To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, in life there are no second acts. In the case of Canada’s BPO sector, this could be disputed. A week after the Sourcing Decisions 2017 conference held in Toronto by Nearshore Americas, the burst of frenetic enthusiasm among the event’s attendees has been palpable. The forum was a shot in the arm for the progressive stakeholders across the Canadian BPO value chain that have in recent times been actively rebooting the industry. But, today’s Canadian outsourcing sector is very different than it was a decade ago, and adapting to new market dynamics will be essential.
If there was one takeaway from Sourcing Decisions 2017, it was that outsourcing in Canada is no longer confined around domestic end-user support alongside performing nearshore work for US clients. While both these business models persist (and the in the case of the latter, are experiencing a renaissance due to a favorable exchange rate between the USD and CAD), the value-add capabilities that Canadian players bring to the table were also on show. That discussions around how more sophisticated work can be derived within Canada were encouraging and long overdue.
There are definite examples of higher-value voice and non-voice work performed by global players operating throughout the country such as HGS, Startek, Concentrix, Sykes and TeleTech. In the case of the conference’s host city of Toronto, the multi-story, multi-lingual Teleperformance site in midtown shows how embracing talent within a major Canadian metropolitan center can fuel customer experience delivery. These efforts are complemented by home-grown service, advisory and technology success stories including Fonolo, Advantage Communications and The Varanda Network. These firms had a strong presence at Sourcing Decisions and proved ready to challenge established Canadian BPO norms.
The question for many following Sourcing Decisions 2017 is how Canada’s front-office BPO sector can keep the momentum going. There are many possible answers but the most obvious is to focus where the country brings the most outsourcing value. With lingering uncertainty around some traditional offshore locations, for US enterprises Canada is once again a solid delivery option, and provided a favorable exchange rate differential persists, this remains an advantage. However, Canadian outsourcing needs to put aside the transactional work that was typical in the early 2000s, in favor of functions that require higher skills, to solidify its perception as a quality destination. Equally, there needs to be an effort on the part of various levels of governments to work with the BPO sector to strategically promote Canada’s cities and regions under one national brand. In recent years, such efforts have been tactical, and could be more effective.
BPO in Canada has not been this present in the world market for some time. With a strong mix of local and global players, the potential for it to regain its prominence is significant. However, the key will be for vendors, clients and governments to embrace the market realities of 2017. If done correctly, it will be good news all around.