Business process outsourcing will increase in popularity as providers offer more strategic services to their clients, reports Datquest Inc., a Stamford, Connecticut-based research firm and a unit of Gartner Inc. Outsourcers will assume full process management responsibility and provide more comprehensive services, reducing the cost of delivering business process outsourcing and simplifying access to the BPO, Dataquest notes.

"Although the shift from transactional to strategic BPO gathered significant momentum in 1999 and 2000, it remained the exception in 2001," says Rebecca Scholl, senior analyst for Gartner Dataquest's IT Services program. "The bulk of the BPO market is composed of transaction-processing engagements, designed to optimize process efficiency, reduce transaction costs and provide flexibility to users in times of economic uncertainty."

Demand for BPO services has evolved from a single process to comprehensive, multiprocess engagements, Dataquest says. The integration of collaborative applications and Web-based technologies into BPO offerings has accelerated this shift because data from multiple process interactions now can be integrated seamlessly, the firm notes. This trend is confirmed by the emergence of providers that are delivering BPO services across a range of processes, or acting as general contractors for multiple BPO providers, Dataquest says.

"The BPO market remains immature, and only a few enterprises are willing to give up control over several processes at once," Scholl notes. "In most cases, the evolution toward multiprocess outsourcing takes place in a phased approach, through several contract extensions rather than 'big bang' outsourcing engagements."

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