Nirshan Harryparshad: Outsource to your heart's content, but true quality lies here at home


The CIO believes quality will always outweigh cost-cutting measures.

Nirshan Harryparshad, CIO at Capability BPO, is an electronic engineer by training, and specialised in hardware development, building vehicle tracking units for Super Group until he moved into project engineering roles.

After garnering a wealth of local and international experience with FNB in particular, Nirshan left the bank and moved to Durban to work as a consultant for some years, but returned to the financial services sector as CIO for Ithala SOC Limited. At the same time, Altron came knocking at Nirshan’s door.

“Altron was trying out a new project consisting of senior architects: they were putting together a team of highly experienced techies,” he explains. “The idea was really to put together a group of CIOs, former IT directors and senior specialists to facilitate solutioning for their clients. This ran for a year.”

When the project was completed, Nirshan took up an offer to become CIO at Capability BPO, an entity made up of two businesses: first, Capability BPO Global, a contact centre that services clients in the US and Europe, which has two sites in Durban and one in Cape Town. The other business is called Debt-IN, which is a debt collection business that supports banks, retailers and government entities.

The BPO boom

The contact centre industry is growing rapidly, he says. “The main reason for this is our accent neutrality. The South African accent works perfectly for the European and American markets,” he explains.

According to Nirshan, our accent is clearer and better understood than those from other territories. As such, volumes are starting to move into South Africa. “We are also seeing BPO growth in Africa, which is based on the diversity of languages in Africa,” he adds.

This is great for business, he says, but even more satisfying is the fact that the company can create employment for school leavers and the unemployed, who are either unsure of what they want to study, struggling to find employment or are unable to further their studies.

“The beautiful thing is that the onboarding process is very simple: these individuals require no previous experience or minimal experience using a computer: we carry them through our training programme, and by the time they have completed their training, they are fully capable of servicing a client all the way in the US,” he says.

“I find it very rewarding when we bring someone with that background into the business, who is able now to earn an income, and has the potential to grow in the business.”

The company is also undergoing a very exciting cloud migration journey, which Nirshan is hoping to complete by next year. “As a result of the high volume of people coming through our business, the need to automate has increased, and we are doing some exciting things around process automation in the HR onboarding and offboarding space, including training into a centralised system” he says.

“From an industry-wide perspective, we are currently looking into omni-channel capabilities. The primary channel being used at the moment is telephones, and what I’ve noticed is that it all varies from one province to the next and varying across income groups Residents in certain areas tend to prefer speaking over the phone rather than using an app, but as you move into metropolitan areas, residents there are more comfortable using their smart devices and instant messaging.”

A global perspective

Nirshan has had the opportunity to work and travel abroad as CIO and has also had the chance to compare notes as far as IT best practices are concerned. However, he is a true patriot, and there’s no place like home, as he puts it.

“I am very proud to be South African: we have an incredible work ethic, integrity, innovative thinking and are committed to delivery, and our quality of work is world-class,” he says.

“There’s this misconception that if we look abroad, we will get better services, but in my experience, this is definitely not the case. You have to consider a few challenges such as the language barriers you will encounter,” he says. “I have tried to outsource tech work before, and what I found is that there is a lot of reworking that needs to be done because of this communication gap.

“If I am looking at developing a product, I can choose to outsource that work overseas to someone who is cheaper or more affordable. However, the true cost of ownership for me is important. One has to consider the potential delivery risk – the possibility of rework, extended testing time and the cost of ongoing required support and maintenance.”

Nirshan says it is also important to consider what happens once the product is delivered because it will, at some stage, need to be maintained or modified. “When you factor all of that in, the cost of ownership becomes higher than it would have been if it were produced locally,” he says. “In addition, the contractors that developed that product/solution will not necessarily be the same contractors who are going to modify or evolve it. As such, there is a huge risk of losing the original IP along the way.

“Retaining your IP is crucial, especially in highly complex environments such as financial services: there are certain methods and business IP that people become familiar with, as such, IP which must be considered when developing sustainable solutions,” he concludes.

“Agility and Innovative thinking are other important aspects to consider when outsourcing technology work overseas. You are only as fast as your strategic partners can be. So, ensuring that you have an international partner who is as agile as you are, is another important consideration when looking to outsource software development.”

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