Throughout the last ten years of my career as part of Capgemini’s BPO unit I have seen digital innovation transform our personal lives exponentially in terms of smartphones, streaming services and access to real-time information updates. The natural consequence is that we now expect the same level of responsiveness, quality and dynamic interaction in our professional lives as we’ve become accustomed to outside of work. This has resulted in a plethora of changes in terms of what is expected from outsourced services
In my experience, BPO providers must continuously adapt and innovate, or face finding themselves out of sync with their customers. An example we often refer to in our team to keep this hunger for innovation fresh, is that of the video and DVD rental chains. A number of them famously failed to keep up with the digital revolution and are no longer with us.
To survive, and accommodate this new trend for ‘instant demand’, I believe the sector needs to consider three things when working with clients:
- Eliminating activities that do not add commensurate value.
- Optimising their investment in their existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
- Automating remaining activities wherever possible by the use of supplementary tools enabling large scale machine-to-machine processing and robotics to enable smaller scale mimicking of human operator activities.
The next level of outsourcing will be enabled by cutting-edge ERP, Internet of Things and “machine telepathy”, and will change our world dramatically again.
Meeting the need for speed with next-gen ERP
ERP systems have already transformed business processes by allowing high data volumes to be processed efficiently within a fairly rigorous and controlled framework. However, I believe that to keep up with customers’ changing needs, BPO providers must look at how else their clients can optimise existing investment in their ERP and ensure they are using the functionality already embedded to its full effect.
Another option is to look at other tools which may augment existing ERP systems to manage increasingly complex services. There are some great examples out there of systems that enable improved customer collections by providing integrated views of credit/collections data by tying together customer service, billing, sales, collections and credit management. The net result is a better customer experience, improved working capital and happy, motivated operators.
Incorporating robotics process automation and the rise of the Internet of Things
Where optimised ERP cannot help, automation can help to solve specific challenges; for example, leveraging business networks to drive higher volumes of machine-to-machine interaction. Embedding better ways of working like this will make companies more efficient and effective by reducing the total cost of service and response times while improving the quality.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is having a significant impact on the service delivery, just as it did in manufacturing. The service industry can learn some important lessons from it.
For example, an industrial robot can be trained to do very specific tasks such as spray-paint a car door again and again with incredible accuracy, but this is just a one-point solution on an assembly line. A business should liken the ERP to the assembly line and consider where it is appropriate to use robotics for repetitive, specialised tasks that support the core.
There’s also a lot of talk about the Internet of Things and we’re seeing some interesting applications in certain industries, such as field service workers using sensors to help predict maintenance issues. Increasingly, BPO providers are looking at how their clients are already using the Internet of Things, and how they can help to drive out even more efficiencies and transform data flows to have a positive impact on the back-office. I’m convinced that companies which take advantage of these artificially intelligent processes stand to gain a significant advantage against the competition. It is true machine-to-machine interaction that is changing the nature of the transactions and removing the requirement for human involvement.
These heightened expectations for new and dynamic services from consumers are changing dramatically the way companies structure their data flows. BPO providers need to embrace what is happening, and recognise that in the next few years that they will best meet their client’s needs through innovation, use of technology and transformational skills.