By Sramana Mitra and guest author Siddharth Garg
In this interview, we spoke with Mandy Edwards, the global chief information officer at Sitel. Sitel is the leading business process outsourcing (BPO) call center provider, as ranked by the Black Book of Outsourcing, a Data Monitor company. Sitel’s customer interaction outsourcing solutions span more than 135 domestic, nearshore, and offshore call centers in 26 countries across North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia Pacific. The company has more than 52,000 employees.
Sramana Mitra: Mandy, if you would please set the context for what Sitel does, that would be great.
Mandy: Well, from my perspective, companies that provide business process outsourcing are really offering cloud computing services to their clients. And if I look at what our company does, then to me, we are the cloud for many of our customers. What does that mean? That means that we are providing the infrastructure and sometimes, the applications in order for them to be able to provide customer care services to their end user communities or consumers.
Sramana Mitra: And what is the scope? Would you talk about the size, scale, and scope of the kind of IT infrastructure you are managing to deliver that value proposition?
Mandy: We operate in 27 different countries, and we speak more than 30 languages. We have network infrastructure reaches in all of those countries. We have more than 110 different facilities that we operate on that infrastructure. We have an enormous telephony hub that allows for pull distribution into those 110 facilities.
Sramana Mitra: OK. And are all the customers you are catering to large enterprise customers, Fortune 500 and Global 2000 types of customers, or do you also cater to the mid-market?
Mandy: Of the Fortune lists, we have about 300 customers, and they fall into the mid and Fortune 1000 category.
Sramana Mitra: If you could list the kinds of services you offer on the cloud to your customers, that would also help us get to the next level of detail of what your cloud strategy is.
Mandy: If you don’t mind, one of the things I would like to do is just give you an orientation from a CIO perspective, because what I have just done for you is explain a business model and the infrastructure that is required to support that model. But from a CIO perspective, I am very interested in also being innovative with technology.
Sramana Mitra: Of course. We will get to the CIO perspective, but my readers need context about the company and the company’s business to be able to then fully understand the CIO perspective.
Mandy: OK, we are a privately held company that provides customer care, technical support, sales and marketing, and back office services to a diverse customer base.
Sramana Mitra: Are the offerings all centered on business process outsourcing, or are there also a lot of applications, hosted applications that augment the business process outsourcing human resource services?
Mandy: Well, 80% of the time, we are leveraging our clients’ applications, but we integrate the infrastructure, if you will.
Sramana Mitra: So, from a CIO’s perspective, are you in charge of maintaining a large application infrastructure, or is it primarily a telephony infrastructure and, of course, all the ERP and HR infrastructure that goes with the BPO companies?
Mandy: I don’t want to downplay the application side because we do provide applications for customers. We also provide all the internal applications that service the company, the financial systems, and the HR systems. So, there is still a traditional mix. But to speak to your point, we do err on the side of your network and telephony because that is really the core of what we do.
Sramana Mitra: Got it. That is the context that I wanted to set before we jump into the CIO discussion. Now, let’s go into what is the philosophy from a CIO perspective, what is your philosophy of cloud computing and how you are steering your organization?
Mandy: Absolutely. I look at technological innovations from two perspectives. One of them is how I can drive internal productivity and improve the way that I can operationalize my internal customers. Second, how can I drive technological innovation to improve the services that I can deliver to my external customers?
So, it is really those two aspects of what I do and what my team is responsible for. In terms of the cloud, I honestly believe that on the customer side of our business, we are the cloud for many of our customers, and we spend most of what we do every day integrating our services and our cloud with the customers’ clouds and also with the customers’ consumers. Internally, I am evaluating and making decisions about how I can move more of the internal IT to the cloud structure. For example, we have made a decision that we will be moving our noncore products and services, such as e-mail, to the cloud.