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Time for an outside opinion? Capgemini says more businesses seek best practices from outsourcing, not JUST savings

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Remember how verboten the topic of offshoring was during the most recent U.S. Presidential campaign, and how that debate trickled over to the bigger i...

Remember how verboten the topic of offshoring was during the most recent U.S. Presidential campaign, and how that debate trickled over to the bigger issue of outsourcing in general? Corporate cost-cutting concerns certainly have put a muzzle on all that loud gnashing of teeth.

Indeed, a new survey conducted by business and technology company Capgemini finds that about three-quarters of executives believe outsourcing is imperative for helping companies hold up their bottom line in the current economy. What's more approximately 70 percent of executives agree that money they save by switching certain information technology, finance, human resources, customer service or procurement processes to an outsourcing partner can be applied toward growth. Another 60 percent indicate that outsourcing could make businesses more "agile and flexible."

The Capgemini survey was conducted by Harris Interactive among 151 Fortune 1000 executives between April 29, 2009, and May 15, 2009. Here's a link to the summary of the Capgemini Executive Outsourcing Survey.

I spoke with David Poole, vice president and head of Americas Business Process Outsourcing for Capgemini, about not just the research but about why outsourcing seems to be coming back into favor -- but with a slightly different focus than in the past.

Poole contends that with much of the cost-cutting panic behind them, more executives are looking at business process outsourcing not just as a way of lifting and shifting an existing process for of finding ways to handle a process more efficiently. "They are looking at BPO as maybe a way to speed up the transformation of their company," Poole says.

Yes, there are certain industries and certain functions that could be highly sensitive to outsource. Poole notes that utility companies, as an example, have a high level of concern around how their customer service is handled -- and where. That, in itself, points back to the offshoring question.

Views about offshoring locations have also shifted over the past 18 months, Poole says. More of Capgemini's U.S. clients, for example, are using its resources in Guatemala. North America consumers tend to be more accepting of Hispanic accents, plus there tends to be better cultural alignment between. Believe it or not, Guatemalans tend to follow a lot of U.S. sports teams, which always seems to be a great icebreaker. Businesses, meanwhile, appreciate the country's proximity.

Chances are you're already outsourcing at least one part of your operation. What value are you deriving out of that relationship other than reduced costs? It would be smart to investigate the terms of your contract and make sure you haven't simply "moved the mess" elsewhere.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure