Business Process Outsourcing or Operations or Management or Services? What’s with the Name? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Nomenclature for third-party provision of business process related services (typically called BPO or Business Process Outsourcing) has stirred up quite a debate in the industry. Is it just a marketing exercise or a step in the maturation of the industry? Clients have to feel the difference before they are willing to adopt a new name; otherwise it is purely marketing.

Most of the conversation is about replacing the letter “O” in BPO. Accenture retained the “O” but are calling it “Operations.” Nasscom along with several other service providers started calling it BPM (Business Process Management). Several industry stakeholders have asked for Everest Group’s opinion, so here’s my list of different acronyms (in ascending order of my personal preference):

BPM
(M=Management)
My least favorite. The name should at least convey what it means. BPM tends to confuse the BP? industry with workflows and process management tools and technologies that enable BP? delivery but are not truly representative of it. With BPM, I tend to think more Appian and Newgen rather than Genpact, TCS, and Accenture.
BPO
(O=Outsourcing)
It accurately describes the market, but I can understand why people do not want to associate the industry with just outsourcing which often connotes commoditized offerings providing cost reduction through arbitrage. It also has a certain social and political stigma associated with it. A word of caution though – outsourcing is not the same as offshoring but is a superset that may include offshore, nearshore, and/or onshore delivery.
BPO
(O=Operations)
Nice play of words but again seems to imply “operational” value creation and not the “transformational” capability of BP? in terms of value creation.
BPS
(S=Services)
My current favorite as essentially BP? is an industry where a third-party provides enterprises with services across horizontal business processes (order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, hire-to-retire) and industry-specific business processes (mortgage processing, claims management, meter-to-cash). Service delivery requires people expertise, process excellence, and technology capabilities, and service performance can be measured across efficiency, effectiveness, and business outcomes.

The industry is desperately seeking ways to go beyond the cost reduction mindset and evolve into a cost+ value proposition. Changing the name of the industry will not be of much use unless the underlying behavior (both buying and selling), solutions, contracts, and performance of the industry change.

However, I fear the industry is just trying to change the name versus actually working on the value, which will leave it open to criticisms. It’s just like putting a new coat of paint on an old car that needs an engine replacement!

So let’s try and go beyond this “name game” and focus on things that really matter.


Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski

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