Why I Moved to an Advisory Role

By Guest Author

Why I Moved to an Advisory Role

By Anubhav Saxena

Over the past two decades, I’ve worked as a senior founding executive with two major service providers, and I like to believe that my colleagues and I have helped our clients build and execute strategies to save money, improve operations and solve their business problems.

Recently, however, I moved to a new position with a sourcing advisory firm. This move was inspired by the changes I observed in the marketplace and by the unique opportunity I recognized in an advisory role. Specifically, I'd be able to help clients articulate their strategic vision of where they want to go, and match that vision with service provider capabilities and solutions.

I began my career during the era of Outsourcing 1.0, when we, as service providers, held much of the leverage. Although clients knew why they wanted to outsource (namely, cheaper, faster and better), the process of getting there was largely in the service provider's control. During this phase, clients typically sought a single service provider to cover a wide range of services under a one-throat-to-choke model. Service level agreements were the rulebooks that providers and clients played by to define success. Outsourcing 1.0 was an era of limited options, limited players and even more limited definitions of success.

Over time, clients demanded more ownership of the process and dictated how they wanted work done. In a spirit of "the customer is always right," service providers customized their solutions to conform to unique and sometimes inefficient client processes, in an era I’ll call Outsourcing 2.0. Multisourced environments became more prevalent, as clients sought to leverage specialized capabilities and build best-of-breed, handcrafted solutions. While this yielded some benefits, clients often found themselves struggling to manage disparate providers with conflicting agendas, as well as enduring inefficiencies resulting from a lack of standardization. During this period of growing maturity, collaborative sourcing models became more prevalent and value expectations grew. 

Moving to the Era of Outsourcing 3.0

Today, as the service market continues to mature toward Outsourcing 3.0, both clients and providers are recognizing the economy-of-scale benefits of standardization and limited customization. As such, clients are increasingly willing to change their complex and inefficient internal processes and requirements and adopt the provider’s standardized solution at a lower cost. Capability and maturity models are beginning to co-exist and gold standards are starting to emerge.

Paradoxically, while service delivery is evolving toward simplicity and standardization, service delivery models are becoming increasingly complex and multi-faceted, with SMAC, automation and other disruptive technologies, and various platforms, providers and solutions sets further fueling the growth of multisourcing.

In this environment, clients have the opportunity to achieve the innovation and transformation they seek. But while they know where they want to go, they often don’t know the best way to get there. And while they recognize there may be more than one right answer to a business problem, they often need help in finding the best answer, particularly given the rapid pace of change and innovation in the market.

This dynamic is fundamentally changing the role of the sourcing advisor. Traditionally, clients worked with advisors to define specific requirements through a highly prescriptive RFP process, and service providers checked off the boxes to show that they could fill the order. Advisors made sure all the t’s were crossed and i’s dotted. Today, clients are asking open-ended questions such as “How would you solve my business problem?” Here the advisor’s role is to engage clients and service providers in a strategic dialogue to assess options and to identify suitable models and solutions that can meet the client’s needs in the future.

Why I Moved to an Advisory Role

Enabling Models, Solutions and Services

As we move toward Outsourcing 4.0, the fundamental task is to enable these models, solutions and services, both technologically and operationally. The advisory role also is increasingly focusing on service integration within multisourced management models that effectively drive collaboration and shared ownership of service issues and outcomes. By ensuring that each provider on the team has skin in the game, these mechanisms can eliminate the finger-pointing that characterized early multisourced relationships. 

We are also seeing advisory firms implement advanced managed services and governance models to provide ongoing support of financial, contract, relationship and performance management functions, thus ensuring progressive movement toward the target operating model or future mode of operation. In effect, by outsourcing the day-to-day management of their outsourcers, clients can be assured they are getting what they paid for, while being able to pay more attention to the larger perspective of focusing on their business goals and ensuring that their provider relationships are on track.

As the sourcing market evolves, the advisor’s role has become increasingly central and strategic to client success in assessing, designing, selecting, implementing and managing solutions—and in moving service providers to a higher state of operational excellence. With frequent disruption now the rule in a maturing market, discontinuities become a constant, and limited differentiation sets in. The players and possible paths to success have only multiplied.

My continued desire to save money for clients, improve their operations and solve business problems still keeps me in business. The scale and magnitude of their operations, and the excitement of being in the midst of the largest, multi-faceted global transformations, challenge the builder in me to continue to build.

When I started my career, the marketplace was trending from simplicity to complexity. Today, I’m seeking to drive a dimensional change and reverse course, so that we are moving from complexity to simplicity. In the context of my professional journey, this is why I made the decision to move to the advisory side.

About the Author

Anubhav Saxena is President of Global Managed Services & Research at the Information Services Group (ISG).

This article was originally published on 10-16-2014