By Luke Bujarski
Similar strategic advantages driving enterprises to choose countries like Guatemala for global professional services have also swayed sourcing practitioners across the Atlantic to fix their sites on Central Europe. Poland in particular brings competitive wages, cultural affinity, proximity, and time zone congruity to German, English, and French multinationals seeking IT and back office global delivery.
Considering these and other parallels, we interviewed Jose Zamora, Process Manager at Capgemini Poland to give us a ground-level perspective on how these two key markets operate. Zamora transferred from the Capgemini Guatemala office nine months ago. Now, after surviving his first bone-chilling winter in Krakow, he is ready to share his bona fide expertise on business process nearshoring.
BPO Outcomes: What do Poland and Guatemala mean for Capgemini global delivery?
Zamora: “Capgemini is headquartered in Europe (France) so naturally we’ve been in Poland since 1999. In total we have around 3,000 employees at our flagship delivery center in Krakow. Two-thirds of our workforce is dedicated to BPO while the rest is ITO. Many of our global client on-boarding activities and contracts are handled out of Poland before work gets deployed to our other centers including Guatemala.
“So for us, Poland is a key global delivery center and not only for European nearshoring. We’ve only been in Guatemala since 2008 but have seen tremendous successes there as well. Our delivery center in Guatemala City now employs 850 people mostly in procurement and collection services. Some of our key U.S. accounts are now serviced out of Guatemala including International Paper. Similar time zone makes it easier to work within normal U.S. working hours.”
BPO: How do Poland and Guatemala compare on cost?
Zamora: “We see significant overall cost savings in Guatemala in upwards of 30 percent. This is partially the reason why we’ve scaled so rapidly over the last four years but also because our Guatemala center has been delivering results.
“Costs in Poland are comparable to what we’ve experienced in Chile. In addition to English market activity we’ve also transferred more Spanish market procurement work from our Santiago center to Guatemala, also at a 30 percent cost savings. Poland is cheap compared to Western Europe and the United States but Guatemala is cheaper when it comes to voice functions. However, that cost differential decreases for more senior roles. The Polish workforce is large and very well educated which makes recruitment at all levels easier. Overall, I would say Guatemala is five years behind Poland in terms of delivery capability. That capability does come at a premium though.”
BPO: How do you compare the workforce in Guatemala to Poland?
Zamora: “The typical education level of our entry-level candidates tends to be higher in Poland. Most of our agents here already have college degrees – some Master’s – while in Guatemala many are still in school. This is partly because our operations/functions in Poland are more advanced given our earlier entry into the market and the role that our center here plays for our global operations. Poland also has a longer tradition in the outsourcing industry which reflects in workforce capability and overall attitudes toward BPO as a career path.
“Guatemalans still associate BPO with working for a call center, which makes recruitment and staff retention more difficult. The outsourcing community should do more to work with government and education to change young people’s perspectives about the various career paths available working in global outsourcing. I am an example, in a sense, and now have the opportunity to work in Europe and more directly with our global clients in Poland.”
BPO: What about English language capability?
Zamora: “It is still easier to find young entry-level bilingual agents in Guatemala. Many professionals in Poland speak English but the bilingual workforce is older and more educated which makes it more difficult to recruit bilingual agents for lower-skilled positions.
“Since Poland is in Europe many professionals also study German, French, and Spanish and not only English. Interestingly we’ve seen more and more Western Europeans coming to Poland as economic conditions get worse in Ireland, England, and Spain.
“On the other hand, in Guatemala English is the exclusive language professionals study – perhaps Portuguese. Also many Guatemalans have lived in the United States at some point in their lives. However, the Guatemala labor market is smaller than in Poland. We can recruit bilingual agents for our delivery center in Krakow from all over Poland. The Guatemala talent pool is mostly limited to Guatemala City and there are many contact center providers operating there, so there is higher turnover and cross-employment between the different centers.“
Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for an upcoming article on the broader state of BPO in Poland featuring insight from Marek Grodziński Vice President, BPO Centre Director, Capgemini Poland.