I have blogged recently about the ‘rise of the robots’ and the positive benefits associated with this for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). A number of industry commentators have made reference to the impact on offshore BPO as companies look to replace the former with the latter.
Quite often there is a stark suggestion, that robots will quickly replace offshore BPO. This is an interesting concept: on paper the argument is strong – why recruit 10 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) staff to perform a function in an offshore location that a robot could complete in a fraction of the time?
But surely the transition cannot be as simple as that?
Whilst many processes can be automated, there are plenty more that can’t and that rely on human intervention. It might be that companies will utilise RPA increasingly for back-office functions but will, at the same time, have to recruit staff to handle more complex tasks.
I suspect further investment will be made to try to ‘channel-shift’ these complex tasks over to RPA in time, but this is likely to become part of the strategic decision-making process for companies looking to offshore back-office processes. What might seem a low-cost option in preference to offshoring may well be offset by the investment in time and technology required to make RPA a true-benefit in this outsourcing environment.
A new report from KPMG specifically highlights that the transition cost is quite high for companies aiming to use RPA, however the report does detail a future state for RPA systems. The RPA being discussed today is still fairly basic, it supports live agents by taking the most basic tasks from them, but KPMG predicts an evolution to where RPA will involve cognitive agents that will learn on the job and constantly improve – never making mistakes.
Time will tell, but I suspect that rather than replacing offshore BPO, RPA will become another supportive element, that will help companies to optimise their outsource estate. This will vary by industry and pull together a range of components to include multi-channel, nearshore, offshore, and RPA. The real key for management teams will be getting the right mix so that services are delivered successfully for each different type of customer.
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Photo by Peyri Herrera licensed under Creative Commons.