Technology and Transformation: Will RPA change the future of outsourcing?


Helen Bassett, director, assurance and business services and Mo Salim, associate director, business tax, at Smith & Williamson shared their thoughts on the future of robotic process automation (RPA) and outsourcing.

Being tied down with day-to-day administration can be frustrating, particularly when you would rather be developing your business. Whether you are a busy finance director or an entrepreneur growing a business, keeping your accounting and compliance requirements on track is essential to your success.

Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) can remove the administrative burden and release resources, allowing you to prioritise your work. BPO can be cheaper than hiring new employees and remove uncertainty around specific process costs. BPO, however, is facing a completely new challenge with the evolution of robotic process automation (RPA), one which will change outsourcing methods entirely.

RPA is the technology that involves the use of robots to conduct business processes. Once configured, RPA can provide significant improvements to productivity and reduce costs. RPA is much faster than humans and this is where the challenge to the traditional BPO model arises.

Why are traditional outsourcing models no longer as attractive?

For businesses to be successful, management teams must have access to timely, accurate and relevant information in order to make informed, strategic decisions. A traditional outsourcing model relies on the customer sending data to the outsource provider to process the information and return the processed data to the customer. Generally, there is an agreed turnaround time and fees can increase for an express service (shorter turnaround times). As the need for real time information increases, traditional outsourcing for low value/high volume tasks are becoming more and more unattractive and difficult to deliver.

The solution – use RPA

Imagine in the future you could outsource most of your processes and instantly receive back the data. Consider finance and accounting, if all your invoice processing tasks were completed within minutes of receiving an invoice and this service was available to you 24/7, 365 days a year. This future is the current reality.

RPA can facilitate real time information, if set up correctly, because the robots are able to process high volumes of data faster than humans and they can be configured with rules and exceptions to ensure business needs are met. This means the turnaround time from obtaining raw data to the production of the final deliverable would be as short as possible, in some cases a matter of minutes.

Outsourcing providers that are offering a managed service can provide robots to work on your systems much like how traditional human outsourcing works but in this case with robots. With the right input parameters, a managed RPA service offers an error-free approach to processing without the hassle of managing your own robots and infrastructure. This delivers a win-win solution for both the client and outsourcing provider.

Why a combination of human and robotic managed service is the future of outsourcing

There will be instances where you need a human touch, where critical thinking or creativity is required and thus a blended approach is, therefore, the future of outsourcing.

The ideal outsourcing provider will be able to offer a comprehensive service that covers fast, error-free, real-time processing for your low value/high volume tasks and highly skilled individuals to oversee and provide support for complex tasks.

RPA poses a real challenge to the current BPO models and will certainly force change. Finding the right balance that works for your business is key and you should look to work with your advisor to undertake process reviews to identify which tasks should be processed by robots and which ones still need a human.