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Add AI & IoT to Achieve Service Transformation

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In this, the third and final blog in this series on BPO automation, I take a look at where the BPO market currently stands and where it’s going next.

Well, the use of workflow and platforms to surround and supplement the client’s core systems has been well-established for a period of years. BPO has worked relatively well in these environments. The vendors largely have process models and roadmaps in place for the principal process areas. However, continuous improvement has been somewhat spasmodic in the past, since analytics and lean six sigma projects have tended to be carried out as one-off exercises rather than ongoing programs of activity, and the investment hurdles for further automation in support of process improvement have often been too high to make the process improvements identified readily realizable. This is now starting to change.

Firstly, RPA now provides a mechanism, at present largely restricted to rule-based processes, whereby process improvements identified through lean exercises can now be realized at very low levels of investment and accordingly address areas involving small numbers of FTEs and not just major process areas. This, however, is largely a short-term one-off hit, with most vendors likely to have applied RPA reasonably fully to their major contracts at least by the end of 2016.

The next form of automation within BPO, at a higher level of investment, is the use of BPaaS to address sub-processes where fundamental change is required. These BPaaS implementations will incorporate best-practice processes, and increasingly incorporate analytics and elements of self-learning to ensure that process adjustments are made on a more ongoing basis than in earlier forms of BPO.

The present form of RPA is largely a one-off cost reduction measure in the same way that offshoring is a one-off cost reduction measure. The natural progression from this automation of rule-based transactional process is increased automation of judgment-based processes. This automation of judgment-based processes is still in its infancy and will frequently be used initially to support agent judgments, recommending next courses of action to be taken. This use of AI will move the focus of automation much more into sales and service in the front-office. However, while some of these technologies are beginning to handle natural language processing in text form, further improvements in voice recognition are still required.

In the middle-office, the major transformation in BPO will come from the IoT which has the potential to fundamentally change the nature of service delivery and the value driven by BPO. Arguably, Uber is a form of IoT-based service based on GPS technology. IoT will, however, drive equally fundamental changes in service delivery in areas such as insurance (where it has already started to appear in support of auto insurance), healthcare and telemedicine, and home monitoring services.

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