Transformation has become an imperative for all industries, more so during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. A majority of our clients have highlighted the increasing pressure to manage their margins and balance their long-term vision and strategy with short-term needs in a post-COVID-19 landscape. One way for enterprises to achieve this objective is by re-assessing the setup model for their future Global Business Services (GBS) centers.
This blog focuses on one such setup option – Build Operate Transfer (BOT) – and its commercial underpinnings. In these uncertain times, BOT seems to be an especially relevant option, as it offers the unique advantage of lower short-term investment and a better long-term business re-prioritization opportunity. But only if the price is right.
Let’s take a closer look.
Can BOT be your business’ panacea?
In a BOT sourcing model, an enterprise can partner with a third-party service provider to build a delivery center (which includes investing capital, leasing the facility, and sourcing talent), operate it for a pre-defined period (based on the operational agreement), and allow the enterprise the option to transfer the center back to itself. The model helps avoid upfront capital investment, reduces operational risk, limits the burden of managerial and operational oversight, promotes new capabilities, and expedites speed-to-market. As it comes with an exit option, enterprises can also test the model without fully committing to it.
In fact, as part of a recent engagement, we helped a global technology firm assess the best-fit setup option for its GBS center in India. The firm opted for BOT, preferring to partner with a local service provider to reduce financial and operational uncertainties. While the BOT model’s benefits were evident from the start, a key learning from the engagement was that these benefits come at a relatively high cost. Thus, understanding the price tag is key before committing to the model.
Understanding the costs involved
While the key cost components of a BOT model can vary based on the specifics of the service contract, we outline below standard commercial practices prevalent in the market across the build, operate, and transfer stages.
In the build phase, the enterprise is either not required to invest or invests a limited amount, and vendors typically provide most of the upfront investment. In most cases, the service contract stipulates that the service provider’s investment includes setting up the facility (which includes both real estate and technology infrastructure), establishing the hiring mechanism, and laying the ground for services delivery. The service provider recovers this investment in the next two stages.
In the operate phase, the service provider charges the enterprise an ongoing fee to meet all operating expenses and day-to-day operations and to track and maintain pre-determined Service Line Agreements (SLAs). The ongoing fee includes the service provider’s margins, which are typically 2-5% higher than those in a pure outsourcing construct. The additional margin is often dependent on the scope, scale, and nature of services, the service provider profile, extent of initial investment, and lock-in period.
In the transfer phase, the service provider typically charges the enterprise a one-time transfer fee, which could vary widely – 20-30% in some cases – based on other contractual agreements, in lieu of transferring back all services and procured assets. Typically, this fee is charged as a percentage of the ongoing annual fee in the build phase, and an enterprise can pre-determine this percentage in the service contract. Beyond this, if rebadging is required, the service provider charges the enterprise a one-time transfer fee to give up employer rights on resources that are successfully rebadged.
Considering these cost elements, a BOT construct can be about 15-30% more expensive than a de novo / fully owned GBS model. Hence, each enterprise needs to consider the cost-benefit trade-off when selecting a suitable setup option for itself.
Making the move
When evaluating future GBS setups, we urge enterprises to be mindful about the overall business case and assess both the financial and non-financial aspects of the setup model. Doing so will help them understand both the costs involved and associated benefits. Our research strongly suggests that enterprises are likely to find a robust business case for the BOT model to navigate these uncertain times.