Technology Article, Issue XIV

TECHNOLOGY MINUTE…The Remote Desktop. For the past 3-4 months I’ve been reading a lot about the outsourcing phenomenon that we all have been experiencing. I’ve read countless books and articles on the subject to get a better understanding of what’s happening in this world. A worthy book to mention is The World is Flat – A brief history of the Twenty-First Century written by Thomas L. Friedman. The minute I started reading this book, I could not let it go. I just had to finish it. Some 72 hours later – I was staring at my laptop and all I could see was “opportunity” – to put it mildly. There is so much happening with respect to outsourcing, but we (Pakistan) in general seem to be missing out on a lot of it. It seems to me our businessmen are akin to taking the “easiest” or shortest route to making money. Case in point – call centers. Granted the call center industry is huge and hold great potential – there are other areas in the outsourcing model that also need to be considered. For starters, let me explain (my perspective) of the call-center industry. The turn-over rate is high. Some of my business colleagues run call centers and have expressed their frustration at such a high turn-over rate. Secondly, getting the accent neutral, training, finding good project managers, handlers, the communication skills, etc., and at the end of the day, you’re running a not-so-technical voice operator business. There are out there – better alternatives. Every day, approximately 400-500 servers are plugged onto to the Internet. That’s each and every day. This is somewhat a very deflated number, industry pundits put this figure to be between 1800 (low) to 3500 (high) per day. All these servers would be hosting application, websites, databases, DNS, FTP, blogs, etc. which leads us to an obvious direction – all these servers need to be managed.

Recently I joked about the number of CCNAs (Cisco Certified Network Associates) job seekers in the market, coupled with the MCPs (Microsoft Certified Professionals) out there. If I were to randomly stop a bus and inquire of the passengers, sure enough you are likely to find two of each on the bus. It then dawned upon me the obvious that we were missing. Why not work in a different vertical. Many companies (including ours) work in the remote monitoring, security & configuration space. Issues like high iteration rate, customer dissatisfaction, data security, etc. do not happen very often. Despite our being into this business the demand is unbelievable. To put it mildly – there is a looming crises in the industry – an extreme shortage. One can easily train CCNAs and MCPs to remotely log on to these servers – troubleshoot & address complaints as seen via the support ticket requests – address (resolve) them and close support tickets without ever having to speak a word of spoken English. You can work from home or from a centralized office location. Such technology helpdesks and remote management services are mushrooming up everywhere.

This is only one example. Virtual secretaries are now being employed, support help desks, email inquiries for companies with a large volume of daily inquiries are being outsourced, research (for the corporate sector) in the financial services, etc. is now huge. Back office operations for the finance industry is gaining huge acceptance. Financial capitals faced with stricter regulations and extreme competition are looking ways to shave off costs – by outsourcing their financial research and analysis to account firms overseas (particularly in India). Many high-volume commercial website are now employing overseas workers to answer in real-time (via web-chat), any pre-sales questions customers may have. It seems abandonment is not an option – neither is waiting a few hours for an email reply. With impulsive buying at an all time high, companies are hammering away the concept that real-time customer satisfaction should be their top concerns.

Everyone can offer to US/European companies their facilities in Karachi or Bangalore, the only differentiator between those getting the business and those that are not is how focused these companies are in their offering vertical as well as quality. Success is sure to follow companies who can demonstrate stability, commitment and a relentless pursuit for improvement in their services offering. Often too many companies that open outsourcing shops tend to get distracted and try to be jack of all trades, whilst mastering none. The remote desktop is now so powerful, its only a question that time will answer on who will be getting the big share of this global outsourcing pie. Its not just pure numbers in IT population that will win contracts. Specialization in my opinion would be the deciding factor. Companies that cannot seem to “put-it-all-together” should give serious thought of synergizing their efforts with their competitors in their local market. Its through synergy that a lot of Indian companies have been able to win contracts, by placing their combined expertise under one umbrella.

If we in Pakistan want to be able to tap into this outsourcing cycle, we need to be more focused, committed and above all try not to get distracted with every outsourcing opportunity that may come along. It is imperative for us to be able to sit down and talk with others in the local market and see how synergies can be made and how they could possibly be marketed abroad. Remember at the end of the day its better to have some share of the outsourcing Dollars than none.

This Article was originally written for Money Magazine

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