Artificial Intelligence is Lending a New Dimension to BPO Managed Services

AI or Artificial intelligence is a rapidly emerging technology in today’s world. Literally everyone wants to automate repetitive processes to gain maximum output, efficiency and cost reduction.

So, what is AI? Artificial Intelligence is a way of making a system, a computer-controlled robot, or a software think intelligently, in a similar manner to which intelligent humans think.

Artificial Intelligence is indeed a highly interesting field of study but also presents many questions? Will Artificial Intelligence ultimately overtake human intelligence? The question of robots holding human beings ransom has already been explored by many popular science fiction authors. Only in the last month, Sophia, a lifelike robot who was the first to get a country citizenship (Saudi Arabia) emerged at a Techfest in India and answered several questions; including a marriage proposal!

AI finds widespread usage areas

Artificial Intelligence has multiple areas of application within fields like information technology (IT), inform-ation technology enabled services (ITES), business process outsourcing (BPO), media, telecom, education, healthcare and defense.

Let’s focus on AI applications within the IT/ITES/BPO sector. Indeed, due to the emergence of AI capabilities in BPOs, services managed by BPOs are finding a new dimension.

AI can make a paradigm shift within the BPO sector

In the coming years, AI capability will be a key criterion in selecting an outsourcing vendor. Currently, close to 70% of BPO engagements in India are based on traditional models, these are likely to undergo transformational changes in the future. A direct impact of this transition towards AI in BPOs will be a 15-17% decline in India’s outsource services industry workforce by 2021. The impact of automation is likely to be mainly on the less-skilled worker. However, companies might move the freed resource from volume-driven work to value-driven and complex jobs thereby adding value to their organization. This will significantly enhance the productivity and efficiency of BPO firms.

All BPO Service Providers incorporating AI and or automation capabilities, at the earliest, are set to gain huge benefits from this emerging trend; mainly due to the lower cost advantages of AI. Many analysts are predicting the AI market will grow by a substantial 50%+ over the next five years.

Service Providers are now implanting AI tools within client premises to troubleshoot basic PC-related infrastructure issues such as PCs not booting up, login issues and virus problems. These may seem to be easy fixes but are indeed a pain point for a company with a PC installed base in the thousands!

 RPA: A key capability needed for outsourcers in the future

Nowadays, more and more companies include ‘Robotic-Process-Automation (RPA) capability’ as a criterion when researching Outsourcing Service Providers. The latter are considering an onshore + automation solution as a substitute to a purely offshore one. They also consider the compliance aspects and productivity benefits of using robots over humans. On a positive note for RPA, this capability can permanently alter the business and pricing models in the ITO/BPO spheres. RPA also allows BPO providers to come up to speed and offer new services to existing clients.

Due to RPA impact, RPA capabilities offered by the service provider (SP) can well be the deal-maker in terms of deciding outsourcing contracts. Traditionally, greater manpower was needed earlier to complete a large volume of work. The emergence of RPA has changed this equation. With enhanced automation and greater processing capacity than humans, routine and rule-based work can be done far more rapidly, thus adding greater value. Emergence of RPA has created a cost differential in outsourcing engagement models.

RPA: An opportunity to extract better value from their staff

Despite the emergence of AI, traditional outsourcing will not become obsolete soon. In fact, RPA is expected to strengthen existing relationships. Deloitte Business-Process-as-a-Service (BPaaS) is investing heavily to further develop its existing RPA capabilities. It has already established several strategic alliances with companies offering RPA platforms, e.g. Automation Anywhere, Open Span, Grid Infocom and Bizagi. To hone its RPA capabilities and push further innovation in its engagements, Deloitte is developing an innovation & automation lab in its Woodmead office in Johannesburg, South Africa. This lab will house state-of-the-art facilities and will have the capability to offer clients a live demonstration of its latest automation tools and smart technologies.

Automation Impact: Innovation will win the battle!

The key advantage will be gained by those investing in the next wave of opportunities, not those stubbornly resisting innovation and obsessively trying to protect legacy business models for whom the death knell has sounded.

Firms with greater IT infrastructure management needs will manage them through better cloud-based orchestration tools. Now, the onus in the service industry is shifting to using only people for tasks requiring human skills unable to be replicated by software. The trend is snowballing as more tools for RPA and autonomics management are being widely adopted by enterprises & service providers alike.

Because of these innovations, service providers really have no options. Their very competitiveness is at stake and they must adopt Intelligent Automation aggressively if they want to remain viable for ambitious clients and competitive with their counterparts.

~ Subrata Sarkar