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eSCM: Fighting for quality space

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DQW Bureau
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Establishing India as a software powerhouse is no mean

feat. Driving the wheels of this powerhouse are awesome quality certifications.

India has the highest number of SEI CMM level 5 companies in the world with 53

of the 74 certified companies hailing from this country. This penchant for

quality certification has permeated into the BPO sector as more and more Indian

BPO set-ups hanker for standards. And it is not just a need to have tangible

proof of achieving some standard or to gain brownie points in a marketing

presentation. Rather the BPO industry's quest for quality certification is

driven by the learning, that the process offers as it is a short cut to the

accumulated knowledge of the industry.

Today quality certification among Indian BPO companies

is a foregone conclusion. Many have already gone in for COPC or ISO

certification or both. And lurking in the background is another certification

standard called eSCM waiting to make its impact among industry circles. eSCM is

a framework of practices developed by the Carnegie Mellon University for

forming, managing and expanding sourcing relationships. Yet, despite the

Carnegie Mellon tag, which has been a huge success in the software industry, BPO

industry's quality chieftains have responded lukewarmly to the standard. For

one, CPOC and ISO certification are already established and have made

considerable inroads into the BPO industry.

Second, the BPO industry is a different ball game from

software where ‘software industry is like making a film where retakes are

possible while BPO (particularly voice) is like a theatre where you are

performing live." Quality assessors like head of COPC certification at QAI,

Umesh Vyas and Charanjiv Singh, an independent quality consultant, think that in

the BPO world COPC and ISO are quite well entrenched and have found acceptance

among international clients. BPO companies would rather stick to convention than

adopt a new practice. "Standards like COPC have been around for more than

seven years now while eSCM has only just made its presence. Honestly speaking,

Carnegie Mellon is popular among the software companies so we may see software

companies foraying into BPO having a tilt towards eSCM," said Vyas.

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Singh summed up prevailing sentiments about quality

standards in the industry. "COPC has found acceptance in the call center

space while six sigma is widely acknowledged as a means to improve internal

processes and problem solving. ISO certification, a little cheaper than COPC, is

also popular among the contact centers though a shade lesser than COPC.

"Most Chief Quality Officers (CQO) that CNS spoke to said that they had

heard about eSCM but were not familiar with the details. But CQOs were open to

the idea of a new standard. "The BPO industry is growing extremely fast and

I think we would be truly remiss and close-minded if we refuse to explore new

and proven standards as they address new fronts" said, Christine Gambacorta,

VP, Global Vision Quality and Process Engineering.

Diana Christian, CQO, Infowavz International thinks that

"As the BPO industry expands rapidly globally, there is a strong

requirement for industry benchmarks especially in non-voice BPO. Being a

relatively young industry and at the same time incredibly complex and diverse,

the challenges of establishing standards are even more difficult."

CQOs feel that the key to the success of a new standard

now is to compliment existing standards. "There is no point in recreating

the wheel. What is really required is the expansion and further development of

existing standards to suit the ever changing needs of the organization,"

said Christian. Infowavz has found the ISO platform to be ideal for its

end-to-end BPO services. At the same time it is working on incorporating new

models onto the ISO platform and has found COPC to be a good fit. Gambacorta

added, "Variables in the BPO space change often, sometimes daily…and

managing this is like balancing 500 little things, every minute of every day,

every day of the week, 52 weeks of the year. It is a moving target that once

achieved takes great commitment, dedication and work to maintain.

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 "GTL is ISO certified and aiming to be a COPC

2000 certified by the Q4 of 2003. Exponents of eSCM harp on its impeccable

credentials. Developed by Carnegie Mellon, it is supported by several leading

global organizations like Accenture, Satyam, IBM Global, EDS, STQC, etc.

Prabhuu Sinha of Satyam who has been appointed as one of

the lead assessors of eSCM pointed out the differentiation in eSCM as compared

to others. "The existing models do not individually or as a whole

adequately address all the critical issues in a sourcing relationship.

Especially the issues related to the pre-contract phases of a relationship like

requirement management and contracting; service transitioning that involves

coordination of people and technology; and the post-contract phases of

reverse-transition and hand-over."

eSCM guru, Annaswamy Gopal emphasized that eSCM is

complementary to existing standards. He said that of the 93 practices identified

by the standard, if an organization has been evaluated for certain processes it

does not need to be assessed again. This implies that for an organization that

is already COPC certified, getting eSCM certification is an incremental effort.

Balaka

Baruash Aggarwal

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