Despite the highly competitive nature of the visa outsourcing market, governments can be reticent to change their outsourcing partner for fear of a badly managed transition. Visa outsourcing companies must demonstrate that they can manage any transition phase smoothly, with no disruption to government visa departments or to visa applicants. In a new series of articles by our Programme Management Lead Arnaud Lefebvre, we explain the measures that we take at TLScontact to manage transition effectively.
In line with the strict public procurement rules that govern the visa services sector, outsourcing contracts are regularly reviewed and put out for re-tender. This gives governments the opportunity to evaluate their existing arrangements and potentially select a new partner. However, in so doing, they will be mindful of the potential risks involved. As a contract passes from the incumbent supplier to a new company, there can be no interruption in visa application processing and no disruption to visa applicants or to the government visa departments in charge of reviewing and approving applications.
The benefits of experience and forward planning
At TLScontact, we have 15 years of experience in managing these sorts of transitions, leveraging the agility and local knowledge of our operational teams on the ground and the relevant technical expertise and programme management capabilities of our central support functions. In 2021 alone, we successfully launched new operations for Belgium, Germany and Italy in multiple locations, ensuring a smooth transition from previous outsourcing partners despite the unprecedented challenge of a global pandemic. We did this by applying a tried and tested methodology for managing transition. So what does this entail?
In reality, a successful transition begins well before the submission of any bid response, through detailed planning during the bid process. One of the first things to consider is where to locate future visa centres. At TLScontact, we apply strict criteria as part of our selection process, based on years of experience running visa operations around the world. New centres must be conveniently located and easily configured to optimise applicant flows. Potential premises also undergo a detailed risk assessment.
Strong programme management
Once a bid has been won, we appoint a programme manager who will oversee the new centre openings. Working closely with our client management team, this individual coordinates a number of parallel workstreams, to ensure the timely opening of our new facilities. These workstreams include:
- Legal & finance: If we are preparing to start operations in a new country, we must first set up a new legal entity, apply for a business license and open a local bank account. This process generally starts well in advance of any bid win. It is managed by our experienced legal and finance teams, working in partnership with our local operations colleagues.
- Building work / refurbishment: Whether we are opening new premises or refurbishing an existing centre, we follow a strict procurement process to select our partners for the construction work and for the purchase and delivery of all essential IT equipment. This careful selection, with the appropriate legal safeguards, helps to ensure that all the necessary work is carried out within the relevant timeframe and according to strict quality guidelines.
- Staffing: The recruitment process starts early on to select the team that will run any new facilities. These local managers then recruit the staff who will work alongside them. Throughout, they can count on the support of our regional HR colleagues, who have many years of experience in overseeing local recruitment campaigns.
- Staff training: Another essential aspect of transition planning is staff training. Our dedicated training department develops bespoke training programmes for any new recruits or current staff who will be taking on responsibilities for a new government client. Courses are delivered both online and face-to-face and an immersion period at an established TLScontact centre is also organised for any new centre manager. This allows them to benefit from the knowledge and expertise built up by our operations colleagues in other locations.
- Selection of local partners: As for any building work, we follow strict procurement guidelines for the selection of local partners in essential areas such as security, payment, courier delivery and cleaning. Wherever possible, we seek to work with existing partners in a particular country or region. Alternatively, we leverage partnerships with global suppliers that we work with in other regions of the world.
- Technology: Finally, our central Technology and Content Management teams work on the deployment of the relevant technology solutions agreed as part of the new contract. This starts with the rollout of local websites in the relevant languages, as these will go live several weeks before the opening of any new centre. According to client requirements, we also implement tools such as our online appointment booking platform, document scanning and upload platform, online payment and biometric enrolment solution.
All of this work is overseen by our global Security & Compliance teams, to ensure adherence to our group-wide security, information security and data privacy standards.
A smooth transition doesn’t happen by accident. It requires careful planning which begins well before any bid submission. Operational readiness is obviously key, as we have set out in this article. However, effective customer communications, management of any ‘in-flight’ visa applications and close coordination with government clients are also equally important throughout the transition process. Check back soon, as these are all areas that we will explore in more detail in the coming weeks as we continue our series of articles about managing transition to a new partner.
Article written by Arnaud Lefebvre