Is RPA the New Offshoring?

By RG Conlee

“Robotic process automation is the enabler that will … change the way [the world does] business.” – RG Conlee, chief innovation officer 
It is futile to resist change. Yet, most of us grudgingly accept any modification to what we perceive as the norm.  Whether it is an adjustment to our schedules like daylight saving time, or an alteration to something that we learned as children, such as Pluto no longer being called a planet.  Change is the one true constant in our lives, as it allows us to transform and grow.

The way we do business is no different. The goals of higher profit margins and lower costs are the constant, and we are always working to improve the methods in which we do so.  We have seen this in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry as more and more clients used the labor forces in other countries.  The reason was simple:  The people skills and availability met the demands of the work, and the attractiveness of lower wages met the needs of the shareholders.  It has been a successful business model for many.

So why change it?

According to the A. T. Kearney 2016 Global Services Location Index, six of the top ten countries for BPO offshoring are in the Asia Pacific region. India holds the No. 1 spot, with China and Malaysia coming in second and third respectively.  The index highlights emerging trends as well, most notably robotic process automation (RPA).  Their studies showed that RPA is three times faster than humans, with no errors and no absenteeism.

As the labor force in these countries dwindle due to saturation, business owners began to search for new ways to lower costs and increase profit. The search for change continues.  I believe, as shown in A. T. Kearny’s study, that robotic process automation is the enabler that will transform how the BPO industry moves forward, and change the way business is done.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Robotic process automation opens up opportunities, redesign processes and transform how service gets delivered. The RPA software ‘bots are faster, more efficient, reliable and more accurate than their human counterparts.  A process that takes 35 full-time employees all day to accomplish, now can be completed by a few well-trained ‘bots in less than half the time.  As a result, RPA can produce savings of 50 percent in select back office processes.

The ‘bots are revolutionary, yet simple. They need no additional coding or scripting, they’re easy to configure by the business user, and can be implemented in weeks with little ongoing support.  No more long training sessions and low customer satisfaction during ramp up times.  You tell the ‘bots what to do and they do it. Correctly. Every time.

They also reduce risk and are non-invasive. You no longer have to worry about sustainability, security and disaster recovery.  The RPA ‘bots work behind the scenes, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Get ready for true transformation. As more businesses begin to use robotic process automation for their more repetitive, mundane tasks, we will see an increase in productivity from the human workforce as well.  Free to focus on the more enjoyable tasks, better suited for people, attrition rates will lower and customer satisfaction will rise.

Is RPA the new offshoring? Only time will tell, but I think that the need for change has come, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

9 thoughts on “Is RPA the New Offshoring?

  1. Toni Gibiino February 18, 2016 - Reply

    That’s a very interesting read and a development I’ll certainly be following closely.

    With business process improvement at the heart of our business, I do believe we’re still some way off before robotics are able to replicate even 5% of back office tasks reliably.

    I don’t doubt it will become mainstream in the future but just like paperless offices, it’s still sits in the category of Utopian business dreams, until we have a fundamental change in the backbone of society.

    A nice blog and a great thought provoking discussion point for years to come.

    Toni Gibiino
    RDT Office Solutions Group

  2. RG Conlee February 18, 2016 - Reply

    Toni, thanks for your comment. I agree with you that this is an interesting development in business process improvement. Today, for Xerox clients, we have over 300 business processes with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in operation — and our Xerox customer care work features robust RPA solutions helping agents deliver peak performance. It will take others time to catch up, of course, but Xerox has been ahead of the curve. Check out a few of the case studies on this page http://www.xerox.com/automation. In short, Xerox clients are reaping the rewards of our RPA capability and extensibility today. Look for more to come on this blog and thanks for joining the conversation.

    RG

  3. Brant Caronongan February 18, 2016 - Reply

    Good Stuff R.G. It will only be a matter of time before RPA becomes more common. It was only fifteen years ago that virtual technology was being tested/embraced by IT vendors. Today, it is the norm. It only takes one large corporation to set a standard. Thanks for the insight.
    Brant

  4. Todd Coughlin February 19, 2016 - Reply

    Well written piece RG, as a Xerox employee I always enjoyed hearing and reading of the directions you were driving, glad I got visibility to it “on the outside”.

  5. Elangovan Kandasamy February 19, 2016 - Reply

    RG. Great read. I totally agree that this would be the way to go to save money, reduce time and errors and make the customer experience a happy one. Based on the existing RPA process, what percentage of time and money are we saving in average? I would be interesting to hear your thoughts and if there is any data that we are collecting to analyze the customer experience that would be helpful as well.
    In my view, I am seeing this RPA as a consolidation of various systems/tools into a single/few systems/workflow. Am I missing something?

    Lead Architect.

  6. Michael Quallet February 24, 2016 - Reply

    Ironic that the companies that will leverage these semi intelligent agents on an enterprise scale to the greatest effects will probably be the actual BPO body shops themselves. They will ‘digishore” their existing workforce out of a job.

    Will be interesting to see how national service economies built on cheap mass labor pools will adapt when a single autonomic intelligent agent can do the task equivalent of 100+ human agents.

  7. RG Conlee March 3, 2016 - Reply

    Thanks for your comment, Elangovan. Of course, the amount of time and money saved is dependent on many factors, such as line of business, type of business process, etc. But RPA will typically produce savings of 25 – 40 percent. We have also seen multiple cases where customer satisfaction has improved due to automation. As the more tedious, repetitive tasks are done faster, and more efficiently, by the RPA bots, the human workforce is able to focus on the customer. Here is a link http://xerox.bz/1QwXeZS to our case studies website where you will be able to see examples that are industry-specific.

  8. RG Conlee March 3, 2016 - Reply

    Thanks for your comment Michael. We are looking at RPA as an augmentation to the human experience. Taking the robot out of the human. Letting the robot handle the standard repetitive activities… and refocussing people to work on complex decision making and human interactions. We will actually look deeper into this subject in the coming weeks.

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