Offshore, re-shore, not sure…cyber shore?

This year’s World Economic Forum in Davos brought waves of headlines around artificial intelligence and automation – trends that this gathering of world leaders agree should be embraced, and optimised, rather than feared.

These technologies are not ‘new’, but their impact on businesses seeking to navigate, adapt to and thrive in the digital age cannot be understated.

Enterprise Process Automation (EPA) allows for the elimination of unnecessary manual activities, freeing staff up to focus on strategic, value-add activities rather than highly repetitive tasks. Short term savings? Of course – but more excitingly, an opportunity to completely re-imagine the way business is done.

One great example of where EPA has had a fundamental impact on the economics of traditional business models is outsourcing. Put simply, it completely alters the business case dynamics brought about by labour arbitrage. Finding the next low cost offshoring destination before everyone else is an outdated method of working. So what is the alternative?

When looking at cost-saving measures such as outsourcing, companies have a tendency to overestimate the cost savings, and underestimate any potentially negative impact on quality, consistency and competitiveness. EPA offers a solution that doesn’t force business leaders to make a compromise - it offers an improved service delivery model, eliminating room for manual errors or fraudulent activity, and gives businesses complete control over their processes to ensure the highest degree of quality and accuracy. This instantly eliminates many common outsourcing problems, such as the hidden ‘black box’ of activities and human communication issues.

To remain competitive – and sustainable - outsourcers and shared service centres themselves need to adjust their business model. Looking ahead, we see the emergence of ‘cybershoring’ – the replacement of manual activities with smart robotics, whether that is onshore, offshore or reshored. In the distributed, digital world in which we operate, surely it makes sense to take the focus away from where the work is done to focus on the how.

Smart robotics of this nature doesn’t seek to blindly replicate human interaction with an existing system, but challenges business leaders to see and exploit the potential of what could be done. The glorious by-product of this automation is the streams of data that are generated, simply as a result of executing the process. Whether for further process improvement or compliance, there are not many business leaders who are not yet awake to the valuable insights that can be derived from the capture and analysis of this information.

“Burning the tractor factories” is not an option in this Fourth Industrial Revolution. The businesses that win the war will be those that refuse to be constrained by what has always been done. If you don’t redefine the way you work, your competition certainly will.

Neil Kinson, VP EMEA, Redwood Software

Image source: Shutterstock/Mathias Rosenthal