Archive for October, 2011

Training to stem offshoring II: Look to IT of the future, not past

October 31st, 2011

When I wrote that we need better training if we are to roll back offshoring and create jobs, many took issue with the assertion that anything but pure cost could possibly drive jobs to H1-B visas. In Is nearshoring the new IT outsourcing? I outlined reasons companies might keep IT domestic despite upfront savings. However, these belie the point to my call for training, which is really about how the introduction to the enterprise of social media, mobile, cloud computing and other next generation technologies is rewriting how business works, best described in Gartner’s recent call for “creative destruction” in IT. Many of the jobs I’m talking about are yet to be created and, if they’re not filled by U.S. applicants, these won’t go overseas but rather wll leave a talent gap that puts U.S. businesses at a competitive disadvantage. By training for these jobs, we’re not rolling back offshoring of specific positions, but potentially of entire businesses.

Technology is becoming fully integrated into and crucial to the average employee’s work, leading to an increasingly blurred line between IT and the rest of the business. This trend offers an opportunity for U.S. IT because it requires people who can fully integrate with the rest of the company, empathizing with the problems employees face and working with them to offer solutions. It also points out a glaring need for training as there is currently a limited pool of people who can pull off this balancing act, giving us a second talent gap.


Convergys bets big on Indian BPO market

October 31st, 2011

Notwithstanding competition from countries like Philippines and Vietnam, India remains an attractive destination for outsourcing services on account of its talented workforce, according to BPO major Convergys.

“The world has moved away from looking at outsourcing to places like India just as a cost arbitrage. The focus is now on transformational work, helping clients not just save costs but also increasing efficiency,” Convergys Senior Vice President (Customer Management) Nancy Pryor told PTI.

She added that while there is competition from other nations like Philippines and Vietnam, India still has a lot of factors working in its favour.

“India has a large pool of talented workforce who also have a good understanding of technology as well. They can easily deal with the requirements from clients across the US, Europe and Australia, which also happens in case of other locations, but India still has an edge,” Pryor said.

With increasing labour costs, there have been fears that India might lose its numero uno position when it comes to outsourcing.

However, a lot of BPO players are now expanding to small Indian towns and hiring less expensive workers, while adding centres in other countries as well to make most of the opportunity.

With its global headquarters in Cincinnati, US, Convergys has about 70,000 employees in 67 customer contact centers across the US, Canada, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Of this, about 12,000 people are spread across six locations in India — Delhi-NCR (three facilities), Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore.

It has clients across verticals like financial services, communications, government, healthcare and retail.

Though the company does not have plans to enter the domestic market here in the near future, Pryor said the company is bullish on using India as a centre for excellence.

“India will be a growth driver in 2012. While we do not have plans to serve companies here (in India) as of now, we are always examining opportunities,” Pryor said.

Convergys added about 1,500 jobs last year and the plan is to hire about the same number this year, which shows the company’s commitment to the Indian market, she added.

Asked about the demand environment globally, Pryor said the economic uncertainties throw up opportunities.

“It is these times that companies look at partnering firms like us and want to not just reduce cost but also improve their performance. There are new opportunities that come up and we are well-positioned to cash in on the opportunities,” she said.


IT’s their turn now

October 31st, 2011

After recruiting in bulk in the best colleges in the cities, the IT companies have started hunting talent in Tier III cities located in some of the backward districts like Perambalur and Virudhunagar through campus placements and joint-campus drives.

“We are very happy that 59 of our final-year students got placement in a top company like Infosys in campus recruitment on October 11. We are adopting various strategies for enhancing the soft skills of our students as expected by the industry which has yielded results,” says S. Ramasamy, Associate Professor, Department of English, Kamaraj College of Engineering and Technology (KCET), Virudhunagar.

In the campus interview conducted during September at Dhanalakshmi Srinivasan Engineering College in Perambalur district, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) recruited 67 candidates, including 48 girls, following the aptitude and technical tests, group discussion and personal interview.

At Roever Engineering College in the district, a 16-week capsule has been integrated into the curriculum for enabling even non-IT students to be industry-ready in IT industries. Net Magnus has scheduled a campus interview at the college for December 21 and 22 for Trainee/Test Analyst positions entailing an annual salary of Rs.2.4 lakh.

In Thanjavur district, IT majors have been recruiting deserving candidates, though in small numbers, in many colleges, including AVVM Pushpam College, Poondi, Rajah Serfoji Government College, and Kundavai Nachiyar Government College.

Faced with a high attrition rate in metros and bigger cities, major recruiters have indicated their preference for candidates with right aptitude in colleges located in interior districts owing to the loyalty factor.

