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When companies shifted to remote working in response to the coronavirus pandemic, many discovered the hard way that decades of offshoring critical knowledge services around the globe to maximize efficiency left them vulnerable to abrupt disturbances to business continuity. Suddenly, mortgages were not approved. Customer support hotlines were unavailable. Paychecks were delayed.
Disruptions — major and minor — will continue to impact businesses even after COVID-19 outbreaks recede. Other risks, such as cyberattacks, trade wars, and extreme weather events caused by climate change, linger on the horizon.
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To better prepare their services for the future, companies can take a page from distributed computing principles, which have defined points to receive commands and return results but then dynamically rebalance tasks across computational nodes to maximize efficiency. By adopting a similar “any-to-any” approach to services, companies can improve their performance and resilience by breaking up services into modules that can be reallocated across multiple networks and locations based on availability rather than geography.
Companies first started shifting the processing of services offshore at scale during the internet boom in the 1990s as a way to achieve new back-office efficiencies. But since the turn of this century, the process offshoring business has transformed from one centered around low labor costs in Asia into a $200 billion industry employing tens of millions of specialists in everything from customer service to research and development around the world.
Today, when a bank issues a mortgage in the United Kingdom, it might originate in the U.K. but be processed in Ireland, paid out from India, and serviced again in any of these locations. But during a global crisis, this entire process fails if any of these steps is disrupted.
Across companies and sectors, technology teams follow any-to-any principles that allow coders to collaborate across platforms, tools, and locations. These same principles can allow companies to create parallel service processing environments that permit service modules to be run and shifted flexibly among teams and locations. As a result, if a customer’s request cannot be addressed in Ireland, the task can be delegated to a team in the Philippines or to another team on standby in another part of the world.