"When BT and (Hewlett-Packard) announced in May that they would develop shared go-to-market service, including a call-center proposition, they started a trend," Datamonitor analyst Ryan Powell said. Now, he said, others are doing the same, including Computer Sciences Corp. with Aon and EDS with Siebel.
"Accenture has made a move in India to get down to the front-office call center level, but I think that they have done a bit of a U-turn," Powell said. "They're really not in the bums-on-seats business--they add their value in other ways."
While the big companies run their own call centers, these are largely small-scale, center-of-excellence operations. Large operations are generally contracted out. In the meantime, the call centers are trying to move away from the commodity body shop business and offer a complex mix of services.
But while companies are still looking to single-source their IT-based requirements, the new alliances will be able to put together a total package to gain market share. Powell pointed out that companies are getting better at procurement and are better able to decide which services they need and to write the specifications to suit themselves.
The alliances could face problems, however, Powell said. "It will depend on how they do it--as a joint venture or as joint deliver. They'll still have to work together and discover if they do have a shared culture.
"A number of the services outsourcers offer do not differ dramatically from one firm to another," he said. "It will be crucial for the providers to ensure that they differentiate their services in innovative ways in order to win new business."
Ron Coates of Silicon.com reported from London.