Should crowdsourcing be part of your business continuity plan?
In short order, the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on companies that rely on offshore outsourcing and shared service centers for back office operations.
For an example, look no further than India’s lockdown, which India’s prime minister ordered effective just four hours following the announcement, bringing Asia’s third largest economy to an abrupt halt as a result. The Telegraph reported, “The shock waves were felt thousands of miles away in some of the world’s biggest companies, which heavily rely on outsourced staff in India to provide back-office operations.”
“Work from home” is the current edict, but how realistic is that in low-income countries where most do not have access to a decent internet connection or the tools they need to do their work? How does that play out for companies with back-office operations or call centers based in India? Or for heavily regulated businesses that are fined for missing customer SLAs?
From business as usual to assured unusual
Even if companies can figure out a way to shift operations out of India, to where will they shift them? Countries may be on different timelines for when Covid-19 peaks, but regardless, the virus has or will permeate all borders.
The offshore outsourcing industry simply wasn’t prepared for this. Business continuity planners weren’t prepared for this. “It’s the perfect storm,” said Andrew McIntee from London-based consultancy New Street Group. “You have increased demand occurring at a time of severely reduced capacity.”
Surveying potential solutions to the outsourcing crisis
We do not know what the future will be, but we know it will look quite different from what we’ve known. For businesses with outsourced operations, the pandemic is a wake-up call for a business continuity plan that can be quickly implemented.
What is a feasible solution in the face of such a sudden and widespread calamity? Support remote working at scale? Automate critical business functions? Develop and implement in-house capabilities to bridge the gap? These measures take time, resources, training, change management and forethought.
Crowdsourcing, with its ability to divide work between remote workers to achieve a cumulative result, may be a part of the solution. By offering the distinct advantages of speedy set-up and global availability, it can provide relief not only in times of crisis, but also in unexpected peak periods or as a simple add-on to stay flexible. There is no software to implement, and providing access to a dispersed global workforce of millions or even using available platforms for your own workforce mitigates the dangers of putting all your operational eggs in one basket when it comes to outsourcing.