I am Robot: will RPA revolutionise the BPO industry?
The next big thing predicted for the BPO industry in 2014 is Robotic Process Automation or RPA. Robotic Process Automation is the next wave of innovation and will dramatically change the way business and BPO service providers deal with their customers.
One only has to look at the flower market that has four peaks a year: Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day, Christmas and Easter. In order to handle the bursts of activity, BPO service providers have to ramp up with hundreds of additional workers, with all that entails in recruitment, training and deployment etc. It’s a very costly exercise for a very short window.
The marginal cost of additional software robots is minimal if not zero. Thus for services with varying or seasonal demand, robotic automation can be an efficient means of scaling an operation, at a fixed and consistently uniform level of service and quality.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) aims to reduce costs, improve efficiency and productivity by removing repetitive and manually intensive tasks. As a result organisations are able to respond quickly to new markets and regulatory demands. RPA is expected to have a significant impact on the outsourcing and BPO industries in the next few years as BPO providers and their customer look at further ways to reduce costs and improve profitability.
Frank Casale defines RPA as ”the application of advanced software and algorithms to complete routine tasks and operations previously performed by humans… The technology can capture and interpret existing applications for processing transactions, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems”.
Casale alerts outsourcing buyers and sellers to “brace for impact” as process automation creates the next wave of innovation and dramatically changes business and the global economy. “Robotic process automation will force IT and business executives to completely rethink the way they plan, source and budget for their most critical projects,” says Casale.
Robots have been used extensively in manufacturing to perform tasks that humans have found boring, repetitive and dangerous. Robots can do this with consistent speed and precision. They never call in sick, go on strike or violate company rules.
As a result, robots have allowed organisations in manufacturing and supply chain industries to become more efficient and responsive to customer and market demands.
Millions of people are working in back office functions for the BPO industry, repeating the same processes and procedures daily or being asked to respond quickly with resources and process to support ever-changing business demands.
Like their manufacturing counterparts, software robots operate at a fraction of a cost of a human, and can work 24/7/365 without any breaks or complaints. A robotic FTE costs on average a third of what its costs to hire an offshored FTE. That is why industry analysts such as Datamark and Ovum are predicting how this technology will completely transform BPO.
One firm that’s leading the charge in developing RPA solutions and applications is UK-based Blue Prism. Blue Prism defines RPA as process automations involving computer software driving existing enterprise application software in the same way that a user does.
This means organisations can build virtual back offices staffed with robotic FTEs, that can handle millions of back office tasks quicker, cheaper and more efficiently than humans can.
That said machine intelligence will never be able to replace the intelligence, judgement and communication skills of a human. The likely role of humans in these service market workforces of the future will be in high-level roles that require complex and subjective decision-making: value added activities that require complex analysis by skilled and highly trained personnel.