How to do Outsourcing in Poland
In 2022 ABSL released a report about the ‘Business Services Sector in Poland 2022’. The report highlighted how there were over 400,000 employees working for the business services sector in Poland, or 6.2% of the total employment in Poland. Over one thousand companies have invested into Poland’s business services and the wider outsourcing sector over the years.
There are several leading individuals in Poland today that represent the sector. Until recently one of these individuals was Romek Lubaczewski. A former partner at PwC now, Romek was presented a Special Lifetime Achievement Award at the CEE Business Services Awards Gala in 2012.
Romek has deep insights into how the wider outsourcing sector in Poland came about. He has watched and often guided the sector during its evolution to what we see today. And, whilst there are several other leading figures in the market, one of the people that Romek holds in high regard is Wiktor Doktor. Wiktor has been a leading figure in Poland’s outsourcing sector since before 2013 and his importance in the sector was highlighted when he announced the first ever Outsourcing Stars Gala in Poland. A few years later Romek joined the Gala to share his thoughts about the market to members of the ecosystem that Wiktor was creating:
Magazyn Rekruter’s representatives, who have also attended several of Wiktor’s Galas in the past, sat down with the Outsourcing Leader to find out more. More about what Wiktor has done and a lot more about the history of outsourcing in Poland.
Lessons learnt from Glasgow
Wiktor is a leader in the outsourcing sector in Poland today, but he was also someone who was a participant in the sector. He has substantial experience in both call centres as well as in a business services centre. His knowledge about, and enthusiasm for, the sector are just some of the reasons for his success.
We started our discussion by reflecting on the past.
Many years ago Glasgow, Scotland, was an up and coming outsourcing destination. Specifically in the call centre space. In the late 1990s Glasgow was touted as the call centre capital of the UK. Some even thought it might be the call centre capital of Europe as there were so many centres there.
Wiktor noticed this phenomenon and was able to visit the Scottish city for a few weeks to understand better how a contact centre was supposed to run. He visited one of the leading banks in Scotland who had a call centre of over 3000 agents. They also had an in-house Academy to help train and onboard future agents.
Wiktor described his experience in Glasgow as a “shock” to the system. He had never seen this level of organization before. It left a big imprint on him.
But it wasn’t the Scottish experience that necessarily led him to creating the Pro Progressio brand that so many in Poland recognize today.
The need for an Outsourcing Ecosystem
In 2007 Wiktor started working for SouthWestern BPS in Lodz (today part of Capita). As the manager of a business services centre, when Wiktor faced challenges in his role it was his natural instinct to see if his peers could help him find a solution. The problem was that there was no way for him to find, contact, or interact with other leaders in the business services sector.
Yes, there was the Warsaw Voice, the Warsaw Business Journal and a few other publications that addressed some of the industry. But these news outlets had a very wide remit. And very rarely focussed on a sector that was still in its infancy. Back in the early 2010s people still thought of outsourcing as cleaning contractors or security guards.
At the time the concept of ‘BPO’ or business process outsourcing was still being popularized in Poland. BPOs were and continue to be based on the concept of outsourcing. More specifically, on the concept of outsourcing of business processes, Wiktor highlighted. BPOs encapsulated the outsourcing of functions like IT, accounting, customer service, sales, marketing and a host of others.
Which is why, in 2011, Wiktor sat down with his brother Dymitr and decided to create a portal. “Just a simple platform with information dedicated to outsourcing services of various kinds. And this is how outsourcingportal (today Focus on Business) started,” Wiktor explained.
Wiktor shared how he sat with his wife Kate and brother Dymitr through the night. It was on a public holiday in November 2011. They were trying to ensure that enough content was added to the site prior to publishing. And this is how it all started.
How the market responded to Outsourcing Portal
Once the portal went live and within a year there was already substantial feedback from the market. Users reached out to Wiktor asking him about whether there will be a printed version of the portal. There were alternatives available on the market, especially in the UK, but in Poland the representation wasn’t sufficient. Which led to Wiktor producing a bi-monthly magazine in Polish and in English to share best practices amongst readers.
The magazine focused on three specific areas. Business oriented information for outsourcing services. A guide to cities, demographics, real estate information. And a section about HR and the skills needed to run an outsourcing business.
Initially the title of the magazine was ‘Outsourcing & More’, again strengthening the presence of the word ‘outsourcing’ in people’s minds. Interest in what Wiktor was doing continued rising. Which led to him having to quit his role at Southwestern BPS.
“Growing the outsourcing portal and the magazine was like a mission,” Wiktor explained.
At 12 minutes past midday on the 12th of December 2012 Wiktor set up Pro Progressio as a company. Not only did he time the inception of the company perfectly, but the choice of name was also significant. “We thought about ‘progress’, but wanted to be the best, so hence ‘Pro Progressio’”
“We wanted to be proactive, forward moving, and we wanted to show that it is possible,” Wiktor elaborated. “We have a red tiger in our logo. A walking tiger. And like the tiger we want the industry to move forward confidently. We wanted to show the market that we can actually support the industry.”
