In the wake of the Satyam scandal and the recent attacks in Mumbai, India, companies are looking more closely at being well-prepared for any provider site visits. They want to ensure they leverage their time and money as efficiently and effectively as possible.
If not structured properly, a provider site visit can be just that – a “visit” and not a well-planned and executed data-gathering mission. Your visit team should strive to make it a form of pre-due diligence prior provider selection and contract signing. To make the trip most rewarding, there are several questions your team needs to answer in advance of booking flights and setting up logistics with providers to make the site visit most effective. Here’s a checklist to start with:
Investment: Determine Your Budget – the first order of business is to decide how much you are willing to invest for provider site visits. This will determine where you will visit (locally or at a distance) and how many from your company (and the advisory firm) will attend. For example, U.S. based companies can figure an average of $8,000 for business class airfare per person to India. In addition, there are other expenses including accommodations, local ground transportation, food, tips, passport, business visa, and medical preparation.
Tip: Always overestimate your expenses because you may need to adjust your schedule and extend your trip.
Team Involvement: Select Visit Participants – The senior executive responsible for the project should determine who needs to participate. Representatives should include executives from the functions being outsourced (e.g., the vice president of infrastructure), functional subject matter experts (e.g., the senior manager of the help desk) and business executives who will receive the services that are outsourced (e.g., the vice president of business operations). Keep in mind, the more you have attending, the more you have out of the office for an extended period of time (minimum of one week depending on number of providers visited and site locations).
Tip: Oftentimes, staff who are impacted by the decision to outsource may be reluctant to travel, especially overseas as they may see this as a big commitment and the final step toward a change in the way they operate. The senior executive needs to encourage those to participate so they can be there to ask the right questions and see firsthand what can be delivered by the providers.
Purpose: Determine Visit Objectives – Your team needs to determine what your purpose is for these visits. The site visit team should create at least three primary objectives. This will drive your entire agenda going forward.
Tip: Don’t have a small select group determine the visit objectives. Broaden the involvement so everyone owns the outcome. Otherwise, for the rest of the team, it is “their” visit, not “our” visit.
Timeframe: Decide When to Visit – Once you finalize your visit objectives, determine when you will make the site visits based on how you have structured your bid process. In some cases, clients want to visit all providers who are responding to the request for proposal (RFP). In other cases, the client wants to visit only those that are the two or three finalists.
Tip: Make sure you understand if there are any national or religious holidays that could impact your trip. Don’t assume that providers will accommodate you at just any time.
Locations: Identify Sites to Visit – Every provider has at least one showcase location they want you to visit. To use your time effectively, your sourcing advisor should contact each provider candidate and request a list of the provider’s Centers Of Excellence (COE) for the particular industry and function your company is seeking to outsource. Once armed with this information, it is easy to decide which locations are primary and secondary candidates to visit. The provider’s goal is to get as much face time as possible in front of their clients. The theory is the more time they have, the less time other providers will have in front of the client. As mentioned previously, it is costly to make these visits so you want to maximize your return by visiting the right location(s).
Tip: To keep your costs in line, you may need to compromise and visit a provider’s site that is not a COE. These are some of the tradeoffs you will need to make to keep your expenses in line as you move forward with the selection process.
Planning, Agenda & Logistics: Sooner than Later – Planning as far in advance as possible will keep your costs down (better rates on flights) and allow you the time to get your travel documentation (e.g., provider invitation letters, passports, business visas) and health requirements (e.g., shots, prescriptions, medical insurance coverage) in order. Check with your company’s travel office early in the process for the proper documentation required for the country(s) you are visiting. Coordinating business visas can be very time consuming. On-site logistics are critical to effectively manage time and meet your visit objectives. Your team should determine the “visit agenda” based on your visit objectives. This will include a daily logistics plan and specific questions for each provider.
Tip: Check your company’s overseas medical insurance coverage. Ask if your policy applies overseas and if it covers emergency expenses such as medical evacuation. If it does not, consider supplemental insurance.
Evaluation: Assess Providers’ Capabilities and Culture – Providers should be evaluated after each interactive session across three primary parameters:
– People – Is there a match between our company cultures? Can we work with this team?
– Process – Will they leverage industry standard processes effectively to benefit our project? Will we have to alter our methods to adapt to the provider’s process?
– Technology – What technology does the provider bring to the project that will give us a competitive advantage in the marketplace?
Create evaluation criteria and ensure it maps to your visit objectives and each item in your agenda. This step cannot be understated.
Tip: Each provider should be objectively scored after each visit and discussed in a daily debriefing session. It is best to capture this information while it is still fresh in the minds of the visit participants.
Travel Safeguards: Register with Your Country’s State Department – It is recommended that you register with your state department so they can better assist you in an emergency. This will help them contact you if there is a family emergency in the United States, or if there is a crisis where you are traveling. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts will not be released to others without your express authorization.
Tip: Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page and visas with family or friends so you can be contacted in case of an emergency at home.Provider site visits are only one element in the overall decision making process. Whether you travel a long or short distance for a provider site visit, there is a significant expenditure of time and money. The adage, “what you put into something has a direct correlation of what you get out of it” is most certainly true with provider site visits. When conducted properly, the investment you make now will give you a good return on investment in future years.