An article in the San Francisco Chronicle highlights an important emerging trend in the realm of business process outsourcing (BPO).

As countries that provide BPO services become more experienced and their workforce becomes more skilled, they can become more specialized and move up the value-chain.  This allows for performing of more complex tasks for greater financial reward.

Improvements in communication technology make it possible to outsource more and more complex business functions.  Knowledge process outsourcing is a subset of BPO and refers to the offshoring of these more complex business tasks.

From the Chronicle article we can get a sense of how current economic conditions are forcing small businesses to turn to this particular brand of outsourcing:

The recession has heightened interest in Web-based hiring halls such as oDesk, eLance, Guru, and crowdSPRING. Small businesses looking to expand without hiring full-timers are finding more professionals willing to work as independent contractors doing Web design, programming, marketing, videography and similar trades.

A San Francisco Bay Area entrepreneur needed the services of a web developer and was given a quote of $15,000 from a local Silicon Valley-based contractor:

… then he read about eLance, a contract work site based in Mountain View, and decided to contact some of the highest-ranked Web designers on that site. A company in Bangalore bid $3,000 to do the job and performed it to his satisfaction.

oDesk ensures productivity of contractors through monitoring of keystrokes, mouse movements, and a webcam that takes images at random

a screenshot of oDesk interface--measures such as monitoring keystrokes, mouse movements, and a webcam that takes images at random ensure vendor productivity

As Fiji takes its first steps toward building a BPO sector, it would be helpful for stakeholders to keep in mind the end-goal.  Specialization is about the only way that a small nation like Fiji could go head-to-head with larger BPO service providers like India or the Philippines.

Industry leaders should identify a niche quickly and make sure the local workforce is adequately trained to take on the more complex roles that specialization demands.   Moving up the food-chain in this manner will hopefully create experienced professionals who can bid on the types of contracts mentioned in the Chronicle article.

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