In Tier II cities such as Coimbatore, Tiruchi and Madurai, the placement season has truly begun. Placement trend at Thiagarajar College of Engineering (TCE) has always been inspiring for the southern districts, with top companies making no distinction between Chennai and TCE students. In fact, TCS started its State-level recruitment from the TCE campus in Madurai in August second week.

In Coimbatore, the response of the companies has been good in spite of the apprehensions linked to the fallout of recession. According to K.S. Amirthagadeswaran, Placement Officer of Government College of Technology, another refreshing trend witnessed by colleges here is that some local IT companies have also come for campus recruitments offering salaries on a par with the big players.

It is not just engineering colleges that are seeing an encouraging trend. Arts and Science colleges are also seeing a surge of recruiters, since these students do not expect as much salary as engineering students. College students finding placements in IT majors are quite happy since they are also given assurances for pursuing higher education while in job, according to V. Sujatha, principal, Cauvery College for Women in Tiruchi, from where Wipro recruited 58 students last month.


Companies have also joined hands with institutes such as ICT Academy of Tamil Nadu (ICTA) and the Directorate of Collegiate Education (DCE) to offer training-the-trainer programmes for better employability of students.

The DCE has a tie-up with Infosys to offer a training programme for arts and science colleges for recruitment to its Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO). Similarly, the ICTA is developing modules and offering training for tier II and III engineering colleges.

“The emphasis is on improving the quality of faculty members in engineering colleges located in smaller cities who are not exposed to the needs of the IT industry,” says B. Anbuthambi, General Manager- Corporate and Government initiatives, ICTA.


More BPO assessment tests set

October 31st, 2011

The Business Processing Association of the Philippines will continue the rollout of its Global Competitiveness Assessment Tool (GCAT), in a bid to assess the capabilities of potential business process outsourcing industry practitioners and make it easier for companies to access qualified applicants.

BPAP senior executive director Gillian Joyce Virata said around 15,500 students in Luzon and Visayas had taken the test. The test would also be administered in Mindanao.

In crafting the test, she said 2,000 current BPO employees were asked to serve as benchmarks, which meant that the scores of the GCAT takers would be compared with the industry average via that 2,000-person yardstick.

The results of the first 15,500 GCAT tests administered, she said, showed that would-be practitioners scored lower than the industry benchmark.

“This could explain why hiring rates are low. The current industry average hiring rate is 5-8 percent. That was almost exactly the same as the passing rate for the GCAT,” she said. “For those who don’t reach the benchmark, we offer them various training so they can better prepare for jobs in the BPO industry.”

The test was first launched in March 2010 as the BPAP National Competency Test, with a P5-million budget from the now defunct Commission on Information and Communications Technology. The initial budget was enough to buy 10,000 test personal identification numbers (PINs) at P500 each. It was later renamed the GCAT.

The 2.5-hour computerized test gauges exam takers’ suitability to jobs in the BPO sector, using as criteria some of the basic skills required to do work in the industry, including verbal and numerical learning ability, English proficiency, perceptual speed and accuracy and computer literacy.

It also has a behavioral component, which tests a BPO candidate’s service orientation. Characteristics being tested include reliability, responsiveness, empathy, communication, courtesy and learning orientation.

The test aims to serve as BPO firms’ first level of screening for potential employees, as well as a feedback mechanism for the academe to know which particular skills the industry requires from graduates.


How To Outsource Assignments, Tasks To Free Up Time

October 31st, 2011

Time is valuable. For some, it is more valuable than anything else. If you run a business like I do, you will encounter tasks that need to be done but waste lots of precious time. A basic example would be comment moderating, checking for broken links or answering emails. While it is not always possible to outsource those tasks, especially not so if you do not want to provide a third party access to the data, there are other tasks that can be easily outsourced to free up time.

When I say outsource I mean to hire a third party to perform that task for you. And this can be anything that you are comfortable to share. From homework assignments to creating a new website, writing an article or converting documents. Outsourcing on the Internet works best for tasks that are technology related, even though they are not limited to that.

Lets take a look at one of the marketplaces where you can outsource your tasks. Fiverr on first glance does not look like a place where any sane person would outsource tasks on. You pay $5 regardless of the task which, depending on the task, feels awfully low. I’d suggest to use the search first to find suitable providers. Lets say you are looking to get your math assignment done. Enter math, or something more specific like algebra or geometry in the search form and look at the results.


Cloud control

October 31st, 2011

Security tops users’ concerns when it comes to cloud computing. Nick Coleman outlines the methods for making systems secure

A survey recently carried out for IBM found that 77 per cent of respondents believe that adopting cloud ­computing makes protecting privacy more difficult, while 50 per cent are concerned about data breaches or loss.

