BPO Robo-PhobiaJust one year ago the team at HfS started warning the BPO industry of robotic automation’s emergence as a threat to traditional, low cost outsourcing.  Now they are back with a bigger, bolder prediction.  In their latest research report they now say, “We are even more convinced that robotic automation has the potential to change the BPO marketplace,” (Framing a Constitution for Robotistan – Racing with the Machine of Robotic Automation). Is this latest prediction on the robotic, ‘back office of the future’ enough to shake the innovatively challenged BPO industry from their case of Robo-Phobia?

Are Robots for Real?

Before rendering their latest bold opinion on the state of outsourcing, Charles Sutherland, SVP of BPO Strategies at HfS Research, interviewed a number of major BPO service providers, as well as several known and emerging experts in back office process automation, (including Virtual Operations). He and the HfS team were looking for experiences with – and plans for – robotic process automation to get a sense of how real and how fast this change is happening.

What they found was that BPOs using robots to perform necessary (but boring) and repetitive tasks is only what is being done today.  The bigger story they discovered is the future these innovators planned for their robots.  As Sutherland reports of their findings, “The opportunities for broader and more extensive applications of robotic automation are dramatic across horizontal and vertical business processes.”

Finding the Cure for BPO Robo-Phobia

    • We know for some BPO chief innovation officers simply reading a white paper like a Constitution for Robotistan will get their creative juices flowing and their Robo-Phobia will be cured.
    • For others, hearing a highly convincing keynote speaker tell a roomful of 150 BPO executives that robotic automation will be the biggest disruption they have faced since off-shoring, (as happened at the Outsourcing Institute’s BPO Innovations Conference in NYC, Nov 13, 2013) may shake them out of it.
    • For the true Robo-Phobes it may take hearing from a prospect that a BPO competitor just beat them with a virtual back office costing 30% less than the off-shored back office they proposed.

What ever it takes to find the cure for BPO Robo-Phobia, once an organization is ready to make robotic process automation part of their innovation strategy their first question will be this.  ‘Where do we begin?’ Fortunately, Framing a Constitution for Robotistan provides a very thorough analysis of just which horizontal business processes are the best candidates for business process automation.  At that top level, they suggest focusing on the following business functions as initially highly promising territories to explore.

  • Human Resources
  • Finance and Accounting
  • Procurement
  • Supply Chain
  • Customer Experience Management
  • Legal Services