Friday, February 01, 2008

Onshore, Offshore & Internet Resilliency

It's been a busy week for me. Mostly I've been working in the North of England and just haven't had time to blog. I've been with a range of customers, from some major banks and to some regional outsourcers and medium sized businesses. All very interesting to see and good to see that most of these onshore operations were doing well.

What made it even more interesting was that this week a ship's anchor severed one of the key undersea cables connecting Europe to the middle east and India. This lead to significant challenges for some offshore operators of contact centres. One of the interesting things that this highlighted is that while it is popularly assumed that the internet is resilient because of the way IP packets can be routed, parts of the internet are not that resilient (though the system as a whole is). It should also be understood (and usually isn't) that 'resilient' and 'latency free' are not quite the same thing. Data may cope well enough with high latency (applications, e-mail, etc... are just a bit slow), but voice and video do not not cope so well. If you have an hour and half to spare Vint Cerf, one of the designers of ARPANET and the internet has a good video on Youtube where he explains some of this in more detail in his lecture at Google's Zurich site.

This is blog has always held the view that while offshore is not intrinsically bad if done sensibly, there are usually better ways of tackling call centre challenges (see posts like: "Offshoring and mainland Europe"). I've also argued strongly for nearshoring or at least not to approach offshoring on a purely cost basis.

I hadn't actually considered weakness in internet cabling as a major reason for avoiding remote offshore, but clearly it's something to be factored in. The impact may not have been huge this time but blogs within the financial services community, such as Chris Skinner's, show that customers at even major UK banks were affected despite public statements to the contrary.

Clearly nearshore and onshore call centres have a strong card to play going forward as few organisations would consider a repeat of this week's service disruption a risk worth running.

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