Robotic process automation, new access to dark data, and transactional processing moving to the cloud are three technology trends that will transform the BPO industry in 2016. This past year the industry experienced significant change driven by global competition, new techniques for extracting value from data and fast-moving technology. Tomorrow’s BPOs will be at the forefront and leading the industry in these 2016 trends:
Robotic Process Automation
Robotic process automation (RPA) allows software “robots” to automate mundane, labor-intensive activities carried out by humans such as repetitive, manual data entry. RPA reduces costs and gives back time to employees for more important tasks. Artificial intelligence applied to advanced document-based classification and data extraction will make a few of the long-promised RPA a reality.
To date, commercial technologies generally have offered reliable, but very limited and complex techniques based upon explicit rules for automatically extracting data from documents. With cloud-based computing and access to large data sets via web APIs, the ability to train an AI system to extract key data from document-based information will advance knowledge management and process automation. RPA becomes critical in keeping in step with overall technology shifts. While scanned paper and emailed documents remains the mainstay in the initial document workflow, the shift begins toward overall electronic document volume being processed in native forms in a single uniform workflow and more scanned documents captured by mobile devices than ever before. This will only accelerate exponentially in the years following 2016.
For most BPOs that process high volumes of documents for their customers, RPA is a natural shift as labor costs and data volumes increase, and customers expect faster processing. For example, across finance, human resources, and manufacturing, process-centric applications are incorporating RPA data extraction capabilities directly into their offerings. Think Box Enterprise, SAP/Concur. If documents are involved, there’s a process-centric solution provider that requires RPA for data extraction.
New Access to Dark Data
BPO customers are storing more information in data lakes, but typically BPOs have not had access to this data. Large BPO customers regularly collect and store their operational data, which is not yet being fully used. This is known as “dark data” (Gartner). Through RPA, new access and improved techniques for getting value from data, leading BPOs will see a significant uptick in the dark data that they can access for their customers. For example, the data on receipts—and how this data is used to support the tracking of spending and expense reimbursement—is a highly valuable asset that hasn’t been fully incorporated into the automation picture. Conservative estimates are that 1 TRILLION receipts are printed each year in the U.S. 2016 will see the capture of receipts and data that becomes a “killer app.”
Transactional processing of documents moves to the cloud
Transactional processing of documents moves to the cloud with major outsourcing of this discreet process. Many transactional documents, such as checks and invoices, are part of a larger capture workflow. Accurately locating and extracting this information has been the province of only the largest companies. It’s complex work. And yet, every organization has checks, invoices, receipts and other documents that are part of a transaction. Just as many platforms are being “cloud-enabled,” more companies will look to BPOs to supply transactional data extraction as an API instead of configuring and managing the process themselves. Leading BPOs will be looking to partner with SaaS and mobile app companies to meet their customers’ new expectations.
Every company has documents to process, and the initial and ongoing costs—not to mention the complexity—are best left to companies that specialize in these capabilities. Leveraging an outsourcer allows organizations to move capital expenditures to an operational expense.