Call it development or our quest for excellence, our industry has seen many waves – big and small, in the last three decades. All of these have touched the core of businesses, thereby automating business processes at every stage across enterprises.
In the 90s, it was the ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) wave that automated several horizontal processes across industry verticals – Finance, Accounting, HR, etc. This was a journey that most companies undertook and there are many that are still continuing on this journey. This surely goes a long way to prove that ERP has indeed added tremendous value to these organizations, so much so that they have continued to carry on with it. ERP succeeded in ensuring standardization and scalability. It also helped reduce errors, improved compliance and generated faster turnaround. The ERP wave helped create such tremendous job opportunities in the IT industry that, at one point, the demand for professionals far exceeded the supply.
The ERP wave was followed by the wave of “Leveraging the Cost Arbitrage” in early 2000s. Significant business processes that companies hitherto considered the core of their existence were outsourced. As a result, BPOs mushroomed all around, providing similar or better level of services at much lower costs. The cost of off-shoring, however, continued to rise due to the imbalance in Demand and Supply (the rate of growth in demand was far higher than the supply). It was during the same period that markets across the globe were getting commoditized and were therefore under tremendous pressure for margins. It was during this time that a need was felt for the next big wave was felt more than ever before.
This was also a period when huge technology evolution was making its presence felt. The new century introduced the power of web enablement, leveraging thin clients that helped enterprises adopt self-service. In the next few years, several new waves like Mobility, Social and Big Data did the rounds and had a huge impact on the way business was done. Moreover, several initiatives were already contributing to significant process automation. Some of the significant ones include OCR (Optical Character Recognition), de-duplication and screen-scrapping. In analytics too a big wave rose, which helped users take informed decisions in a quicker fashion. All these led to better process management, but human intervention still happened to be pretty significant – THERE WAS ENOUGH TO BE OUTSOURCED STILL. J
The lowering of labor arbitrage resulted in a new wave, which would reduce manual effort. This is what we today know as “Business Process Digitalization” – the core of which consists of business process getting automated with as much elimination of manual effort as possible. Experts running these operations have been trying out various approaches and have also been running their thoughts wild, with not much gained as yet. Having said that, it is just a matter of time that this new wave will disrupt and transform the industry!
We, at LTI, are already riding this wave and seeing huge traction within just a few months of having focused on this space. Just to quote an example, one of our clients is already experiencing a significant reduction of 50+% manual efforts with our solution, to automate their backend processes for loan processing. In our conversations with many other clients and prospects, it is becoming increasingly obvious that clients will start thinking on this soon and we will have significant opportunities to bring tremendous amount of value to our clients.
The Business Process Automation wave that will be prevalent in the near future will be Robotic Process Automation (RPA), coupled with the more mature Business Process Management (BPM) and Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning. Clients will need to take cognizance of the fact that RPA refers to software driving the IT applications and their user interfaces, in exactly the same way as the users are currently doing. Therefore, one can expect RPA to bring in immediate reduction of manual effort and save cost of operations, but is unlikely to enable any efficiency improvement in the process. Thus, if one has to bring in better customer experience through agility and process efficiency improvement, one needs to fall back on BPM and Business Rules Management (BRM). The current processes are executed with too much human intelligence, which is not necessarily consistent or error-free. These may not be automated completely with RPA or BPM. Hence, we need to bring in better cognitive learning concepts to make the process execution predictable and with the expected outcome, consistently.
While all current discussions on process automation are around cost savings and effort reduction, my view is that we should have a holistic approach of bringing in cultural change in organizations. This change should be focused towards agility, growth and the way knowledge work needs to be executed. With the current approach of RPA, there will be huge socio-political implications, because of which there could be some backlash in the beginning. To overcome such misgivings, we should bring about a positive outlook towards this topic of process automation – business agility, workforce focusing on higher value work than routine, faster turnaround, improved customer experience, and better shareholder value.
The next wave is here and LTI can certainly help you onboard this wave. This new wave for BPA will be an unprecedented enabler for organizations to ride on extremely high customer experience, with the highest level of agility. For a change, you can expect to have friendly and happy customers. Come, join us and ride this wave with utmost care and unbridled passion.
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