IBM says that SA is establishing itself as a preferred outsourcing destination, and is rapidly becoming a back-up site for India, the world's number one outsourcing provider, says Abdul Mohammed, IBM's business development executive in the strategic outsourcing division: "Although some Eastern European countries may be able to provide cheaper outsourcing solutions, the value of the Rand, the favourable time difference, as well as our proficiency in English, are shifting a considerable amount of work to our shores," he says.

IBM claims to be positioning itself as a leader in offshore outsourcing through a 'best-shore' policy, where specific sections of accounts awarded to IBM on an international scale are outsourced to countries that fulfil the client's needs in the most cost-effective way.

Currently providing outsourcing solutions to American Express, JP Morgan, Ericsson and L'Oreal, through IBM's internationally implemented standard policies and procedures, the company says it provides its clients with a consistent level of service, regardless of whether the job is done through IBM SA, England or Europe.

"The implementation of service level agreements eliminates the threat of scope creep, a common concern when considering offshore outsourcing," says Mohammed, adding that the impact of culture clashes on outsourcing activities is a reality that companies have to deal with.

"The English spoken in SA, for example, sometimes differs slightly in meaning from that spoken in England, which could cause some confusion," he adds.

One of the major challenges facing SA, according to IBM, lies in convincing Europe and the USA that the country can provide consistent quality, although the lack of an adequate communication infrastructure is another stumbling block on the country's path to becoming a preferred offshore provider.

"Government needs to develop a communication infrastructure that is affordable and advanced enough to provide local companies with a competitive edge in the offshore outsourcing market. At this stage, our communication infrastructure is underdeveloped and comparatively expensive," says Mohammed.

In April, IBM launched its Integrated Delivery Centre (IDC) in Sandton, a facility through which the company aims to offer high value outsourcing solutions to clients in Europe and USA, amongst other regions.

ICT World