Human Interest Story: Arno IJmker’s Credo is Independency and Integrity
Arno IJmker, a member of IAOP’s European Advisory board and COP, received outsourcing’s highest professional honor – induction into its prestigious Leadership Hall of Fame during The 2016 European Outsourcing Summit.
Always maintaining his personal beliefs in acting independently and with integrity in outsourcing and in life, IJmker has earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues and peers. Valued as a trusted advisor to executive management in making important strategic decisions concerning outsourcing and vendor choices, he also participates in steering committees of large international outsourcing projects. Over the years, he has assisted well-known and prestigious organizations with his deep insights of the outsourcing market, including Philips, Air France-KLM, Heineken, ABN AMRO Bank, AEGON/ TransAmerica Insurance, IFF, Kone, Singapore Airlines, AbuDhabi Municipality, Dutch Tax Authorities, DSM, ISS, National Railways, WoltersKluwer and many others. For his many contributions to the practice of outsourcing and to society at large, IJmker, a member of IAOP’s European Advisory board and COP, received outsourcing’s highest professional honor – induction into its prestigious Leadership Hall of Fame during The 2016 European Outsourcing Summit. PULSE talked with him before the award luncheon in Amsterdam about his first outsourcing deal that made front page news, the outlook for outsourcing in Europe and globally, and the importance of well-balanced relationships between customers and service providers. P: How did you get involved in outsourcing?
I started at Quint in 1999 as a senior consultant. I had a banking background and had worked with a lot of external IT vendors. Quint’s main activity when I joined 17 years ago was optimizing IT organizations. (For more on Quint, see PULSE Issue 12). That was back in the early days when CIOs were starting to ask if external providers could do a better job then optimizing their own organizations. I was lucky in the first week when I started with Quint, we got an outsourcing question from one of our customers. Since I had experience with external vendors, I was asked to take the assignment. I didn’t have any experience in outsourcing. But I was blessed that Quint had this very through background on describing service levels and all the ingredients that you need for a successful outsourcing practice were already on the shelf. The only new aspect was the commercial aspect and contracting, which was something I was quite acquainted with from my time at the banks. Three or four months later, I closed my first outsourcing deal. All the magazines and newspapers here covered it on the front page. It was quite a big deal since it involved one of the municipalities and the government in general was very reluctant to outsource. The deal was also fed by having a shortage of professional people and the municipality not being able to pay very high wages and attract the right people. By having an external service provider do the work, they can do a much better job.
P: Tell me about founding the Sourcing Advisory business unit of Quint?
In October 2001, Quint decided to start the official business unit and they asked me to be the manager of that. We purposely called it Sourcing because we are an independent consultancy firm. If there’s a client who wants to optimize their internal organization, we help them. We did a lot of strategic sourcing deals, which is still the case today. Since then, I’ve been involved in many, many outsourcing deals. Another change has been the growth of offshore providers from India increasing their market shares and setting up their business here locally in Europe. They are a very serious threat to classic huge Western providers. That has changed the vendor landscape as well.
P: What is your outlook for outsourcing globally and for Europe?
Many customers have already accepted that outsourcing is global. The phenomenon is growing globally. There are no borders anymore. My view – and also from our surveys with our customers – is that outsourcing is definitely growing. Regarding Europe, we have to acknowledge we’re not one Europe yet. We have to accept that in Northwest Europe, we quickly follow what is happening in the U.S. and U.K. It’s clear that in Scandinavia, Nordics, U.K., Netherlands and Belgium we are quite ahead of the rest of Europe. Slowly but steadily, it will go into the Southern part of Europe. I don’t believe so much in those people who prophesize that we’ll go back to insourcing. From my experience, 90 percent of my customers who outsourced in the past, will do this again. Even if they are not completely satisfied, they would simply renew or recontract with another provider. They see that insourcing doesn’t bring value anymore, typically for those tasks when there are other professional parties that can do a better job. Compared to the U.S., our labor laws are so strict that they have been a hindrance for some time. The European legislation also is hindering some of these kinds of movements. But as we say in Dutch, once you have enough pressure, everything will become fluid. I think from the standpoint of competitiveness of European economies particularly with the weak Euro, it’s quite clear, outsourcing will simply continue and we won’t go back to where we were 10 to 15 years ago.
P: Tell me about the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility in outsourcing?At Quint and it also applies to myself, we give a lot of attention to CSR. We strongly believe there’s commercial interests from both sides but we love to involve other goals like CSR – whether that’s funding stuff that’s good for the environment or helping someone through the deal get a better job or helping people in their family life. We should realize that we are so privileged in the Western world. There’s more under the sun than just successful deals. CSR is in the DNA of Quint and I communicate that to my customers. P: What are your beliefs as an advisor?
Independency and integrity are extremely important to me. I educate my customers that it’s principally not fair to ask something of a service provider because you know you have a commercial leverage and you’re the one who pays the bill. Customers have to acknowledge that your service provider has their own goals and has to make a profit and that’s fair enough because that’s why they exist. I’m telling my younger consultants that you have to think about the position of the other side. You need a balanced deal. You have to be honest and ask yourself are you squeezing the guys or am I trying to create a successful relationship or partnership. The other automatic part of my job is I have to have true independence as an advisor because that’s what my customers expect of me. I can’t even think of preferring one supplier over the other. I have to look myself in the mirror and say, yes, I do this on a daily basis. There’s also trust. In nine out of the 10 initial meetings I have with my clients, our discussions are very confidential because it affects people. I let my customers know they can trust that in negotiations and selections I only put their interests forward. I’ve learned through the years in creating deals, you can check off all the aspects but at the end of the day, it’s about people and trust.
P: Who are your role models?
I admire people because of their entrepreneurship – the Steve Jobs of the world. In outsourcing, I admire customers who see the importance of treating their service providers with integrity. I admire vendors who don’t just go for the bonuses, and look for the long-term relationships and really invest in that.
P: What do you like to read?
I like to read biographies about what people experienced in life and what I can learn from that. I read the Financial Times and watch the large corporates and see how they’ve struggled sometimes with outsourcing or how they’ve reaped the benefits. I try to read on a daily basis or if I can’t keep up, I do it on weekends.
P: What do you like to eat?
When I’m on the road, I love a very good steak. The U.S. has the very best and also South Africa is better than here in Western Europe. At home, I love to cook together on Sunday with my wife. We love a good lasagna. I went to Italy with my family many times and I think Italian foods are still the favorite in our house.
Interview by Sandy Frinton, IAOP