Williams Lea: Risk and Reward - Melanie Fitzpatrick

Melanie Fitzpatrick, CMO for Williams Lea, talks to CEO about the changing fortunes of business process outsourcing (BPO) as the sector moves towards strategic engagements around managing risk and profitability.

The BPO market in Williams Lea’s space is shifting away from cost take-out, which CMO Melanie Fitzpatrick describes as ‘a given', and is moving more towards strategic engagements around managing risk and profitability, and improving communications. ‘That’s why we’re seeing such long contracts at the moment,’ she explains. ‘We’ve seen a move from one to three-year contracts, up to ten years. Seven to ten-year contracts are becoming much more commonplace.

Reader’s Digest is a recent partnership for us, worth $1 billion over seven years, covering 30 countries – a fully integrated print and design utility solution. We built that with the Reader’s Digest board to improve communication and effectiveness, managing cost and risk. Client relationships are becoming more of a partnership, because if you’re reengineering processes around such huge amounts of information, it’s not a quick fix.’

In a marketing print engagement, Williams Lea uses its vendor base – in the UK it is procuring over $300 million in terms of print from vendors, and it doesn’t have any manufacturing capabilities of its own – to save clients between 20-30% on an annual basis. ‘In the current climate, fast-cost take-out is a very attractive prospect for a lot of companies. We aim for continuous improvement and invest heavily in technology, as the trends in digitisation are moving so quickly. We have to stay ahead of the market on that.’

The company operates in over 30 countries, with a range of clients across many industry sectors, including financial services, retail, pharmaceuticals, automotive, legal and eight out of the top ten investment banks. It employs 11,000 people globally, mostly in the UK, Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, with four locations in India.

The firm’s core proposition, as explained by Fitzpatrick, is Corporate Information, which encompasses the management of all digital and printed information. ‘This means anything an organisation, whether B2B or B2C, and from any sector, shares internally within the organisation – say incoming mail or digitised messaging – and is managed throughout the organisation, whether that means being dropped onto desktops, internal comms, and creation, including design.’

Likewise, Williams Lea manages the communications an organisation sends out, including marketing print, transactional print, statement printing, fulfilment and distribution. ‘The entire cycle of information management, covering all sorts of areas that are bespoke to sectors,’ Fitzpatrick adds. ‘For example, in banking its presentation services are linked with creative and DTP, word processing, and document management. We believe information is an untapped asset in organisations, and unlocking that asset can add incredible value.'


Consultancy for Williams Lea means engaging with clients to understand their businesses, says Fitzpatrick. ‘Every organisation has similarities. We work with the client to really get under the skin of the business, and we have a methodology for that. It’s a five stage process: understanding, managing, building, transition then transformation.’

Williams Lea appoints subject matter consultants to engage with their clients, usually with a senior executive level – typically it will be an executive head of procurement or marketing – and they will run a diagnostic on the business. ‘The questions we look to address are, "Where is the information? What is it costing the business? What is the length of time required to move through a process?"’

Fitzpatrick recalls recent conversations with the CFO of a large organisation Williams Lea has been working with to secure a large deal in financial services. ‘He doesn’t know how much he spends on print or mail, because it’s in pockets in many different places,’ she says. Categorisation is often a challenge for these firms. It can take 8-12 weeks to get through our methodology, and by the time we’re finished it’s incredible what the level of spend can be.’

‘Improving profitability is often about streamlining and process re-engineering.’ Customer experience, regardless of sector, is critical, says Fitzpatrick, and this is where BPO can help. ‘It’s becoming a much more regulated world, with the risks for executive boards more prominent. The need to audit, track and have visibility of all relevant communications is higher on the agenda now. Controlling, managing and protecting brands is important.’

Melanie Fitzpatrick, CMO for Williams Lea.