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The talk of the town at SSON’s flagship Shared Services and Outsourcing Week event in Orlando last month was RPA. Understandably so – the efficiencies it brings are incredible. Yet, for a cost-effective Global Business Support offering, India remains crucial – this will not change despite automation.

Now that we are taking the robot out of the human work, however, effective communication and collaboration between your global teams and India – still the #1 country in the Asia Pacific region for SSOs/BPOs – is more important than ever.

If you get a smile on your face when you read the word ‘India’ and your internal clients and colleagues face absolutely no challenges – deadlines are always met, you get instant feedback when there are problems and the quality of work is always perfect – then congratulations! This column is not for you.

Alternatively, have you gradually come to accept that miscommunication and collaboration issues are par for the course when working with India? Would you like to know the actual cost of non-alignment in terms of time, money, quality, reputation and employee satisfaction? Do you want to be inspired to re-examine your ‘normal’? Then this column is for you.

Because communication and work styles are so different in Asia, it can be difficult to gauge why problems arise. Quality levels are below expectations. Work is late. Problems are not highlighted. Why does this happen? Is it because Asia-based counterparts don’t understand what’s expected? Are they not capable? Are they unwilling? Or is there something bigger at stake?

Getting to the root of the problem requires knowledge about local communications and working styles. Improved cultural understanding significantly contributes to operational success.

My work with multinationals that collaborate across virtual (global) teams indicates that the vast majority experience below expected performance. And the cost of rework, including dramatically reduced trust in the SSO model, is huge.

This column will offer valuable learnings on how to manage the cultural divide that impacts global SSO/BPO/customer exchanges. Every month, we will examine a real business case that multinationals need to solve in leveraging India-based operations as part of a global service delivery model.
Examples include:

  • The cost of rework: We share the business case of a company that faced an astonishingly high 30% rework percentage. In other words, for every 100 hours of work done in India, they had to do another 30 hours in Europe before it could go to the client.
  • The costly long change curve: This global company calculated that it took 6 – 12 months before teams finally knew how to work effectively with their colleagues in India. We uncover the costly journey and how to speed up learnings.
  • The cost of churn: Churn in India is a big headache. By the time many Indian employees have figured out how to work well with their global colleagues, they leave the job. The cost is huge and exasperating for all. Why is churn so high? What can you expect and what can you do?
  • Low customer satisfaction: We share examples where both internal and external client satisfaction was low. Deadlines were not met, quality of work was not good, feedback was lacking. We examine the issues and what these companies did to solve it.
  • Low employee engagement: We highlight the human challenges that many companies deal with, namely bias, frustration and lack of motivation – and how to turn this around.
  • Desired proactiveness: Many clients in the US, UK or mainland Europe have the same wish for their Indian teams: greater proactiveness. How to come up with ideas, signal problems without causing offense, and ask for input. We deep dive into this important topic.

This series of columns reflects the Indian perspective as well as that of foreign multinationals and highlights the cost of miscommunication and non-alignment. Whilst India often gets the blame when things go wrong, the truth is that both parties need to learn valuable lessons to improve performance. The solution sits somewhere in the middle.

Topics are based on the problems frequently encountered with multinational clients. Please participate in these discussions by commenting on our LinkedIn posts: What have you run into? How did you tackle it? And where do you still see room for improvement?


Through this series, Ilse shares the knowledge she has acquired through coaching teams both in India and the rest of world in collaborating better. Much of her work is centred around communication and collaboration challenges within GBS, shared services and outsourcing teams.