Outsourcing Buyers: Take Advantage of Latin America's Uncharacteristic 'Access'

A little talked about facet of the Nearshore outsourcing industry in the Americas is something that more buyers need to pay heed to: Access to top goverment and policy making officials.

Meeting with government officials, especially heads of ministries that are focused on science and technology, is an invaluable part of assessing a country's viability for third-party outsourcing as well as investment into captives and shared services centers. There is nothing quite like having a sit-down meeting with government leaders to discern, in a 'heart to heart' sense, the level of awareness and commitment these officials have in cultivating probably the most essential element to your offshore outsourcing strategy: human capital.

In the last four years, I have probably met with close to 100 top government officials - from ministry heads to presidents to investment promotion executives - across Latin America and the Caribbean. In general, these meetings have been exceptionally enlightening. For instances, in meeting with the President of Costa Rica Laura Chinchilla, last year,  I heard - very clearly - her passion for eliminating bureaucratic red-tape to enable foreign investors to tap into Costa Rica's thriving IT sector.

On the other hand, there have been a few instances where government leaders would struggle to explain what the acronym "BPO" stands for.

I describe this feature of the Nearshore outsourcing industry as a 'little known facet' because very few people seem to recognize that Latin America - as a whole region - has done a tremendous job creating an 'accessible' environment for those probing to learn more. In many larger cities across Latin America there are agencies established to focus solely on raising awareness and disseminating useful information for outsourcers. For example, there is "Curitiba Offshore' for the Curitiba, Brazil region, "Invest in Bogota" for Bogota, Colombia, and Jalisco State Economic Development Agency (for the Mexican state that includes Guadalajara, Mexico).

There are obviously simliar groups in other offshore havens around the world. But, in my own encounters, the fact that Latin America shares unique bonds with North America - meetings with government officials more often than not has the ring of becoming "reaquainted" with a country that has already established formidable social, economic and cultural ties with the United States.

The final consideration in making the most of this 'access' lies in the hands of BPO/ITO and offshoring investors themselves. It is only through active pursuit of knowledge that such doors to these important officials are opened. In other words, buyers have to be willing to make contact with country promotion agencies and top vendors in the region - and board planes to see the countries first hand.

I have been in touch in recent months with a CIO based in New Jersey who has been to over five Nearshore countries in the last four months, examining a variety of Nearshore vendors in their ability to develop e-commerce applications for his corporation. As a result of these missions, the CIO is more prepared than many to maximize his investment and anticipate - in parallel - how the government, private enterprise and universities can be supportive of his investment roadmap.

The door to Latin America is wide open - but decision-makers have to willing to walk through it.