Outsourced Learning: Are You Ready for Learning BPO?

Edna B. Shearer

As the business world enters a period of hyper-competitiveness, every business process will be subjected to examination and possible restructuring. We have already seen outsourcing and offshoring used to an extent what nobody would have dreamed of a few years ago. McDonald’s is testing the offshoring of its drive-through process to India. How about, “Do you want fries with that?” with a New Delhi accent?

Even though McDonald’s testing of business process outsourcing (BPO) has caused quite a stir, it’s only the beginning. What started as the outsourcing of a few basic business processes, such as payroll or accounts receivable, has grown into a “movement.” No internally performed business process is “safe.”

IT, finance, supply chain management, and customer relationship management have been outsourced. Why not the learning process?

Labor costs in Western countries are out of control. American, German, and French workers are overpaid. To compete with the Asian countries, Western companies must become more efficient. Controlling costs (and remaining competitive) will require the outsourcing of inefficient business processes.

So, what is “Learning BPO?” The best definition is Hap Brakeley’s of Accenture Learning. In Chief Learning Officer (April 2005, p.4), Brakeley defined Learning BPO as:

“a broad range of relationships that organizations establish with an external service company to transfer and/or share responsibilities for the successful operation of the learning function: design, development, delivery, administration, measurement, and reporting.”

Brakeley went on to talk about the range of possibilities for Learning BPO:

“The outsourcing relationship may be as simple as outsourcing the learning management system and the learning administration responsibilities (sometimes called out-tasking) or as complex as arranging for an external company to plan and deliver the entire enterprise learning function, encompassing an organization’s complete value chain, from employees to customers to channel partners.”

How much of the learning process should your organization outsource? Are you fully aware of what outsourcing possibilities are available to your organization? Obviously, you cannot ask your internal providers for an objective evaluation of external resources. Be prepared for strong resistance to change when considering Learning BPO.

To read Brakeley’s entire article on Learning BPO see the April 2005 issue of Chief Learning Officer.

To read more about Overcoming Resistance to Change see my special report at http://www.mikebeitler.com/overcomingresistance/

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