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Start Simple: The Key to Outsourcing
February 26, 2018

Start Simple: The Key to Outsourcing

Written by: Mark Engelmann

In Episode 4 of the show, I interview Garry Taylor, former Director at Macquarie Bank and the man responsible for growing their shared services office from 0-1800 heads in the Philippines. Forget the rest, Garry is a true expert on what it takes to build a successful outsourced team in The Philippines. Tune in to learn more.

Check out our Go for Growth Show highlights reel with Garry Taylor. Want to see more? Scroll down to watch the full video.

Highlights reel

Full interview

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Garry Taylor, Dataflow Group

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Interview Transcript

Mark Engelmann: Okay hi everyone. Welcome to today's episode of the Go For Growth show. My name is Mark Engelmann and I'm your host today. On today's show we've got Mr. Garry Taylor who is calling in from his home in Dubai. Thanks for joining us Garry.

Garry Taylor: You're welcome Mark.

Mark Engelmann: Garry look, rather than introduce you, I'd like you to just tell me about your current role and what you are responsible for.

Garry Taylor: Okay, thanks Mark. I guess my current role is chief technology officer for a company called Data Flow. I've been with Data Flow for, coming up to two years now. And I've just recently made the move to Dubai, just a couple of months ago so still settling into Dubai life, having spent the last, pretty much 18 years in Asia with 10 of those years being based in the Philippines.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah great. And so I guess, as part of that I mean I know that throughout your career you have worked in many different countries. I think one of the most interesting stories you've got that you've ever told me is your placement in Manila to grow Macquarie Shared Services office. You grew that to about 1800 staff over a reasonably short period of time, which is massive. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience and what some of your biggest challenges were?

Garry Taylor: Yeah sure. I guess initially when I went down to the Philippines, I was based in Hong Kong at the time, and I went down to Manila with the remit of setting up an office of, I think it was nine desks if I remember rightly or nine heads as a bit of a pilot to see exactly sort of how it went. And the idea was to start off in the technology field. I'm primarily from a technology background obviously, and the idea was to go and pilot the idea of doing software testing out of the Philippines office.

I guess the proof of the whole thing was that it worked, and we eventually grew the office to 1800 people over a period of time, which spread way beyond the original software testing and technology arena into a complete shared services centre for the entirety of the bank.

It was an entertaining experience I guess initially kicking off and setting up the business, building the business was a bit of a challenge, getting to know what, how to transact business in the Philippines was a bit of a challenge. I had a connectivity I guess with the Philippines through my wife previous to that. So I knew about the Philippines but transacting business in the Philippines was a whole new ball game to me.

And I guess in terms of challenges, not only was there the challenge of setting up the business in the Philippines and operating a Philippines business but one of the biggest challenges I guess I continue to face was this sort of lack of belief in what could be  offshored and how things could be offshored versus the traditional model of doing everything in the mothership hubs.

In that scenario I guess, I was in Hong Kong which was the hub of the region. Obviously with Macquarie being an Australian bank there was a huge hub back in Sydney and in Australia in general and trying to convince people that there was an opportunity to do some of the work offshore was probably one of the biggest challenges I faced and continue to face right up to the very end of my tenure with Macquarie quite frankly.

Mark Engelmann: Why do you think that, that there was a kind of resistance?

Garry Taylor: Not so sure it was a resistance per se, obviously there is a resistance of, or there is the concern of jobs, which is an ongoing concern and I guess that's going to be an ongoing concern as time moves forward. I think a lot of it was just a lack of understanding and the lack of understanding of what could be done, how it could be done and whether you could disconnect yourself from the physical day to day interaction of your mates you worked with and whether you could, in effect trust these people that were a thousand of miles away or thousands of miles away to do the same job that you were doing and to give the same responses that you were doing previously in a role. I think that's probably the biggest concern most people have.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah great, great. So 1800 people, that's a decent sized organisation right? I've worked in large organisations before and from my perspective, I had a previous role as a business improvement specialist and so that role was all about trying to find efficiencies in processes basically and my observation of working in a large organisation in the past is that productivity piece is really hard to manage with the more people that you have. How do you manage productivity in an office of that size?

Garry Taylor: I think it goes hand in hand with the benefits that some of these offshore locations can bring and that is the adherence to process. So, one of the tips and tricks I guess is to make sure when you're moving this work offshore, you're actually procedurizing everything, you are making sure that everything is documented. Now that can sound as if it's a bit of a pain to do but once you've got it procedurized, once you've got a particular set of tasks procedurized, it then becomes repeatable. It then becomes something that you can track and measure, you can put KPIs around it. You can ensure that the task gets repeated time and time again and then increase the levels of accuracy and repeatability around a particular process.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah great and I guess sort of tagging onto that, do you think that is a reason why Macquarie chose the Philippines as a location to build that office?

Garry Taylor: I think the Philippines was chosen for a number of different reasons. The Philippines does lend its self very, very well to process based offshoring and I've obviously worked there for a number of years and that's certainly one of the fortes of the environment. Once a process is in place, that process continues to be done on a repeated basis day in and day out.

The, sorry what was the question again Mark? I've lost track of the question there.

Mark Engelmann: So why do you think Macquarie chose the Philippines?

