Since 2005, Canada’s Center for Outsourcing Research and Education (CORE) has conducted extensive research on the Canadian outsourcing industry, while also sponsoring events across Canada. And every year CORE, a not-for-profit association, also holds an annual conference – a marquee event that brings together membership from both the private and the public sector. This year’s event in Toronto had some notable firsts.
“At over 250 people, this was CORE’s most well attended conference yet,” said Bala Pandalangat, CORE’s president and CEO. “This year’s conference focused on the ongoing evolution and changes in the outsourcing industry.”
Thought-leaders and industry experts shared a variety of emerging practices which are now becoming operating norms in ever-evolving, complex business environments. Presenters focussed on the impacts of social media and emerging technologies, notably mobility and analytics. Sustainability was a hot topic, as was protectionism, but it was really Big Data and the cloud that took center stage.
“In 2010 only 10% of outsourcing contracts included cloud components or elements,” Pandalangat said. “This is expected to grow to 50% by 2017.”
The challenge, as outlined at the conference by Donald Rippert, General Manager of Cloud Strategy at IBM, is how to determine best practices in adopting and managing a hybrid cloud IT environment. This is further complicated by a tidal wave of data that can either overwhelm a business or – as was articulated by Chris Surdak, an information analyst at HP- open a realm of new opportunities.
In both examples, the message was the same: do your homework.
“The market is rapidly changing as a result of emerging technologies,” Pandalangat said. “People need to do their due diligence, partner with the right suppliers, and be clear on their business goals, on their objectives and how technology will play a role in delivering.”
This year, the CORE conference was sponsored IBM, HP and CGI. CGI’s Michael Rose gave a presentation on an emerging definition of outsourcing maturity, arguing in effect that technology will continue to change the way humans and businesses interact, with the Internet of Things and mobility having a long-term impact.
A Canadian Perspective
Though the CORE conference addressed global outsourcing trends, it did it in a Canadian context. This means that the Canadian dollar – which has softened considerably in 2014 – and regulatory issues in the public sector were common themes. Given that outsourcing can solve a lot of technological problems, and reduce risk while providing better service, partner choice was also on the front burner.
“In some respects the CORE conference highlighted that Canadian organizations are still lagging a bit, relative to international counterparts,” Pandalangat said. “This is partly due to the regulatory environment, and a sensitivity to risks and effective risk management.”
However, Pandalangat noted that other presentations at the conference highlighted how Canadian organizations are taking a leading-edge approach to socially responsible outsourcing practices, such as a supplier code of conduct. Many are also getting behind emerging trends, and taking strides in embracing new sourcing and partnering practices.
“We heard from the government of British Columbia, which commented on the need to be able to deliver more, and to utilize emerging technologies through strategic partnerships,” Pandalangat said. “This should help the government to keep pace with growing costs and the demands of its citizens.”
Of course, governance and relationship management have always been areas of concern in the financial services industry. However, Pandalangat believes that CORE is increasingly seeing other verticals in Canada gearing up on their governance and relationship management initiatives, because managing risk in all forms is gaining focus.
“We live in a world where consumers have the expectation of perfection,” he said. “And end-to-end organizations are going to have to deliver experiences and services that exceed those expectations.”
To that end, CORE promotes its Executive Education program, which is designed to meet all of an individual’s outsourcing education needs, regardless of existing knowledge and experience.
“CORE trained individuals increase the value they add to the outsourcing arrangements they are involved in,” Pandalangat said. “This substantially reduces risks and increases the chances of their organizations success in its outsourcing deals.”
The expansion of CORE’s activities to include Executive Education, AOP Accreditation and student membership, among other things, as well as the growth in attendance at the conference in Toronto, suggests that the Canadian outsourcing community is healthy, but that it still has plenty of room to grow. After all, Canada’s cautious corporate culture, tied in with a reluctant public sector, has left plenty of money on the table – often in organizations with in-house problems that could do with the help of an able partner.