Talking Automation at IAOP’s 2016 World Summit

OWS16-Website-HeaderNext week hundreds of outsourcing professionals will make the trip to IAOP’s annual World Summit.  Yet again, the topic of automation will be a big one as leading outsourcing buyers, providers, advisers and analysts convene in Orlando to talk about the trends shaping our industry’s future.

Two years ago following the Summit’s last trip to the Sunshine State, I wrote a retrospective article for IAOPs Pulse Magazine, titled IS ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION FULFILLING ITS TRANSFORMATIONAL PROMISE?  The article asked the key question, “So How Far Along Is RPA… Really?”

Here is what I asked back in 2014: “Is all that disruption and innovation really happening?  Are large back offices becoming silent factories of virtual headcount knocking out mountains of tasks at microprocessor speed?   What about the outsourcer landscape, is a new order emerging as early adopters embrace RPA and the slow to respond fade into irrelevance? 

Today, many are surprisingly asking the same questions, as the RPA hype seems to stay in front of the reality for many who watch this subject closely.   I do believe that while the technology of RPA is neither complex nor difficult to master, it is taking organizations far more time to put it to work than most expected.  For many companies, getting RPA right means understanding the automation vendor landscape, reviewing and prioritizing processes, launching pilots and proofs of concept and finally determining the ideal model that will best support them in the long term.

Gradually however the early adopters are creating the lessons-learned for others to follow and best practices are beginning to emerge.  The other change that will accelerate RPA adoption is the shift by many providers to delivering moreverticalized offerings, ‘out of the box’ solutions and even automation-as-a-service – all of which require less customization and implementation time.

Again, revisiting 2014’s point of view following that year’s Summit, I suggested five important changes also needed to happen to create the right environment for RPA to take off.  Here are the points I made back then.

  1. Outsourcers are reconstructing their contracting and financial models into transactional and outcome-based solutions.  The reason is RPA destroys seat-based or FTE priced contracts and the outsourcers cannot afford to take the top line hit where they currently get paid on headcount.
  2. Contract renewal cycles will drive the rotation away from traditional FTE priced outsourcing agreements to the next generation of outcome-based managed services programs.  Firms that track contract expiration dates forecast the upcoming year to be a heavy one.
  3. Service provider solution teams are ‘getting their heads around’ RPA and just now unlocking the power of the technology.  What they are learning is it’s not a point solution like the screen scraping tools they have relied on in the past.  RPA is actually the foundation layer of a development platform, and when used to direct many of the other fast emerging technologies, (such as artificial intelligence, speech to text, smart imaging, virtual assistants, and others) it can be fully unleashed as the transformational engine it’s capable of being.
  4. Analysts and advisors are still catching on to RPA.  As more of them do that knowledge will impact how they structure deals and counsel their clients on future outsourcing engagements.  The result will be an acceleration of awards favoring automation-enabled managed services solutions.
  5. Word of RPA successes will have a multiplier affect.  Press releases, case studies and white papers, conference presentations, and award notices will become gas to the fire and suddenly RPA’s digital labor truly is the next generation outsourcing model.

Was I close?  Have these five conditions been met and 2016 really does become the Year of the Robot?  I’m looking forward to next week’s Summit and anxious to see just how far RPA has come in these last two years.  If you’re going to be there, look me up!