Does a Hybrid Offshore IT Outsourcing Model Make Sense for Your Company?

In theory, a hybrid offshore deal combines the best of pure outsourcing and a captive IT services center. In reality, it's more complicated -- and not for everyone.

By Stephanie Overby
Fri, December 06, 2013

CIO — Companies have often used a mix of captive offshore centers and outsourcing deals with offshore service providers to meet their global IT and business process needs. In recent years, however, some mature outsourcing customers have embraced hybrid models that, theoretically, deliver the best of both worlds.

offshore outsourcing, hybrid offshore outsourcing

With the build-operate-transfer model, customers partner with an offshore outsourcer who builds a service center, runs it for specified number of years, and then transfers ownership to the customer.

The idea is that it's a less risky entrée into the captive space; the customer pays the provider to do all the heavy lifting from construction and setup to hiring and training, paying an operating fee and eventually a buyout fee for those benefits. MetLife set up such a deal with EXL and now owns the offshore center itself. The model minimizes upfront investment and increases speed to market, says H. Karthik, vice president of sourcing consultancy Everest Group.

[Related: 6 Hot Offshore IT Outsourcing Markets Offer New Options]

Another hybrid option is the "virtual captive." It is actually owned by the customer who provides overall management and control and anyone visiting the campus would assume from the branding and employee-badging that it was pure-play insourcing. In reality, the service provider is responsible for most day-to-day operations.

One of the first virtual captives was a BPO center set up in 2005 owned by Wachovia and operated by Genpact. The virtual captive, on paper, provides the risk sharing and build-up benefits of the build-operate-transfer model but imparts more control to the customer than the pre-exit build-operate-transfer model.

This model can also help to address certain client regulatory or risk needs. "It gives customers more flexibility and the advantage of just focusing on management while the service provider takes care of ongoing operations," Karthik says.

Navigating a Hybrid Offshore Outsourcing Model Brings Complexity

While such hybrid models aren't likely to dominate the next wave of offshoring, says Karthik, mature outsourcing providers are increasingly interested in experimenting with them. And while some companies -- such as Wachovia, MetLife, Citi and Dow Chemical -- have navigated the hybrid offshore waters successfully, there have been equally unsuccessful attempts in recent years, according to Karthik.

[Related: Switching IT Outsourcing Providers Easier (and Less Costly) Than Ever]

The companies that make it work have a long-term vision and a strategy for reaching their desired end-state, says Karthik. And their service providers shared both.

In fact, there are plenty of things that can go wrong with these hybrid options.

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