Covid-19: How does outsourcing protect its clients?

It is a fact! The coronavirus pandemic has forced companies and their employees to protect themselves by adopting an approach that involves confinement and working from home. This change naturally affects several outsourcing providers and their clients, regardless of where they are across the globe. Let us take an extreme example: India. Within 21 days of confinement, the country managed to put in place a complex logistics. Back to outsourcing, the industry has also been able to modify and adapt its security aspect to protect more than its customers’ data.

Containment has led to the emergence of additional concerns and considerations for both clients and outsourcing providers. These are the key questions that outsourcing providers are able to answer for business continuity. Thus, suppliers and customers can circumvent the limitations and realities of working from home during the containment period.

Collaboration: the key to rapid and effective adaptation

Outsourcing providers are not only service providers. For their customers, they are in fact partners; collaborators. Thus, the provider and also his clients must work seamlessly together so that each decision made is relevant. Each party must be able to understand and keep in mind its legal rights, obligations and recourses, while accepting the idea of having to deviate from contractual norms on a temporary basis.

It is possible for both providers and clients to enforce related legal clauses in case of major concerns. But today, many of them have managed to find common ground. The idea is each party comes out of this complex situation winning and satisfied.

In addition, both parties must understand that certain services may be exempted from the containment policy, as is the case for those known as essential services. Taking the example of India, the government has exempted some services related to the IT sector from the containment. In this regard, clients of outsourcing providers must ensure that their business and operational priorities are clearly identified. The objective is to work closely with their providers to ensure that contractual requirements are met. For their part, providers must make every effort possible to meet the most pressing needs of their clients. For this to happen, there is no secret: they need to communicate in clear terms about achievable needs and those that are not.

The importance of documentation

In the following scenarios:

  • When an outsourcing provider wishes to make a change, an exception or a relaxation of the requirements stipulated in its contract;
  • When a customer is working to redefine its priorities or extend the responsibility of the service provider due to increased security risks,

There are two important aspects that must be considered:

  • Changes must be discussed and understood by each party,
  • Any deviation from the terms stipulated in the contract, whatever its extent, must be discussed and laid down on a formal written document.

Example: customer data security

The outsourcing provider and its clients must be realistic about what is possible or not in the context of telework. It is therefore essential to write down every detail essential to this state.

Each stakeholder in the outsourcing project must participate in the drafting of this amendment to the contract, including IT security, legal, compliance, audit and sales. Indeed, the addendum to the contract must benefit from the knowledge of each essential department.

Outsourcing clients and providers also need to understand and find solutions that can mitigate the impacts of telework on the service provided and what is foreseen in the original contract. Does this mode of work involve liability insurance? How will telework impact companies subject to audits and reports? What are the impacts of teleworking upstream and downstream when the client needs to comply with agreements, obtain permissions and send or receive notifications?

Customers and outsourcing providers should think carefully to avoid delays in production. To do this, customers must be able to recognize that their providers are likely to offer limited services. Why? Due to issues related to bandwidth, laptops, other physical resources and personnel.

Outsourcing providers are aware that their clients have quite legitimate and relevant concerns and questions about teleworking. Everything is therefore planned to provide a quick and constant engagement with their clients so that they understand and can assess the implications of teleworking on their goals.

Today, outsourcing is a tool; a solution. Given the current context, clients and providers strive to work together quickly to minimise delays in decision-making. This involves negotiation and clearly expressed agreements. The current circumstances are complex, but they require more precise contractual documentation.

In these unprecedented times, it is essential that clients and outsourcing providers work hand in hand, without wasting time while clearly prioritising what they can do. As the situation evolves, each actor takes care to continuously monitor the evolution of the containment, to communicate closely and to anticipate further changes, including a return to more normal activities as soon as possible.

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