In our previous articles on contract transition in visa outsourcing, we set out the different actions that we take at TLScontact to ensure operational readiness. We also explain how we carefully manage any visa applications that are already in progress at the time of a contract handover. As we work through any transition plan, another key success factor is the way that we work with our government clients, ensuring close coordination and regular communication. This is essential to establish a strong relationship of trust from the very beginning of any transition phase.
From our experience, our government clients are most concerned about the risk of interruption to their visa operations when an existing outsourcing contract comes to an end. Such an interruption would be costly and disruptive for both visa customers and the visa departments in charge of reviewing and approving applications. It would also be reputationally damaging for the government concerned. Visa outsourcing companies therefore need to demonstrate that they will be ready to operate on Day 1 of any new contract, whatever the circumstances.
At TLScontact, we start every new contract transition with a project kick-off meeting. This involves all key contacts on the client side and a dedicated TLScontact team created for the project. This team includes representatives from all the departments that will work on the project and the Programme Manager who will coordinate the different workstreams.
Regular client reporting is provided throughout the project, in weekly status reports and / or meetings. Transition periods are often very short and can be challenging, particularly in the uncertain international context that we are currently operating in. Our objective at all times is to respect the commitments that we make to our government clients and to be transparent should we meet any unexpected difficulties. We do this by creating and maintaining a risk register to track any potential problems. We then escalate any major issues to the client where necessary, along with the appropriate mitigation plan.
Central and local coordination
Strong central and local coordination is essential to the success of any transition project, both on the TLScontact side and with our client. Centrally, our client management teams ensure regular communications with our government contacts at the Ministry level. Locally, our operations teams work hand-in-hand with client embassies and consulates. This local coordination is absolutely critical and was clearly illustrated in 2021, when we managed a number of new centre openings for our Belgian client. Over a four-month transition period, we launched new operations in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia, in the middle of a new wave of Covid-19. Opening the new centres on time required intense collaboration between our central support functions, our local operations teams and their local client contacts to navigate travel restrictions and local lockdowns reintroduced in the final stages of the project.
Read our article Opening of new visa application centres for Belgium.
Strong client relationships
Closely linked to the previous point, strong client relationships are essential to build up trust and reassure our government clients that we will deliver. While this is true at the central level, it is particularly important at the local level, where our operations teams will be interacting with local embassy and consular staff on a daily basis. From the outset, we must demonstrate our understanding of client requirements in terms of supporting documentation, appointment management, configuration of different visa types, and any specific local conditions. This is essential to effectively build a positive working relationship that is maintained once the new visa operations are officially launched.
In the final stages of any transition plan, we organise site visits, allowing us to take into account any client feedback as we prepare to open our new centres. We also provide training to government visa departments on any unfamiliar technology tools to be provided under the new contract.
At the heart of any transition period is a change management process. This is just as important as all the actions that we take to ensure that our centres are ready to operate on the first day of a new contract. As with any change management process, regular and transparent communication is essential. This means communicating effectively and consistently with visa customers about to submit a new visa application or waiting for a visa decision. It also means communicating with our government clients, who need reassurance that we are managing the process effectively and will be able to deliver on our commitments.
Article written by
Arnaud Lefebvre, Programme Management Lead