This fourth blog is about imagining ways to engage with KPO further.

At the heart of KPO is the philosophy that a client business should maximize its potential while minimizing risk. KPO removes traditional obstacles to corporate strategies being achieved – obstacles like finance, ROI, infrastructure, time, resource and technology.

Very importantly, the knowledge asset remains rooted in the business. KPO is not about losing control of assets but safeguarding and optimizing them. Corporate amnesia – the loss of knowledge from a business as SMEs retire or are laid off – becomes less of a concern when a team is established to curate and sustain that knowledge, usually in documented form, and SMEs are retained in the business to express themselves in new ways, hopefully encouraging them to stick around.

The hardest part for a business is believing in the acorn – the seed of an idea that something must be done, but what? Low-cost, high-calibre expertise is out there: use it.

It is something of a cliché in outsourcing that once a company has seen KPO work, management asks “What else can you do?” Once the sapling is there, it is easier to imagine the tree.

The big step is to get from the acorn to the sapling. We now know that in practice this is a low-finance, low-risk step.

What kind of knowledge are we talking about?

KPO is a spectrum. Knowledge is different things to different people, but knowledge is always hard-earned and a key company asset. It can be anything from the knowledge of what makes a compliant, application form to the difference between dexamethasone and dextromethorphan. In the first case, it is true that any intelligent person with an eye for detail should be able to garner the knowledge and apply it consistently. In the second, it is equally true that clinical or pharmacological qualifications should be a pre-requisite. But, both extremes – and everything in-between – are successfully served in KPO. Knowledge is the competency learned to make a sound decision and complete a task.

This should colour a business’s estimation of what an SME is and what tasks are outsourceable, always remembering that KPO is about SME tasks, not SME replacement. (That is the locum marketplace, or equivalent in the office world.)

Maturity through a proven KPO implementation is an open invitation to a business to look at all of its processes and identify tasks across the spectrum of complexity and specialization that could be made the subject of KPO, for further gains. The trusted KPO provider is now also a business partner, helping you identify opportunities and make them happen, so that the business thrives without delay, reaching for the canopy above. Let the provider in to look around and make its own proposals.

It’s like going back to find more acorns – more ideas – and to match these to corporate ambitions. From the sapling comes ramification: branching out and more roots – a tree of knowledge.

Simon Bates is a KPO practitioner with 30 years’ outsourcing and offshoring experience.