The field of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has progressed noticeably over the past few years. Robots have changed the way organizations work. RPA is one of the currently available mature technology solutions and is the most adopted automation solution within businesses today. The technology enables the automation of repeatable business processes, eliminating lower complexity tasks currently undertaken especially by back-office teams.

One of the huge changes that we can expect with the expanding reception of RPA is the redefinition of the workforce. What was at one time about domain knowledge and addressing current issues, is presently shifting to a softer description i.e. breaking down clients’ requirements, understanding the issue, and settling them. This will be conceivable using big data analytics, empowered by RPA.

This adoption of automation, robotics, and cognitive computing brings up numerous issues, both moral and ethical, in addition to the sustainability problems. In the event of future predictions being true, the adoption of RPA alone will trigger a massive restructuring of the current workforce.

RPA is increasingly transforming knowledge-based professional service jobs. Forrester predicts that a minimum of 25% of tasks across every job category will be automated by 2019.

India is home to 20–25% of the global IT services and BPO industry employees and given that significant percentage of them are low-skilled workers (conducting simple entry-level, process-driven tasks that require little abstract thinking or autonomy), this is expected to be the greatest population at risk with respect to RPA.

According to Nasscom, the US$28 B Indian BPO exports industry added the lowest number of employees of 36,000 in the fiscal year 2018 in seven years, whereas the BPO industry employs 1.2 M people globally. This is reflective of sustained BPO firms’ efforts towards non-linear growth, including investments in technology platforms, steps taken to consolidate, and automation of processes.

How BPOs are adapting to the changing trends

BPOs are currently focusing on reskilling employees, by giving them training on automation technologies, and ultimately delivering higher-value services.

Obtaining deep knowledge on certain industry areas, BPO companies are working on acquiring deep knowledge of specific industry domains, so that customers can fully understand their business and add value to their business transformation.

Staying innovative by delivering technology-enabled services and showing excellent technology capability will help BPOs adapt to the changing times.

Different client companies are at different stages in terms of adoption and deployment. Some enterprises are in the rapid adoption phase and a few are actually leading it. There are companies that are just getting started while some are scaling from the deployment. We also see that some enterprises are institutionalizing RPA; meaning that they are going with the outlook that first automate and then do it manually. But there is a meaningful exponential curve that is happening in India in terms of RPA. Interestingly, some enterprises are driving the adoption from India and taking the idea to the global offices. For example, a recent report by Oracle states that India tops Big Data and Analytics adoption in APAC region.

Most initiatives that are designed to improve business performance fail because the organization doesn’t adequately prepare its employees for the change. So here are some steps that BPO companies could take up to smoothly transition into RPA:

  • Simplify the technology – people are panicked that robots will take over their jobs and take over the world. Help employees understand what RPA is and what it is not. RPA software is mostly configured to eliminate mundane tasks associated with many business processes – the assignments most employees would happily give up. Employees should view RPA “bots” as teammates, willing and able to perform repetitive tasks without any complaint and with unmatched speed and accuracy.
  • Use employees for their skills and creativity – Business leaders can create enthusiasm and support for RPA by engaging employees in developing the RPA strategy and including them in evaluating opportunities for automation. Employees know precisely where bottlenecks or redundancies occur.
  • Identify skilled workforce to guide the RPA journey – Unquestionably, the quest for cost reduction is a driver behind automation adoption and in light of the current circumstances, organizations need to identify the right talent for the job. Train and reskill employees to become process-assessment experts and help them acquire skills related to managing virtual workforces.
  • Formulate a communication strategy and structure to discuss RPA and be prepared to take the message company-wide, including employees, by defining the impact of RPA on their jobs and the related upskilling opportunities. The possibility that RPA will eliminate human workers is not a definitive and inevitable outcome. Give talented employees the opportunity to self-identify the roles within a process that are likely to be not eliminated.

Cutting costs will always be essential for competing in the global economy and robotics are here to stay. With the plan to automate and increase the productivity of processes, organizations need to revamp their talent warehouse to support their vision.

History has shown that automation tends to create more jobs than it destroys, as human skills become more critical in monitoring, decision-making, interpreting, and delivering insights to the customers. However, how society will respond to new challenges related to Automation, i.e. the creation of new worker ecosystems, will significantly characterize the developments of the next century.

Following the agricultural and industrial revolutions, large amounts of blue-collar workers lost their jobs to more advanced technologies that performed their work at a higher rate of productivity and with lower expense. However, the introduction of these new technologies resulted in an increase in jobs overall, as we were able to produce more for less.

In conclusion, BPO companies of the future might have more robots than people. Currently standing at the inflection point, the strategy devised and adopted by various industry leaders will determine the fate of the BPO sector. It could either plunge towards its own destruction or emerge as a product of business innovation. Ultimately, RPA should not be seen as a slaughterer, but as the next upgrade for the BPO sector. Just how video did not kill radio, but only changed the way viewers consumed content, the BPO industry is at crossroads – exploring new innovations driven by RPA and analytics and poised to give a new growth path to the industry.

For more insights/updates on the latest trends/technologies affecting outsourcing, check out Supply Wisdom Alerts. Take a free trial to see how we can help you stay up-to-date on latest trends and be more proactive about monitoring and managing risks across your global locations and suppliers.

Aravind Kambhampati

Aravind Kambhampati

Research Analyst at NeoGroup
Aravind is a Research Analyst at NeoGroup and is part of the Supplier Division of Supply WisdomSM. He is currently responsible for monitoring and reporting supplier risk events. Prior to NeoGroup, he was associated with a couple of start-ups as an Analyst. He holds a Master’s Degree in Operations Management from Alliance University and graduated majoring in Electrical and Electronics Engineering.
Aravind Kambhampati