Momentum continues building for Robotic Process Automation across many elements of the outsourcing community; including buyers, providers, analysts, advisors and media.  The latest is a request that has gone out from a leading industry publication featuring Robotic Process Automation in an upcoming issue.  They are looking for input to the following questions (which Virtual Operations gladly provided) and we realized these are also great topics to address here on our blog as well.  Their questions and our responses follow, and of course we always invite feedback from those wishing to share their point of view.

What are the primary obstacles to the widespread adoption of robotic process automation?

We actually believe widespread adoption is happening right now based on the number of BPOs we know first hand are already engaging with the technology.  However, until enough outsourcing contracts turn over it will be difficult to realize the extent to which many outsourcers have already automated many of the back office processes they currently support.

That said, there are three catalysts that will accelerate an even greater rate of ‘widespread adoption’ for RPA:

  • End customers internally automating back office work themselves and either pulling it back from BPOs – or choosing not to outsource it in the first place. This will begin happening when end users realize the cost savings they can achieve over the soon to be outdated labor arbitrage models. The result of this trend will embolden the early BPO adopters to double down on their investment into robotic process automation while it spurs the laggards into action before they get completely left behind.
  • Outsourcing advisors will become ‘automation’ experts.  The last thing this community can have happen is that their clients (buyers) and the outsourcing providers do even more deals without them in the middle.  As robotic process automation begins tearing down the existing outsourcing model built on off-shoring and labor arbitrage the advisors will have no choice but to become evangelists for the new world of back office process automation.
  • Finally, the biggest limitation on full-scale adoption of robotic process automation today is not in ‘proving’ the technology, but rather it’s access to the developers, analysts and programmers who can do the actual automation work itself.  Every BPO we train and every Center of Excellence we help staff will have a ripple effect as they mentor and develop their peers and associates.  Likewise, the other leading automation platforms are scaling their training efforts just as quickly to help these early innovators.

What will be the main ramifications for today’s outsourcing space of the ongoing robotic automation revolution?

First, we believe we will see new outsourcing leaders emerge that don’t have the legacy of FTE/Headcount priced contracts hanging around their necks. Too many large BPOs simply believe they can’t afford to proactively reduce the price of their services by automating work now done with huge teams of offshore workers.  Those that don’t understand they have no choice but to get in front of this trend will lose contracts to nimbler, more strategic competitors.

Second, we predict the whole reason for outsourcing at all will be questioned by more and more companies.  For many, outsourcing simply meant offshoring (not real innovation) and when end customers realize they can create their own digital labor cost advantage with Robotic Process Automation, they will begin doing so.  Once they also understand the secondary benefits of automation (error rates go to ZERO, analytics are empowered, cycle times are slashed) they will really put their foot on the gas of automation and outsourcers that don’t re-invent themselves will disappear.

How widespread do you see the adoption of robotic process automation being within your own organisation over the next 12 months?

We will answer from the perspective of a few of Virtual Operations most innovative BPO clients.

One of them, a multi-national outsourcing company has already begun auditing more then 3,000 back office processes they manage for clients around the world.  Their goal: catalogue and prioritize each for automation impact and begin converting those to RPA as quickly as possible.

Another has commissioned our company to help them build, staff and train a Robotic Process Automation Center of Excellence capable of converting manual processes to automation, solutioning and pricing new opportunities optimized for robotic automation and for program managing these new ‘virtual back office’ teams of robotic FTEs.

Finally, a third has engaged their entire Process Excellence team (more than a dozen Six Sigma Black Belts) to find ways to automate as many of their 60 million transactions per year that they handle for their clients.

What will be the impact upon your organisation specifically of increased adoption of robotic process automation?

Again, answering on behalf of the way our BPO clients view robotic process automation, they see the following outcomes from integrating RPA into their delivery models.

  1. Winning deals they would not have otherwise pursued and making it very profitable work.
  2. Breaking the dependency of having to increase headcount at the same rate they increase top line revenues
  3. Providing true innovation for clients by (finally) delivering creativity, new ideas and real process transformation.
  4. Dramatically shortening cycle times for on-boarding new clients, taking on new projects, launching new initiatives.
  5. Freeing up their human capital to focus on delivering improved client value – not stamping out mundane, rote tasks.