service to be specific, which ended badly when a client phoned to let me know my fax machine (remember them?) was out of paper. I was on holiday in the Canaries at the time and the answering service told my client that they didn’t work in the business and they only answered the phone so I lost out on a huge order.

That was my eureka moment. Surely, there was a better way that these businesses could be run? So I set about selling the concept of an outsourced PA service to my sister Rachel, the plan being to do something better than everyone else. The USP was to take the impersonality out of answering services ‘ to ensure, in short, that those taking the calls had built up a relationship with the people they were taking the calls for. Outsourcing done in partnership and done well. 

The new term for it is agile partnering – strategically partnering with specialists to gain a competitive edge, access a new market, or capitalise on new opportunities is critical to future success. The bods at Deloitte are predicting that solutions led by cloud and automation are fundamentally transforming traditional outsourcing.

The best-of-breed services companies understand what their clients want and employ the latest technology to provide it. Like any business decision there are pros and cons. Yet, as the people behind the statistics predict the growth of the sector now may be the best time to think a little harder about what advantages it could offer you.

Focus on what you are best at

Outsourcing can free up your business and teams to focus on their strengths, allowing them to concentrate on their main tasks and future strategy. In short, it allows you to focus on what you are best at and, if you choose the right outsourcing company that specialises in the element you want them to carry out, you will ultimately achieve higher productivity, and quality. Take it from me. I learned the hard way: you can’t do everything yourself. Do what you do best and find others who do the rest of it at their best. 

And, don’t forget by outsourcing you are expanding your talent pool, allowing access to skills and knowledge otherwise potentially unavailable to you. That way you can gain that all-important competitive advantage.

Take Britain’s new supermarket favourite, Aldi and electricals retailer AO. Not a partnership that you would instinctively think of as made in heaven. However, they have announced a three-year partnership deal for AO to deliver Aldi’s bulkier items. AO has the proven logistics capability and Aldi needed to add that to their offering to be competitive. Rather than start from scratch, spending pots of time and money, Aldi and AO have combined their strengths, accessing capabilities in a strategic partnership in order to improve their customer experience and drive operational benefits with little capital investment. Sounds like a plan.

Controlled costs

Cost is the most commonly cited argument for outsourcing. Yes, it is a factor that can make all the difference but, for me, it is the icing on the cake. The cherry on top, if you like. Done correctly it can enhance your business and help you reach your goals. 

Yes, using an outsourced company can lead to lower labour costs, reducing HR and payroll admin as well as direct salaries. The recruitment and training process is expensive in both time and man-hours. It’s hard to find the right person for the job and the company, as I have shared in previous columns. With outsourcing, you are turning your fixed costs into variable ones. Thus, keeping your FD’s anxiety levels at bay and your bottom line, your barometer of effectiveness and success, if you like. 

Managing peaks and troughs in demand

The last few months have been a roller coaster ride for many businesses with many experiencing huge troughs in customer demand whilst others are seeing massive, unforecast peaks. Outsourcing helps deal with these peaks and troughs for a business by increasing the company’s flexibility, applying an appropriate level of resource to a particular task, again keeping costs in check. 

Outsourcing always used to be about saving money. Today, it has evolved. Agile partnerships can offer so much more that will benefit you as a business. For me, as a business leader it can drive cost efficiencies for a business, yes, but also it can improve customer experience, enable you to adapt to changing market conditions, deliver greater flexibility and provide you with access to new expertise and technologies. And this, in turn, means that you can use the capital that would have been tied up to invest in other areas of your business, what you are good at and excel in. Win-Win as they say.

One last thing though. Think about how you are going to implement it, communicate well – that means listening as well as speaking to people – and make sure there is a fit, that your outsourced team can seamlessly become part of the overall team. Done properly, it can be the best thing you can do for your business.

Ed Reeves
Ed Reeves

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