“The idea of creating Pro Progressio was to support the business support services on various levels. We already had media. But with the new company we added two things. One was the business club where membership is available. The second was to be a know-how hub where there is constant market analysis and matching opportunities are available.
“This allowed us to support foreign companies looking to enter Poland with a very wide scope of information. Where to go, who to work with and so on,” Wiktor shared. “It’s a typical one-stop shop for Poland. Which means that today we are able to help new entrants into the business services space in Poland.”
Wiktor mentioned Alorica as an example of one of the company’s that have benefitted from what Pro Progressio offers:
The Evolution of Outsourcing in Poland
Over the years the amount of members who have joined the Pro Progressio Club has grown substantially. Today there are 127 members.
“We didn’t want to create just another club,” Wiktor explained. “From the very first day we wanted to give something back to the members. Not only access to the network, but tools as well.”
Today members of Pro Progressio’s Club have access to the ‘Focus on Business’ news portal. All members have their profiles uploaded there. Benefits include sharing job offers and publications that appear regularly on the site. More importantly, the information that populates the site is fresh and up-to-date and covers stories that impact business services from around the world. The Focus on Business site has over 20,000 unique users each month and over 100,000 views each month, Wiktor assured me.
Wiktor also added how the site can be used to promote a company as a good employer, to build an attractive profile for potential candidates, or even to sell something. But, more importantly, Wiktor explained how the site offers a network where members can be matched to other members.
There were challenges with building the network. Especially as there are 16 different HR agencies signed up as members today. Not to mention the several real estate companies too. However, Wiktor works on a strict membership approach. Each member receives the same support. No individual member is promoted above their peer group. No member can ask for ‘special treatment’. Instead of worrying about your competitor getting an advantage, Wiktor highlighted how the underlying theme of the club is about building trust.
Members of the Club can also look forward to attending the Outsourcing Stars Gala. They can participate in various BSS Forums. And each year these events are held at a different city around Poland.
Why the Outsourcing Stars Gala and the BSS Forum are so Important
When Wiktor started out in business services he was engaged to work in Lodz. Lodz wasn’t a particularly easy place to start out in business services in 2007. It has changed within last 15 years. Those significant changes were among the things that inspired Wiktor to promote cities not traditionally considered to be large outsourcing hubs.
Bydgoszcz, for example, is a great location, but it may not have as much talent as a Warsaw or a Krakow. Romek shared how Wiktor has been key to helping cities across Poland receive more interest from both foreign and local investors.
“Since day one we wanted to show the business potential of regional cities. And we were, and still are, investigating what they can offer to the business services industry,” Wiktor explained. “This is why we created the FOCUS ON Cities reports and why cities have a special section on the Focus on Business site.”
The Gala itself has been organized in Gdynia twice, Lublin, Poznan, Lodz, Warsaw and Gdansk. But the Gala isn’t the only way that cities have been highlighted by Pro Progressio.
“We wanted to organize BSS Forums and BSS Tour events in various cities and create the opportunity to show where the cities are and what business opportunities can be found there.”
The BSS Tour has taken place in Bydgoszcz (5 times), Rzeszow (3 times), Czestochowa (3 times), Lodz (twice), Gdansk (twice), Szczecin, Kielce, Krakow, Katowice, Opole, Poznan, and even Slupsk.
Creating a legacy amongst the Outsourcing community
Wiktor added how Pro Progressio is also reaching outside of Poland. The company is the representative in Poland for the German Outsourcing Verband (or Association). It also works closely with 3 IT clusters in Ukraine. There are additionally initiatives in place with the Global Sourcing Association in the UK (GSA) or the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals in the U.S. (IAOP). All of these add to the value that Pro Progressio offers its members.
Wiktor’s preferred method of communication on social media is LinkedIn. Many of the company’s members are also there and he has been using it for a very long time. He also uses Twitter frequently in case you want to follow him there. Finally, you may find him on Instagram highlighting his most recent podcast too.
Going forward, Wiktor believes that we are facing a new era of artificial intelligence. He is already seeing the adoption of ChatGPT amongst businesses as a first sign of this. “How far will AI go?” he asked when we spoke of it. “Who is the owner of the product that AI creates?”
Wiktor believes that technology is going to continue to have a large impact on the business services sector. And he will continue to help his members with technology challenges by highlighting challenges in cybersecurity, as well as the newest technology trends that affect them.
Wiktor has managed to take an industry that many thought would be a transient thing in Poland. He has taken this industry and developed a strong and sustainable community around it. And, he has done all of this whilst highlighting the depth of talent and encouraging investors to do business, in Poland. Not many people have had this type of impact on such a critical business sector in their home country.
Author: Andy Samu
- The Problems of the Polish Tech Industry https://www.magazynrekruter.pl/the-problems-of-the-polish-tech-industry/