By Pierre A. Legrand, Partner, PwC
The reliance on traditional business process outsourcing (BPO) to reduce the cost to execute legacy processes is becoming outdated. In the past, productivity gains have been made through business process outsourcing, off shoring, and the use of business process management (BPM) tools. There are limitations on the value these approaches can continue to provide as market factors drive the need to significantly increase or decrease scale without significant investment. In addition, more and more tasks cannot be outsourced or processed offshore either due to regulatory and data protection concerns.
Whilst there are multiple methods of automation and digitization, we are seeing the growth of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and the gradual emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as hitting mainstream due to these constraints. With RPA it is possible to make enormous scaling gains in productivity and quality with minimal investment.
We like to view RPA as the dawn of the ‘Virtual BPO’.
Cost may be the obvious driver, but the benefits of RPA go well beyond just financial efficiency:
AI becoming Mainstream
Venture capitalist funding and investment in new AI start-ups is on the rise and technology giants are pumping big dollars into AI R&D. AI is being enhanced with deep learning and natural language capabilities that feeds off big data, leading to innovation in ways we have never experienced before. With the stratospheric rise of cloud consumption on Amazon, Microsoft, and Google and the vast amounts of data these platforms are hosting opportunities are abundant to begin to leverage AI and analytic capabilities to mine that data and present it in richer channel formats - Microsoft’s Cortana, Apple’s Siri and IBM Watson.
AI Opportunities and Benefits
So whilst the initial business case for RPA or AI might be related to cost efficiency, it is worth remembering the opportunity to significantly improve customer experience opportunities, create more deep and meaningful human interactions are the real market differentiating opportunities will exist.