Marko Kovacevic may not be familiar to everyone in the sourcing world but he’s likely to become increasingly known as he has become the chair of the IAOP’s European Outsourcing Council (EOC). We spoke to him to find out who he is and where his company comes from.
Trizma is not one of the massive outsourcing conglomerates and it has no intention of becoming one, says chief executive Marko Kovacevic. “Trizma started as the first independent call centre provider in Serbia,” he explains. “It was one of the first in the former Yugoslavia. We had one idea: to serve local companies who were becoming regional, with a view to unifying their communications.” The backdrop was of course the dramatic political backdrop as Yugoslavia broke up; “It was part of the new, liberalised business trend,” he says.
The three founders were mostly in software and customer service somehow. By the middle of the decade companies wanted to do their own support in-house, investing in technology and hiring more people. “We were forced to reinvent ourselves,” says Kovcevic. “We used that moment, and it’s now in our DNA, to reinvent ourselves. We understood that we should be growing on the language capacity, and we should learn more about BPO and going into end to end operations.”
They began with small pilot operations and the finances worked, and Trizma became a fully-fledged BPO. Money was growing, everything was working but 2008’s crash was waiting to hit just about everyone in business. “It reflected on us not immediately but after about a year’s delay.” It became apparent that selling on cost rather than quality was going to be the way for a BPO to grow, and this wasn’t something Kovacevic and his team wanted to do.
It was also something they couldn’t do even had they decided it was an option. They were in no position to compete on pure cost with India, the Philippines or any of the obvious low-cost economies of the day. Nor could they compete in language or niche. “The people we talked to changed as well, and we realised that if anyone had to love what we were doing it was the CFO,” he says. It was a tough sell as CFOs saw mostly numbers when Trizma needed to talk about customer trust and added value.
And anyway, you can only chip away so long at margin until you can go no further. So instead of going cheaper, Trizma opted to add technology to the mix; it offered to invest in innovation for clients, test it out and allow them to utilise it 80 per cent. “Usually new technology is under-utilised, then someone spots that it’s expensive and it stops.”
This led to the third wave of evolution for the company: from contact centre to BPO to Business Process and Technology Outsourcing. It worked and still works as an “innovation as a service” model, in which the capital hit is taken away and utilisation is increased. “The key thing is utilising it, it’s where we can keep the value of the service without having to go through cheaper-and-faster”.
Nobody is saying this is the final iteration. “We already have things we’re thinking about for the future,” he says. But for the moment it remains a business process services company, with four main elements: BPO, with innovations horizontally – “We don’t want to think about what’s after RPA but about implementing it as business as usual, in the market mainstream”; the second is business continuity management, which is in all the contracts but everybody hates talking about it and it may not appear in KPIs; third is business design including customer experience journey design, and finally data insight. “We have invested a lot over the last two years in data analysis because it’s where the industry is going.” This includes data analysis to the granular level that would be expected from a modern company.
“Our feeling is that the only thing that keeps growing is data. The more devices, the more engagement we all have, the more data there is. It’s an added value for consumers, for businesses and for societies.” There are concerns as well of course, but subject to the right standards Kovacevic is confident. “Every single user with a device should be educated – it’s not only about the companies analysing the information.”
Combined with an extensive knowledge and depth of experience in Central and Eastern Europe, the journey should put Kovacevic in a good position to chair the IAOP’s EOC. He is looking forward to sharing best practice and to look at what’s worked and what hasn’t in confidence with colleagues and competitors, and to improve the industry for suppliers and buyers alike as a result.
And if some of the learnings filter through to whatever the fourth phase of Trizma’s evolution happens to be, nobody should be in the least bit surprised.