EXL is going broad and deep from its core strength in analytics. At its recent EXL Client, Industry Analyst, and Advisor Day, the service provider showcased its theme of “Accelerating Digital Transformation” driven by “look deeper” with analytics.
We heard from both EXL and clients during the day that while clients appreciate that “digital” can help “transform” their staid businesses into one seamless capability that is more flexible and responsive, it doesn’t feel real or short-term. Their businesses are too siloed, risk averse, and focused on the day to day. The sense I got from the day was that EXL is “right there” with its clients facing these challenges – meaning, it is not behind, and it is not way ahead and looking over its shoulder. EXL is working shoulder to shoulder with its clients — at the grassroots level– to figure out the vision for a more customer-centric, insight-driven, and agile business, map it out, and take the steps to get there. The service provider is doing this by keeping its focus on the core strength of analytics, and addressing gaps it has had in data management and automation in particular.
The front office is only as effective as the middle and back allows it to be
EXL’s traditional strength is in the middle office with industry-specific services support and analytics and in the back office with finance & accounting BPO. The front office cannot be effectively customer centric—responsive and personalized—if it doesn’t have a flexible data infrastructure through this middle and back office to drive context and act with speed, precision, and fluidity. EXL is working with clients where it sits – in that middle and back office, particularly in insurance, healthcare, and financial services.
For example, with one client that started as a headcount-based cost reduction BPO play in F&A, EXL proposed a number of workflow process and “digital” enablers such as RPA and chat to have a more interactive and responsive function. The client has been able to remove itself from a fairly heavy-handed “oversight” of the day-to-day and EXL has been able to find and implement efficiencies for faster processing, fewer errors or points of confusion, and greater satisfaction all around. A key solution element here was the human-centered approach: the team took the time to interview people involved in the current process at the client and at EXL, understand what was not working, and design and test out solutions that were people, process, and technology oriented (a.k.a. design thinking).
Building out the data chain
Over the past couple of years, EXL has hired, acquired, and developed a broader spectrum of capability in analytics modeling and reporting to build out this core strength. It’s been a differentiator for execution, but not across the full analytics spectrum and not at scale. Now it’s expanding upstream into data and data management, built-in proprietary technology and partnerships for “bots,” and supplementing the shift through its data acquisitions such as RPM Direct and Datasource.
Its viewpoint of the impact of data and analytics was demonstrated through an example in the middle office of an insurance client. EXL created a digital interface for customer acquisition, combined it with its LifePro policy admin system and data analytics. The client uses the database to target and segment customers for campaigns. Interested customers can use mobile or internet portal access to apply. Based on the back end integration with the underwriting and pricing engine, the customer gets a quote and the company can bind the policy online.
The role of robotics
The conversation around robotic process automation and artificial intelligence (the latter less of a focus and still a point of view to be developed, it seems) is constantly tied to analytics. EXL’s observation is that “clients now seem to be taking a more pragmatic approach to intelligent automation” – how to institutionalize it, not just use it. One client example was of setting up a COE in a “build, operate, transfer” approach where EXL initially builds out the automation strategy, governance, use cases, service orchestration layers and bot skillsets. If you are interested in this approach, it’s one that we haven’t heard quite as clearly articulated from other service providers, and an area that we do hear is a challenge for global business services centers, for example. Some companies like Ascension Health and SEI Investments have to take the leadership on their own, but others may appreciate this kind of support to get RPA not just used but infused into the organization. I do get the sense this is a newer offering for EXL, so do your due diligence on the availability of skills and capabilities across different suites, but we often hear from clients that EXL makes a responsive, transparent partner.
Another place EXL is building scale is in its library of function- and industry-specific bots and partnerships with third parties including WorkFusion, Automation Anywhere, and Blue Prism. With automation, the service provider is willing to guarantee productivity and cost benefit, and change the traditional BPO engagement model. As you consider how you want to partner with EXL, take a look at its bot library, its subject matter experts, and consider the balance with your own capabilities. When you look at solving a problem and impacting an outcome and then designing the solution in between, rather than the previous outsourcing approach of lift and shift, you have more flexibility in your business.
Bottom line: Rethink your partnership style and challenge EXL.
Tap into these areas where it is investing: analytics; platform-based services; “advanced automation”; and human-centric digital transformation. What to watch: the need to scale in these focus areas and become a more credible powerhouse in consulting to lead the charge.