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BPOs Take Center Stage

November 26, 2019

Beyond Cost Savings, BPOs Are Now Seen as Agents of Innovation

When it comes to shared services/business process outsourcing, the times are changing quickly—a reflection perhaps of the next wave of technology innovations that promise to transform the way we do business.

In 2018, surveys conducted by the Shared Services Outsourcing Network (SSON) showed that just 10% of BPOs had adopted robotic process automation (RPA) technologies to service the needs of their clients more efficiently and cost effectively. Just one year later, in early 2019, a third of the market was implementing RPA solutions.

Now, in Q3 2019, SSON reports that half of the market has adopted intelligent automation, and BPOs that have NOT embraced intelligent process automation are quickly becoming part of the minority.

Among those surveyed, labor savings, operational cost savings and quality improvements have been the main drivers. One third of respondents indicated that process automation is saving them more than 80 FTE hours each month. At the same time, error rates among companies that have adopted intelligent process automation has dropped dramatically—with nearly 30% of survey participants indicating that their errors rates improved by 21% or more and 60%+ indicating that error rates improved by at least 10%.

2020: Process Automation Becomes the Norm

And this is just the beginning. With 2020 in their sites, BPOs are planning to continue to expand the scope of their intelligent process automation projects to take on new processes. Nearly a quarter indicated that they’ll add more intelligence to the processes they’ve automated, reflecting an overall trend from RPA solutions to intelligent process automation solutions that are more flexible, adaptable and able to do more than automate simple, routing processes.

Nearly a third (29%) indicated that they would be focused on scaling automation in 2020, applying it to more client operations, taking on higher volume tasks and broadening the range of tasks they choose to automate.

Overcoming Obstacles

That expansion doesn’t come without its challenges, though. One of the biggest hurdles for BPOs, or any organization for that matter, is how to deal with unstructured data like business documents, email correspondence, etc. Eleven percent of respondents cited fixing unstructured data problems as a priority for 2020. At the same time, upskilling employees and managing change within their organization was another hurdle BPOs identified as a challenge to address in 2020 (14% of respondents).

All this survey data signifies a major shift in the BPO marketplace—one that has been a long time coming, judging from past SSON surveys of BPO clients, who have made their desire to partner at a more strategic level and achieve more than just cost savings.

Going Beyond Cost Savings

For now, cost savings have clearly been a driver, but as the intelligent automation trend continues, intelligent process automation will become table stakes, and any BPO that wants to compete on cost alone will leverage IPA only to find that cost-driven innovation has become commodified.

That will mean looking to intelligent process automation to drive greater value, focusing more on delivering timely data and business insights to clients in addition to cost savings, and providing process expertise that helps clients to overcome their own data- and talent-related gaps when it comes to process intelligence.

Find the Right Partner

If your business process outsourcing organization is still part of the minority of firms trying to compete with manual processes and is looking for a technology partner with expertise in process automation for accounts payable automation, account receivable automation and practical knowledge about handling the unique challenges of unstructured data, contact your Artsyl solution representative.


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