Garry Taylor: Oh sorry, yeah, the other obviously excellent reason for choosing the Philippines was the language capability. The English capability in the Philippines is probably the best in the Asia Pac region and that certainly lends itself very well to a process offshore. Especially where you've got to interact with people in different countries at different times of the day, especially as well if you're dealing with people across the other side of the world in the western side of the world. The level of English, the capability of English is superb compared to the rest of the Asia region.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah great, so in Australia, offshoring or outsourcing to an off shore location is something that is kind of on the front of everyone's minds and a lot of businesses are starting to move off shore but I guess, as a very general statement, I don't think Australians are that used or experienced to working with people from different cultures. What are some of the mistakes you've seen Australians or westerners in general make when working with people from Asian cultures?

Garry Taylor: I think probably the biggest mistake is trying to sort of brainwash people from a different culture to be those different people.

Mark Engelmann: Yep.

Garry Taylor: So for example, and it doesn't matter whether you're from Australia, the US, the UK, whatever it may be. There is this tendency to go into countries like the Philippines and like these other off shore locations and say well this is how I do things back home, this is my kind of culture and my kind of personality back home, therefore in order to get the same job done, I need to convert these people into being exactly the same kind of people and the same kind of culture as I'm from and that doesn't always work. People have got their own cultures, their own backgrounds. Leave the cultural aspect as it is in that country, deal with the culture in that country in the best way you can. We can talk more a little bit more about that later. But focus on moving the task as opposed to trying to move personalities I guess is one of the key things I would put forward there.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, no I would totally agree with that. What would some of your key tips be for any businesses that are looking at embarking on an off shore initiative. What are some of the things, I mean you touched on procedurizing your systems and processes but is there anything else beyond that, that businesses should be thinking about when they start their offshore projects?

Garry Taylor: Yeah I think the key trick really is to start simple and Mark, I think we've discussed this previously, it's my big passion in terms of how you start the offshoring journey. If you start simple, I think you both learn from the concept, you both, both sides, both parties learn from the experience because the offshoring party has got to learn how to offshore and how to procedurize. The party that is in the offshore location has got to learn to take those tasks on. Start to learn about how you and your company works and in some cases, learn about the cultural aspects, learn about the linguistic differences, the way people use different words in different situations, the colloquialisms that crop into conversation, that's all got to be learnt in transition.

But once you get the first couple of processes over those hurdles and into production, you can then start to look further up the value chain in terms of what kind of work you off shore or the complexity of the tasks you off shore but my key trick I think is to start simple.

And I guess the other sort of key thing, which I've already touched upon is to work with the cultural differences that you're coming across. Just because one culture does things in a slightly different way, is not necessarily a bad thing, it is just a different way of doing things. The culture and the vibe in the Philippine offices will be very, very different to the typical vibe that you would have in an Australian office for example.

So rather than try and eradicate that vibe or completely change that vibe, perhaps learn to work with it and how best to work with it in that scenario.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah definitely and from my experience I know that, yes, Australians and Filipinos are different. Great example is at our Christmas parties and anniversaries where the Filipinos are having a great time singing and dancing, playing games, there's not an alcoholic drink to be seen anywhere and then over in the corner are all of the Australians who are too embarrassed to get up and do the karaoke or have a dance or whatever, they are there with their beers in hand having a good time too, and that's okay.

Garry Taylor: I agree, I agree and there's a tendency to kind of mock that at times. These guys are sitting there without beers, laughing and singing and enjoying themselves and why mock that, when conversely a typical Christmas party perhaps back in Australia would end up with lots of people get drunk, fall on the floor and making complete sort of asses of themselves quite frankly.

And how would the Filipinos think about the Australians in that context? So it's kind of like looking at things from both lenses, both directions.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah, great. That's some really great insight there Garry. I've got one last question for you and it probably suits you really well, given your background and expertise but our listeners are always interested in new pieces of technology or applications or new service providers that can help them grow their business, have you been using anything in particular lately that our listeners should know about?

Garry Taylor: I can't give away too many details, that would be my trade secret. I think in general Mark, there is a few areas that I'm pretty passionate about at the moment. One I guess is the use of cloud based services. I think Beepo are already well down the path in terms of cloud based usage of office productivity products, like the Google suite. That's just a classic example of a complete change in direction to the classic desktop type environment that most people are aware of or used to and it takes a brave change to move towards a different environment. And moving towards different productivity suites can bring all sorts of different gains.

So cloud based productivity, cloud based services in general from the likes of Google and Amazon feature highly on my radar at the moment. I think the days of hosted or corporately owned data centres with lots of lights and servers and cabling buzzing away in the background somewhere are long gone.

Mark Engelmann: Yep.

Garry Taylor: And I think the quicker people embrace that cloud technology, obviously in a secure fashion, security has got to be top of mind but the quicker we embrace cloud technology the better I think at the moment. And the last real thing that is on my radar I guess at the moment is the whole concept of RPA or Robotic Process Automation, which is kind of like that next step from offshoring I guess. I think a lot of people would struggle going from what they know today and dropping straight into RPA, which is the concept of robotizing I guess a manual day to day task. Those people that have gone through the offshoring process, I think will find the shift into RPA and sort of efficiencies through RPA, a lot simpler. But RPA in general is a big sort of technology that is waiting to happen in the next couple of years.

Mark Engelmann: Yeah it's certainly front of mind for a lot of businesses and I've been reading a lot in the media about process automation and various software applications that are really helping businesses do that. So, no, totally agree.

All right Garry, well that was my last question. Thanks for your time, it's been a great chat and look forward to catching up with you soon.

Garry Taylor: Thanks again Mark, cheers.

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