Wave after wave of new business technology has been hyped as revolutionary, leaving organisations with the options either to invest in strategic transformation and disruptive technologies or to dismiss it all as mere noise and carry on with traditional methods of business administration.
Indeed, with new acronyms and buzzwords flying about almost every month – Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Intelligent Automation (IA), and Blockchain, alongside Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and countless others – keeping up with the new trends is almost a full-time job in itself. To make things worse, in many people’s minds, technology like Blockchain has been bundled together with unstable and perhaps unsustainable concepts like Bitcoin, muddying the waters even further.
Despite the hype, or perhaps due to a sensible attitude of wariness towards hype itself, many businesses are asking themselves whether it’s really worth changing their business practices just to keep up with the times.
Though the question is complex, the answer is simple. For nearly every business with more than a handful of employees, it is absolutely worthwhile – often tremendously so – to take full advantage of at least one of the technologies and processes mentioned above. How to start, however, is another matter many businesses still try to figure out.
Before we get there, let us take a moment to appreciate the value that these approaches can offer a business in the modern economy. Business Process Outsourcing is the simplest of the concepts mentioned earlier; it merely involves hiring outside experts to handle the more onerous and technical responsibilities related to business administration, such as accounting and finances. The benefit comes from allowing you to focus on your core business processes, knowing that a reputable team of professionals will take care of the rest.
Robotic Process Automation essentially outsources the same kinds of core processes to artificial intelligence machines: scanning receipts, balancing books, preparing financial information, and so on. Intelligent Automation, though the technology is not yet ready for the often unpredictable world of business, takes the same concept and expands it beyond mere repetitive and predictable tasks, and into the world of creative thinking, judgment, and problem-solving.
Both RPA and IA represent an extraordinary leap beyond traditional back-office methods, performing in seconds what it would take professional workers days to create – and doing so more cheaply, with a higher rate of accuracy and fidelity assisting organisations to reduce people dependency and minimise risks and compliance issues.
These benefits come with a pair of tradeoffs, however. The first relates to security; increasing reliance on machines yields an ever greater exposure to hacking and other related dangers, with potentially catastrophic results. Fortunately, much of the risk is negated by the use of Blockchain technology. It is ironic but nevertheless true that one of the riskiest investments in the financial world – Bitcoin – was created through perhaps the most reliable and tamper-proof data storage technology ever invented. The Economic magazine calls Blockchain “the trust machine”, and indeed this is likely to be its most enduring legacy.
Blockchain uses powerful mathematical encryption to create an accounting ledger that survives all external attempts at manipulation. Its fast adoption across the global economy is widely expected to result in a savings of many billions of dollars through the improved efficiency and security that it brings to every transaction. Although Blockchain is not a shield against every type of fraud or manipulation, its extraordinary utility as a tool for both security and accuracy has been proven beyond doubt.
The other tradeoff that these technologies (including Blockchain itself) require is a constant familiarity with each iteration in their continually evolving nature. The available forms of RPA, IA, and Blockchain technology in the year 2025 will be vastly different than the versions in widespread use today. Opportunities and challenges will arise, fixes will be needed, and additional capabilities will be added to suit the needs of the market. With these business process innovations, we are currently at a stage comparable to the time when the Model T Ford was introduced over 100 years ago: the relevant technology is new and imperfect, but the potential is enormous and plain to see, and those who spend the most time studying the field will be able to get the most out of it as new enhancements are made.
At this point, we can see the extra pieces coming together. We have technologies that require highly specialised training to use well, and we have an industry (BPO professionals) that are under threat of disruption by new technologies that will make their own teams of professionals obsolete. The solution, of course, is for the outsourcing companies to fully embrace the new technologies, and become among the world’s experts in using them. This way, they remain the cheapest and best option for companies looking to fulfill their accounting (and other) obligations, while not spending their time, energy, and training budget on handling these affairs themselves.
Responsible, forward-thinking outsourcing companies have already begun to make this transition. Although the financial services they provide will be radically enhanced, the expertise needed to provide them will simply move from one type to another. Whereas until now, they have needed to become experts in the minutiae of the legal and accounting professions, in the future they will need to become experts in running the software that will have these legal and accounting details already programmed into it.
This shift in approach will accommodate the new technology while leaving the balance of incentives fairly intact. Businesses will still find that outsourcing their business processes brings them the best value for their money, but the outsourcing companies themselves will be able to offer a much higher-quality service.
The solution, then, for this radical evolution in AI technology is not for businesses to dive head-first into it; the advances are new, hard to learn, and subject to rapid change. Nor is the solution to ignore these innovations completely while waiting for them to be perfected; this would entail missing out on a generation of qualitative leaps in performance.
To get the best of both worlds, businesses should take advantage of the resource that outsourcing companies represent. The outsourcing companies’ new business model will centre around maximising the potential that these new methods of information processing can provide, and business administration will become far more efficient and effective as this model is adopted around the globe.
The hype surrounding RPA, IA, and Blockchain may at times be loud and confusing, but the technologies really do warrant such buzz when they are harnessed in a sensible way. By choosing the right outsource partner to help you navigate safely through the emerging fields of AI, you could give your business an incomparable advantage in tomorrow’s fast-moving economy.