Q&A with Dan Hudson, Managing Director, Virtual Operations - Blue Prism
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Q&A with Dan Hudson, Managing Director, Virtual Operations

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Q&A with Dan Hudson, Managing Director, Virtual Operations

What is Virtual Operations? What kind of work does it do?

We’re a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) services company that provides consulting and design, implementation, and training and accreditation for BPOs, large end-user companies and public sector. We help these organizations understand how best to exploit this game-changing technology, how it works alongside existing systems and processes and how it dovetails with other back office automation initiatives.  By working with Virtual Operations our clients can rapidly build and scale their own process automation teams by leveraging our experience, resources and professional staff.

Why did you choose to base your service on the Blue Prism tool set?

With the right support, Blue Prism software gives business users the capability to automate repetitive processes that have been uneconomical using standard IT and BPMS approaches.  In fact, most projects can be completed in weeks or months – rather than years – and at a fraction of the cost of most tools that require IT integration. For example, we have one customer that was able to show their prospect that cost savings could be realized during their current fiscal year, which is almost unheard of.  Blue Prism software helps improve the present state, not just the future state.

What do you see as the key benefits of Robotic Process Automation?

The initial benefits of RPA are primarily monetary; process automation reduces the costs associated with human labor. One software robot can often take on the work of two to four people, so if a company has a staff of a thousand people doing the same work activities over and over again, the savings potential is obviously very significant.

Beyond cost benefits, Robotic Process Automation enables the capture of much more data than a traditional workforce model. This data can guide businesses to make more informed decisions based on what they’re able to see in the larger environment.  Not only that, but workforce automation, which operate according to rules, does not make mistakes that humans are prone to.  Having no re-work saves businesses time and money, and also improves customer satisfaction.

How is Virtual Operations changing the BPO landscape?

The BPO industry has always relied on low cost labor as a differentiator.  However there are two issues with that.  First, the labor arbitrage model is only scalable to the extent that you can add labor.  Second, when all the BPOs have offshored work to the same low cost countries the competitive advantage is lost.

Virtual Operations’ approach is to help BPO providers break the dependence on human capital while at the same time reducing labor cost, improving cycle times, and moving to a zero defect environment. By employing Robotic Process Automation the new model is scalable and independent of labor growth.  It also creates cost advantages that are significantly better than traditional offshore labor models.

Another significant change Virtual Operations is bringing to the BPOs is that of market competiveness – simply because RPA can level the playing field between tier 1 and tier 2 outsourcers.  Smaller outsourcers can use process automation as a key differentiator and begin competing on both price and quality against some of the giants of the industry.  Therefore, we not only help these outsourcers implement this technology but we provide them sales enablement to take these new capabilities to market.

As Robotic Process Automation software continues to gain traction, what changes should we expect to see from the enterprise and the BPO market?

I think many businesses will look at Robotic Process Automation as a point solution—something that is completely positive and delivers value but does not unleash the true value of automation. Over time though, companies will increasingly view Robotic Process Automation as a transformative technology and you will see internal “innovation” centers of excellence whose focus is to develop an automation roadmap and operational framework to guide them along the automation journey.

What advice would you give to executives considering the implementation of a digital workforce?

The current BPO market in many ways feels like the Detroit auto industry in the early 80’s. During that time cars built on traditional assembly lines were not of the same quality as the cars being built by offshore manufacturers. Those off shore manufacturers relied heavily on automation as a way to build a superior product at an affordable price. Detroit lost significant market share during this time and had to invest heavily over several years just to catch up.

Today we already see a major sense of urgency with early adopters of Robotic Process Automation, particularly in the BPO space.  Helping these outsourcers see the possibilities for RPA is one of the fastest growing parts of our business and with this many early movers we know it’s only a short amount of time before RPA crosses the tipping point from compelling technology to an expected practice.

My final recommendation is that companies create a center of excellence, led by a senior leader in innovation, to fully embrace the digital workforce enabled by Robotic Process Automation.  The ones doing that today are the ones already reaping the benefits where the others are just spinning their wheels.