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The Future of Outsourcing: Can RPA Replace it?

by BA team
Jan 28, 2019

When you want to know the state of the outsourcing industry, you need to understand RPA. In this article, we’re going to take a look at its pros and cons, and discuss the likely impact it will have on the way we work.

What is RPA?

RPA is short for Robotic Process Automation, and it’s essentially the process of using automated solutions to carry out repetitive tasks at a much lower cost. The reason it’s taking off is that it allows companies of all shapes and sizes to make use of the latest technology in a way that saves them money. So, what are the advantages of RPA?

Why RPA Might be the Future

RPA allows an organization to take complete control over tasks it would have once outsourced. This is ideal for peace of mind as it ensures that you have full oversight of how your data is used and processed.

It also has the added benefits of reduced costs and scalability. The second point is particularly important as it’s what allows RPA to move from one task to the next seamlessly. Rather than having to find half a dozen different humans with overlapping skills, you can now outsource everything to one system. It also keeps your overheads lean as you can cost up your projects on an as-needed basis without having to retain staff.

RPA Can Simplify Communication and Maintain Accuracy

The problem with humans is that they’re subject to cognitive errors from time to time. Of course, if you hire someone who is vastly experienced, they will be far less likely to make a mistake, but this experience comes at a price. One of the key advantages of RPA is that you only need to train your system one time.

From there on it will execute the same set of instructions indefinitely, provided you keep it working within it’s known parameters.

You can also build compliance into your RPA program by giving it a prescriptive set of operational procedures. That will ensure that it works within set boundaries (your compliance requirements) and execute the same process over and over again.

It all sounds pretty good from an RPA perspective, but what’s the full picture?

Where RPA Might Let You Down

Okay, so from having read the first half of this article you may be thinking that outsourcing your work to a human is no longer viable. After all, a machine can work round the clock, 365 days a year, and seemingly never makes a mistake.

The problem with this point of view is that it’s wrong. What you need to remember about the RPA approach, is that it’s only as good as the input parameters you provide enter. In other words, it’s only as effective as the training you can deliver. That is the same with human staff, but humans can teach themselves. RPA systems do not, and never will be able to.

If you have a nuanced task or one that can’t be broken down into fields on a form, then an RPA will be of little or no utility. The human touch will always be needed for more complex, less prescriptive tasks, and it will certainly always be required for those who are creativity driven.

Where Human Outsourcing Comes into its Own

The great thing about outsourcing to a human is that they can learn on the job, and provide new ideas you have never thought of. If you want to outsource a rote task that needs to be duplicated 10,000 times, then RPA is undoubtedly the way to go.

This will then free up the creative sparks of your human staff so that they can do something original, creative, and innovative. It’s what humans do best, and it’s an area that RPA systems will never become dominant in.

By finding a balance in the way you outsource your work, you can have the best of both worlds. But where does the balance lie?

The Outlook for the Future: Finding the Right Balance

RPA systems are scalable, cheap, and free from errors with the right input parameters. This makes them well suited to rote tasks which need to be repeated a large number of times, especially on an ongoing basis. What they are not very good at, are low volume niche tasks which involve a degree of critical thinking, innovation, or creativity.

These such tasks are still very much the domain of skilled humans, and that’s good news too. Because you can give these tasks to your human outsourcers, and keep the RPA churning away in the background, you can have the best of both worlds.

Finding the right balance is all about trying to adapt your business to the needs of the here and now. Be flexible, be adaptable, and always ask yourself what you really need at any given moment in time.