Is RPA the New Offshoring?


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It is futile to resist change. Yet, most of us grudgingly accept any modification to what we perceive as the norm. Whether it is an adjustment to our schedules like daylight saving time, or an alteration to something that we learned as children, such as Pluto no longer being called a planet. Change is the one true constant in our lives, as it allows us to transform and grow.

The way we do business is no different. The goals of higher profit margins and lower costs are the constant, and we are always working to improve the methods in which we do so. We have seen this in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry as more and more clients used the labor forces in other countries. The reason was simple: The people skills and availability met the demands of the work, and the attractiveness of lower wages met the needs of the shareholders. It has been a successful business model for many.

So why change it?

According to the A. T. Kearney 2016 Global Services Location Index, six of the top ten countries for BPO offshoring are in the Asia Pacific region. India holds the No. 1 spot, with China and Malaysia coming in second and third respectively. The index highlights emerging trends as well, most notably robotic process automation (RPA). Their studies showed that RPA is three times faster than humans, with no errors and no absenteeism.

As the labor force in these countries dwindle due to saturation, business owners began to search for new ways to lower costs and increase profit. The search for change continues. I believe, as shown in A. T. Kearny’s study, that robotic process automation is the enabler that will transform how the BPO industry moves forward, and change the way business is done.

The Times They Are A-Changin’

Robotic process automation opens up opportunities, redesign processes and transform how service gets delivered. The RPA software ‘bots are faster, more efficient, reliable and more accurate than their human counterparts. A process that takes 35 full-time employees all day to accomplish, now can be completed by a few well-trained ‘bots in less than half the time. As a result, RPA can produce savings of 50 percent in select back office processes.

The ‘bots are revolutionary, yet simple. They need no additional coding or scripting, they’re easy to configure by the business user, and can be implemented in weeks with little ongoing support. No more long training sessions and low customer satisfaction during ramp up times. You tell the ‘bots what to do and they do it. Correctly. Every time.

They also reduce risk and are non-invasive. You no longer have to worry about sustainability, security and disaster recovery. The RPA ‘bots work behind the scenes, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Get ready for true transformation. As more businesses begin to use robotic process automation for their more repetitive, mundane tasks, we will see an increase in productivity from the human workforce as well. Free to focus on the more enjoyable tasks, better suited for people, attrition rates will lower and customer satisfaction will rise.

Is RPA the new offshoring? Only time will tell, but I think that the need for change has come, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.

Republished with author’s permission from original post.

RG Conlee
As a chief innovation officer at Xerox, RG is responsible for developing automation, analytics and innovation for the company's customer care services.


  1. RPA bots are exciting and shiny. They can do the work of 35 employees. As you say, RPA software ‘bots are faster, more efficient, reliable and more accurate than their human counterparts.” And, they can make major errors that are as comical as they are extreme. Like the travel bot that booked a 87 year layover in Bangkok for a customer who asked for suggestions on how to spend his 87 years in Bangkok. The intuition-superior call center operator turned it into a social media gift. See: As I recall, the two astronauts in 2001: A Space Odyssey knew they would never outsmart Hal. So, they outwitted Hal. We need efficiency, reliability, and accuracy. We also need intuition, creativity and empathy.

  2. I agree that RPA can reduce risk. I’m not sure about the non-invasive part, though. If you’ve had a prescription refilled recently, you know what I’m talking about. In my case, I lost count of the notifications the chain drug store sent to me, which stopped being useful and became irritating after the fourth one. Finally, I told the pharmacist, don’t call my home phone, cell phone and send text messages anymore. I’ll contact the drug store when I see I’m down to a one-week supply. So far, that low-tech, visual, customer-initiated system works splendidly. I also recognize it doesn’t work for everyone. Some people need to be incessantly reminded.

    Which brings me to my second point about risk: yes, technology can reduce risk, but before any company embarks on an automation program, executives must recognize that technology adoption introduces new risks, as others are reduced or eliminated. In this instance, the new risk involved over-communication, which created a foul customer experience.

    One more thought – RPA as a goal will not provide a panacea, since machines need to be taught the right things. When they’re not . . . well, the outcomes can be costly. Here’s a creative, funny take on that from a widely-watched video, The Breakfast Machine by Simone Giertz – a vivid reminder that automation of any kind must be based on good intentions, and requires careful forethought, design, and testing.

  3. Bots certainly aren’t going away anytime soon. They offer a great deal of efficiencies, and, as you pointed out, there is a lot of upside.

    They won’t replace the need for people. As more organizations adopt them, there will be a critical need for a much higher skilled, better trained tier 2. When people encounter situations like the one Chip described, there had better be a robustly responsive intuitive human available to fix things immediately available. The absence of that resource will bring customers all the way back to the profoundly frustrating early dark ages of IVR.

    Bots will be a great tool for efficiencies, speed and accuracy. Like it or not, though, they still dehumanize the experience. Sometimes that won’t hurt – but sometimes it will. It will be a long time, if ever, before they can replace the intuition, empathy or creativity of a human.

  4. Somehow, every decade or half-decade, another technological ‘improvement’ comes in, promising huge cost savings, usually with a negative and dehumanizing impact on remaining employees, the corporate culture, and the customer value proposition. Innovation is often good, but can be painful and have lasting drawvbacks in areas not directly impacted by the enhancement. It’s too frequently a game of Whackamole. Anyone out there remember reengineering? Where is it now?


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