It’s time we dispelled the scaremongering and hype and gave you the true picture of how advances in automation tools and methodologies, such as RPA and autonomics, will impact the global IT services and BPO industry over the next five years.
The current debate on these issues is as polarizing as it is confusing. On the consumer-facing side of technology, we have a fervent and far-reaching debate about the ethics of artificial intelligence and automation, led by executives from the likes of Google and Facebook. On the enterprise side, we frequently see quotes from studies from firms such as McKinsey and Gartner predicting seismic job losses through the impact of disruptive technologies that could have a devastating impact on the global economy and society in the next few years.
Yet, many of the leading stakeholders much closer to the true deployment of emerging enterprise Intelligent Automation tools and platforms—namely the service providers, the ISVs and the sourcing advisors—remain on the sidelines when it comes to discussing the true impact of automation as it’s adopted by many enterprises today.
We’ve been talking, for the best part of two decades, about how to “transform” business and IT processes after the cost benefits of labor arbitrage have been maximized. Well, the simple fact is that much of these arbitrage costs are close to optimization for mature services providers that have well-honed global delivery machines. As enterprise clients demand further cost advantages, and as competitors become increasingly aggressive with their service pricing, the focus shifts toward clients attaining outcomes that are not always directly linked to lower headcount rates.
“Intelligent Automation-as-a-Service” is a genuine lever for enterprises to pull for further productivity gains beyond low-cost offshore labor
Consequently, many enterprises that have chosen to externalize their service delivery can enjoy even more cost effective services, as ambitious service providers further rationalize their delivery organizations by taking advantage of automation to standardize and scale service delivery to their clients. In short, while many enterprises can invest directly in Intelligent Automation into their own processes, they can also simply outsource those processes to service providers, which can embed further productivity gains tied to automation, in addition to labor arbitrage. “Intelligent Automation-as-a-Service” is quickly emerging as a significant productivity option for enterprises as part of their service delivery.
Sadly, greater productivity and effectiveness through “digital labor” comes at a societal cost—jobs that were once required are no longer needed. However, we would point out that the jobs that are being phased out are no longer being recreated in any case, and much of this shrinkage will likely come from natural attrition as some people leave the service industry for more relevant jobs in other industries.
The Impact of Automation on Services Jobs
The following graphic shows three Automation Impact Scenarios for the IT and BPO services industry, ranging from a modest/conservative prediction which is a continuation of current RPA use to a scenario we consider more likely where adoption of RPA and more Intelligent Automation increases to an aggressive scenario, where automation adoption hits a broader range of the skills. If we examine the most likely outcome, Scenario 2, we see strong growth for highly and medium skilled personnel—with highly skilled positions in our industry increasing by 56%, and medium-skilled by 8%. However, low skilled, routine jobs drop 30% as many of these roles get phased out over the next 5 years, resulting in a net loss of 9% of jobs, totaling 1.4 million:
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The following graphics shows Scenario 2, the Likely Scenario, in more detail, outlining the number
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Cognitive Computing, Digital Transformation