David Margulius wrote a nice piece on BPO in InfoWorld recently - The great business process handoff. I have blogged a couple of times about the value of business rules when considering business process outsourcing but a couple of comments in this article caught my eye especially:
Will BPO vendors eventually look like ASPs, offering open interfaces and process transparency? Or will they look like black boxes providing only limited inputs and outputs? Can BPO vendors actually deliver innovation and optimize outsourced processes, or will they just run existing processes at a lower cost?
Me I think BPO vendors will have to use business rules to expose the key decision-points within their processes whether or not they provide transparency in a more general case. Companies simply have their own way of doing business and even in a standard process there will be variation in decision-making that needs to be imposed by the client on the outsourcer. The use of business rules management systems like Blaze Advisor would allow the outsourcer to expose these decisions to each of their clients while still running a standard, and black-box, process.
BPO Best Practices included choose a vendor that's leveraging technology effectively and ask for visibility into your vendor's processes and platforms
Visibility into the process may well mean visibility as to how certain decisions (to refer to collections, pay a claim etc) are made and this is much easier if that part of the process uses a business rules management system to automate that decision.
"BPO is all about economies of scale and reuse,” says Rearden Commerce’s Grady, making the case for a loosely coupled, Web services-based, 100-percent-hosted BPO delivery architecture. BPO customers, he notes, may have “thousands of permutations of applications, unique business processes, and custom integrations across scores of apps. … If all you’re doing is migrating that hairball into your datacenter, someone will pay the piper.”
All true. However if the vendor wants to provide a single set of processes and process options to multiple clients then they are going to have to let each client set the rules for decisions within those processes differently and that will be much easier if some of the services are rules-based and expose the rules to the clients for them to manage directly.
For some regulated processes, customers may legally be required to know the inner workings of a BPO vendor’s system. “One of the challenges,” says UPS’s Long, “is being able to prove that we have processes and supporting technology that can meet or exceed our customers’ auditors’ internal-control requirements.”
In many ways this is the critical issue that pushes my argument over the edge. Business rules are ideally suited for showing that a decision has been made in a compliant way - so much so that I blog on compliance a fair bit - and if you will be audited on what you did and why you did it then you had better make sure your outsourcer is using business rules.
BPO will simply go better if the vendors use business rules to let their clients have visibility and control and if those considering outsourcing ask for this kind of capability.