Indeed, when it comes to security the question now is often framed in terms of: where will my data be, who will be able to access it and how can I be assured of this and know what is really happening?

When speaking of cloud security some talk in terms of the infrastructure, some of applications and some of the smartphones or other devices that people might use to access a cloud. In reality, security in the cloud is about all of these things and more. It is important to think of which model you are buying into and ensure the security is appropriate.

In many ways, the technology has moved from being a back-office function and enabler of cost reduction to a driver of growth and value. There are several models of cloud computing , and security has to be appropriate to the model being used.

A framework for questions

When asking questions about cloud ­security having a framework helps, as does thinking about what will be needed when moving to the cloud, such as shared ­infrastructure and applications.

Elements that should be considered for inclusion in this framework are governance, a focus on the protection of data, security policy and audit measures, management of problems, management of vulnerabilities, a focus on the authentication of users and the protection of physical assets and locations.

Taking this kind of proactive approach to security and risk management means ­staying one step ahead of vulnerabilities and being more secure and resilient.

At the same time, it is clear that a one-size-fits-all approach to security in the cloud will not work. It is about getting the ­appropriate security in place for the workload (or service) that is being considered.

The fundamental things apply

The fundamentals of security apply. ­Individuals and business still want to know where their information is, who is accessing it and how it is being used so they can ­manage and protect it.

Working out where and how to apply security is central to delivering it. Cloud security can be delivered either as part of the service or as a component that can be added. Depending on your provider, it may be that a combination of these approaches is necessary.

To ensure security in the cloud ­organisations have to think strategically. Not all workloads are created equal so ­careful ­consideration must be given to each before determining its appropriateness for movement into the cloud.

Organisations must understand the ­governance and security requirements for each proposed workload and then validate whether these can be met within the cloud environment. It is only through this selective evaluation process that customers can avoid audit exposure and control the proliferation of data that may be subject to a variety of controls and residency requirements.

Roles model

There is also a need to establish clear roles and responsibilities. When adopting public and hybrid cloud solutions the relationship between consumer and provider closely resembles a traditional IT outsourcing arrangement. Therefore it is critical that each party has a clear understanding of their security obligations. For example, the responsibility for securing software as a service offering is largely that of the provider because the solution is consumed as a ­packaged static application. At the other end of the spectrum, infrastructure exposes users to a greater responsibility for securing individual virtual machines.

Call for backup

It is also essential to have a backup plan. Most public and private cloud solutions trade direct control for cost savings and efficiencies derived from the economies of scale. ­Transferring control of specific IT functions to another party does not obviate responsibility for the availability of key workloads.

Organisations must consider a provider’s disaster recovery and restoration plans in the context of their needs, keeping in mind requirements regarding service availability, data backup, data residency and so on.

Reputable cloud providers should offer a variety of service level agreements (SLAs) that include metrics such as availability, outage notification, service restoration, average time to resolve and notification of breaches. Providers should report on SLA compliance and deliver agreed remedies.

All too often organisations spend time and money developing security strategies that employ the latest – and most expensive – technical controls while turning a blind eye to the basics of risk assessment, policy ­development and the continuous validation of established and required controls.


SPi Global units consolidated

October 31st, 2011

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.’s business process outsourcing unit SPi Global has consolidated its two US-based BPO subsidiaries, Springfield Service Corp. (SSC) and Laguna Medical Systems (LMS), under the “SPi Healthcare” brand to focus on revenue cycle management and health information management.

Maulik Parekh, SPi Global president and CEO, said the move will streamline the company’s offerings to clients and leverage the strengths of the two companies to offer the depth and breadth of services that the US healthcare industry requires during these times of reforms.

SSC and LMS have more than 25 years of experience each in the healthcare industry. SSC previously acquired LMS but both continued to operate under their original name.

“This integration under SPi Healthcare will better position the company as a bigger and stronger player delivering transformative and innovative solutions to clients who rely on us for revenue cycle management processes and clinical documentation,” said Parekh.

“Healthcare organizations in the US face challenges brought about by complex regulations and requirements that can be overwhelming. SPi Healthcare can help them sort out this complexity so they can focus on their core functions and what they would rather do, which is to provide health services,” said Parekh.

SPi Global, through SPi Healthcare, is the biggest Filipino company offering healthcare solutions abroad. It is one of the world’s largest and most diversified Knowledge Process Outsourcing and Customer Relationship Management service providers in the industry in terms of the number of clients, extent of geographic presence, and range of solutions.

SPi Healthcare is one of the top 10 largest players in the US medical billing, coding, and revenue cycle management.


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