CDS Global: A Partner to Participate in Success – Malcolm Netburn

Driven by financial uncertainty, organisations no longer want just an outsourcing supplier; they require a strategic partner. Malcolm Netburn, chairman and CEO of CDS Global, explains to Rhian Owen how an established BPO provider that can adapt its services will survive in today's market.

The financial crisis caused considerable concern for the outsourcing industry. The downturn reduced business process outsourcing (BPO) activity in the short term as company IT budgets were cut. However, as the after-effects of the credit crunch took hold, many large Western organisations made the leap and sought out BPO solutions as a way to reduce costs and streamline their processes. The outsourcing space was saved.

"Organisations are cautious as a lot of companies have gone out of business in the last three years," says Malcolm Netburn, chairman and CEO, CDS Global. "What we're seeing through the financial crisis is that scale and dependability have become crucial. Clients want to know that the provider has a volume of skilled staff because they have reduced their own workforces."

Indeed, Netburn believes that this is why CDS Global handled the downturn so effectively and also why companies are continuing to turn towards it today. The company is a leading provider of outsourced business solutions with operations located in the UK, US, Canada and Australia, and has been active for 40 years.

"A lot of people look at CDS Global and see a well-established company that is highly funded, debt-free and likely to be around for 40 more years," says Netburn. "Today, this reputation is fundamental."

As industries turn to BPO, CDS Global is working for clients across the globe. "More and more businesses are looking to third parties to help them conduct parts of their business that they used to do themselves but in a limited way," says Netburn. "We service clients in Asia seamlessly and our collective clients have almost 200 million customers of their own."

Fast-paced evolution

Business is moving quickly, and the only thing that outsourcing companies and their clients can be sure about is that the space is changing, due in part to the fast-paced evolution of technology. Netburn notes that social networking, for instance, is a factor that is affecting CDS Global's clients and the way they are approaching business in today's world.

"I tell clients that we're all going to have to learn how to fall off that cliff, but we're going to do it carefully," he says. "We're going to do it with a parachute, and we'll figure out where to land first. But, if you think you can stop from falling off, then you're kidding yourself. The way in which we are interacting with each other and consuming things, whatever that thing may be, is changing rapidly.

"Service providers need to be conservative as dependability is important. However, while being conservative, providers have to be fearless. It's a critical path to success."

"If companies don't change, even though it looks like it's going to be detrimental to their business, they're going to fail. Change eats businesses up alive but organisations had better embrace it because then they can figure out how to be successful through it. That's what outsourcers help to do. Organisations used to talk about reinventing themselves every five years, now it's every 18 months."

CDS Global has worked hard at building a vision for the future and Netburn says that this is one of the reasons why the company has earned a leadership role in the outsourcing business. "Many companies often look at us as they develop their own practices," he says. "I think our clients are appreciative and think that we're a company that is looking over the horizon to anticipate their needs."

Although CDS Global has a longstanding history, it is a modern company focused on being at the forefront of new technologies. Netburn explains that it is, in some ways, old fashioned with long-serving employees, established ethics and traditional values, but at the same time it offers service-orientated architecture and web and internet-related services.

"How do providers do both?" asks Netburn. "The answer is that you have to do both, and that sets a very high bar. It's critical for outsource providers to execute what looks on the surface like contradictory values. Service providers need to be conservative as dependability is even more important while companies are going out of business and getting in trouble. However, while being conservative providers have to be fearless. It's a critical path to success."

Beyond expectations

Netburn believes that what makes CDS Global different, however, is its commitment to "shattering clients' expectations". He explains that this means going beyond what the client asked for, and providing a service that their competitors do not offer: "We want clients to be wowed, so we always go that extra mile."

A proactive service, as opposed to merely reactive, is fundamental and the only way to cater to clients' needs, notes Netburn. "If a client comes to us and tells us the three services they need from CDS Global, we may turn around and say that we think two or three other services should be looked at, because the client's business will benefit from that."

More than just a provider

CDS Global recognises that today organisations require more than simply a provider. With vast competition across sectors there is pressure on organisations to maximise internal core competencies. In order to do this, companies are looking at long-term strategies and re-evaluating their outsourcing relationships. This means developing partnerships that can design, manufacture, service and support critical components, and integrate processes with the company's requirements.

"Organisations are moving from big company suppliers to a strategic partner," says Netburn. "We have embraced strategic partner values rather than being just a supplier to our clients, and that's what is needed.

"Suppliers are dependable, they react to a customer's need and they deliver on contracted services. A partner anticipates, proactively suggests, consults, strategises, and participates in the success of that customer. A partner means less about delivering on contracted services, and more about delivering on value. That's a big difference. Service providers can deliver on contracted services, and clients will get everything that they wanted from them, but they might not be a partner."

Adapting to customer needs

CDS Global's largest client is Condé Nast in the US, a publisher whose brand consists of 28 consumer magazines and websites. The client's mission is to create, promote, market and sell its brands with excellence in content and innovative online solutions. Historically, CDS Global has helped manage the client's customer interactions, primarily on the subscription side, and it has done that successfully for over ten years.

"Condé Nast had a change in leadership and it did a lot of thinking about the future of its business relationship," explains Netburn. "The company wanted to be a great content company with great brands, as opposed to exclusively being in the magazine industry. As a critical partner of theirs, the challenge for us was that now it was no longer just a magazine company, how did we change the way in which we were doing business to accommodate their aims?

"We did a lot of soul searching with Condé Nast. Fortunately, our vision was compatible with theirs and we were able to marry into their vision of the future and participate in their changes."

CDS Global will continue to adapt its offerings for Condé Nast, and the company's other clients, as this is the very nature of a strategic partnership.

"We have recently successfully completed a five-year contract renewal, completely changing the services that we are going to provide for Condé Nast," concludes Netburn. "It shows how a company such as

CDS Global can evolve from a very good supplier to a partner. We have at our fingertips tools that enable us to do things we've never been able to do before - and although we're in the midst of a lot of changes, and companies themselves are changing, we're going to offer great services for organisations while being ethical, fair and never flashy."