We all know about the outsourcing of service jobs — particularly call-centre type work — to low-cost places like China and India.
Well, it turns out, of course, that those low-cost places are not so low cost anymore, and so companies are looking to automate the system in order to cut costs.
This report by HFS research gives a good overview of the current state of play. AS it says:
The economics are eye-popping: while an onshore FTE (full-time equivalent) costing $80K can be replaced by an offshore FTE for $30K, a robot developed with the Blue Prism toolkit can perform the same function for $15K or less – without the drawbacks of managing and training offshore labor.
Blue Prism I hear you ask? Check out this not-at-all creepy presentation of what they can do for you. (Honestly, this sort of corporate/techno speak delivered in reassuring tones could be straight out of some dystopian SF movie.)
The HFS report is actually an assessment (a fairly uncritical one, I have to say) of the Blue Prism technology. Here is one of the case studies they looked at — that is, a real-life company that used Blue Prism. Check out the results at the end (the Business Case section):
|Robots Tame a Government Eligibility Process for aBPO Service Provider|
|Company: BPO services provider with a line of business focused on the government sector.|
|Target Process: Citizen applying for a national government insurance benefit administered by a local governmentagency, getting vetted for eligibility, and being issued an approval letter if qualified. The process involves swivel-chair access to three separate systems: one owned by the BPO services provider, one by the national governmentagency, and one by the local government agency.|
|Total Development Time: Five months. This included four months of initial ramp-up (to learn the Blue Prism toolkit,select a process to automate, and configure a cluster of virtual machines in the data center on which to run it);three weeks to model the process and build the robot; and two weeks to do quality assurance and testing beforegoing live. The robot was performing 49 percent of the process at launch; four weeks of ongoing optimization workbrought the robot’s share of the process to 70 percent, with 80 percent considered an optimum target.|
|Having gotten past this initial learning curve, the provider now achieves cycle times for automating otherprocesses of similar complexity in about two months. It expects to automate 10 to 15 percent of its total businessoperation within two years, and is achieving reuse of processes across multiple BPO clients already.|
|Challenges: For the critical pilot project, the business leader looked carefully for a process that was not overlycomplex, not too taxing to automate, easy to demonstrate that the robots were doing the work in a recognizableway, and easy to account for the costs of executing the process before and after automation.|
|Business Case: Prior to automation, human FTEs took an average of 12 minutes to complete the process. Robotswere able to cut the total transaction time down to four minutes, although analytics revealed that 45 seconds ofthis was idle time waiting for one of the systems to become available. The net result was three times thetransaction volume for one-tenth of the FTE cost, not counting the initial ramp-up costs. The provider calculated that it achieved payback for its initial Blue Prism investment within six months just by automating this one process.|
Coming soon to a call centre not near you, I suspect.