Robotic process automation: The new kid on the BPO block

Written by Jordan McMahon in Automating BPO's on October 8, 2014
Robot-On-Street Even as recently as a few months ago, movies such as Her depict a world where virtual agents are braided into daily life (level of intimacy may vary!), and at their core are tasked with quickly and efficiently performing non-value-added work. The “futuristic” or “what if?” natures of the questions posed in that movie are, in reality, already dated. This technology exists in a variety of permutations—including robotic process automation—and businesses are rapidly embracing it.

But to what extent? Yes, BPOs understand that their world is changing, but how, exactly? And how much of this buzz about RPA is founded in reality? Let's take a quick look at RPA and how BPOs are viewing it today. 

Among those adopting the system-based workflow execution of robotic process automation are BPOs exploring alternatives to labor arbitrage as we know it. The global labor market as a whole will follow, but for now, BPOs are first to really grab ahold of the trend; it folds in neatly with their business model, and seamlessly complements their core competencies. It’s already a major topic of discussion as well; taking a look at the conference topics for the upcoming IAOP Outsourcing World Summit, for instance, they recognize the evolution in the BPO space, and include automation technology among the “stream of new technologies” currently flooding the outsourcing landscape.

RPA at a glance

“Automation” isn’t an unfamiliar concept, but perhaps “robotic process automation” is. The Institute for Robotic Process Automation defines it as the “application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a ‘robot’ to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.”

In other words, RPA technology makes “software robots” that have one job in life: to complete manual, time-consuming, and/or repetitive work for you.

How BPOs are using RPA

In the back office

 While RPA can automate just about any back-office process (and heads up front-office...many of those processes will be automated soon as well!), many BPOs are starting with data-related tasks, particularly data entry and transfers.

As the new Energizer Bunny

 Across the board, analysts note the obvious attraction toward a “24/7/365” process robot for BPOs. It doesn’t require anything except a working device, and it has error incident rate of very low to zip.

For cost-saving benefits

 For any organization, it comes down to the numbers. All automation software offers cost benefits, and for BPOs, this is an important one for themselves and their clients, particularly as they grow and respond to new markets.

As a differentiator

Offering automated options as part of their service platform, BPOs are able to attract more companies in the Fortune 500, but also in their trending mid market segments, looking for ways to scale rapidly. RPA will likely come into play as BPOs encounter other trends including their potential to assist with re-engineering healthcare revenue cycle management and handling disaster recovery.

To stay competitive

BPOs are responding to RPAs emergence by discovering their own unique ways to work with and alongside RPA. SourcingFocus.com notes,

“According to a Gartner report, eight out of the 15 largest service providers the analyst firm interviewed stated that they have either signed deals (or are in the process of signing deals) to incorporate autonomic and cognitive platforms into business processes, applications and infrastructure offerings.”

Clearly, the BPO’s new kid on the block is quickly becoming a household name.

RPA is a hot topic in the outsourcing community. Read more about how its affecting traditional labor arbitrage here.