In a recent contributed post for Sourcing Focus, Blue Prism CEO Alastair Bathgate explains why Robotic Process Automation (RPA) serves as a lifeline to the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. Alastair explains how RPA allows BPOs to gain a competitive advantage by managing processes in an entirely new way – and in a way that completes core operations efficiently, accurately and at a reduced cost. In addition to these benefits, Alastair highlights how RPA enables BPOs to analyze and extract valuable data, while freeing up human workers for more valuable, customer facing roles.
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Why RPA Serves as a Lifeline to the BPO Industry
By Alastair Bathgate
Businesses demand that business process outsourcers (BPOs) increase their productivity while reducing costs. However, as BPOs realize the limitations of labor arbitrage, they must seek innovative ways to gain competitive advantages by completing core operations quickly, accurately and cost-effectively. Robotic process automation (RPA) addresses this challenge by presenting a third alternative to onshoring and offshoring; serving as a completely new way for BPOs to manage processes across global industries.
BPOs that implement RPA can achieve drastically improved productivity levels since software robots (unlike humans who require breaks) can work around the clock, analyzing and extrapolating data efficiently. Not only that, but software robots are unsusceptible to human error – thereby boosting the accuracy of operations. As a result, BPOs can experience financial gains by quickly identifying the right opportunities to reduce debt and avoid unnecessary costs.
In addition to being able to complete core functions efficiently and accurately, outsourcers who leverage RPA also experience better security, audit, analytics and governance. Because most regulated industries need to demonstrate completely transparent and audited processing, RPA is helpful to BPOs since it offers powerful analytics capabilities and records of rules fired and transactions executed. Additionally, RPA allows BPOs to run in local jurisdictions. Because many types of data cannot leave host countries, this capability is revolutionary – enabling BPOs to execute locally while being controlled remotely.
While RPA may seem like a no-brainer, up to this point, many outsourcers have struggled to find a way to implement software robots into existing systems. The problem that many BPOs face is determining how to shed or reallocate human capital. To overcome this challenge and reap the benefits of RPA, BPOs must first identify processes that can be seamlessly automated. Routine, rules-based and high-volume processes that are susceptible to high-error rates are ideal for RPA. Any process that requires data transfer across multiple systems of record (which are often customer specific) can be achieved through software robots, since they can help drive customer systems of record without the expense of technical integration. By incorporating RPA into operations, BPOs can also develop one master process that the robots can translate to clients’ specific systems.
Once BPOs identify tasks that can be taken on by software robots, the next step is to run pilots that test technological challenges and evaluate how much time, and at what cost, the RPA solution completes the job(s) at hand. By assessing quantifiable data, BPOs can then determine the value of implementing RPA and its potential to drive business operations and savings.
Already, BPOs are seeing results through RPA implementation – experiencing better customer service and quality, dramatic process improvements, cost savings, and redeployment of resources to more strategic, revenue generating functions. As RPA becomes increasingly accepted as a better way to do work, BPOs will find that it is no longer a competitive advantage, but a must in order to stay relevant.
Just last year, BPOs started to explore RPA with pilots, investment reviews and works projects. Today, these projects have dramatically matured and are being deployed throughout the enterprise. We’re seeing outsourcers build distinct practices and centers of excellence around RPA, and investing in new technologies, methods and frameworks to harness the advantages of software robots. According to a Gartner report, eight out of the 15 largest service providers the analyst firm interviewed stated that they have either signed deals (or are in the process of signing deals) to incorporate autonomic and cognitive platforms into business processes, applications and infrastructure offerings.
In order to stay current and relevant, then, BPOs – if they’re not already – must consider how to work RPA into their operational processes. Not only will they find that it boosts efficiency and accuracy while cutting costs, but, according to Charles Sutherland, an analyst at Horses for Sources Research – the leading authority on the global services industry – RPA could even change “the way that we empower business advisors, knowledge workers, and judgment based role staff by removing the mundane and allowing them to truly spend their time on the remaining parts of the business process which can’t be broken down entirely into business rules.”