More than likely, no one needs to be reminded of the prospect of intelligent automation (robotic process automation, machine-learning, and artificial intelligence) impacting white-collar jobs the way automation technologies already have in the blue-collar sector — angst and hand-wringing populate the business and industry media, and can often make the situation sound more dire than it actually is.
Instead, let’s talk about the upside of the “automation invasion.” The global business services (GBS) organization has the opportunity to create a vital, strategic place for itself in this new world.
Increased use of RPA, machine learning, and AI is inevitable, but the organizational changes required to adequately support these technologies mean this is going to be a longer-term evolution.
Much planning and preparation must be done before organizations can fully capitalize on these technologies and before people’s fear of jobs disappearing in the next few years are level-set in reality.
That’s why now is the time to reshape your next-generation GBS organization to support internally deployed intelligent automation efforts as well as those delivered by third-party outsourcers. There are a number of key areas where this guidance can pave the way for the successful integration of intelligent automation and digital labor.
One of the main areas is governance, a core component of the GBS organization. The governance group manages ongoing GBS efforts, especially relative to using third-party outsourcers. So, it is involved in structuring and managing service levels, managing contracts and also serving as liaison between the GBS organization, business units and, where applicable, third-party service providers.
In light of the changes underway, enterprises need to overhaul their structure to determine how the governance group can better support digital labor as part of the overall service delivery framework. Governance, and the GBS org as a whole, has a unique opportunity to step up and position themselves as valuable resources in new areas. These can include risk management relative to service providers and digital labor, and creating audit trails for new situations that may arise from machine learning systems—such as finding out where a system that taught itself may have made a bad decision or minimally explain how that decision was made.
GBS and its governance group are in the right spot create a single, lead Center of Excellence (COE) to leverage scarce resources and information across the enterprise. This group can become the go-to source regarding digital labor and usage, governance, and how to build and implement a business case.
The GBS organization needs to step up to this challenge, and management should encourage it to help control the creation of many “Centers of Pretty Good” rather than Centers of Excellence.
The shared services effect
Obviously, intelligent automation is going to impact the use of shared services—whether internal as part of the GBS organization or external captive shared service centers hosted by a third-party outsourcer (aka tiered services).
KPMG hasn’t yet seen a huge amount of offshore or outsourced work being brought back in. But organizations are rethinking their decisions regarding eliminating or downsizing these functions. In the longer term, organizations will use much less human-driven nearshore and offshore services, either captive or outsourced, as more transactional work is automated.
The more strategic, value-adding work requires much greater knowledge of the business and the industry. This will be a challenge for smaller companies overseas; firms that have been differentiating themselves based on providing smart, low-cost labor, as opposed to more strategic services, will struggle.
So service providers, trade associations and others that represent those countries need to establish a plan for bringing intelligent automation benefits to their clients faster, more quickly, cheaper and more easily.
If your service provider can bring AI- and RPA-related opportunities and technologies to you, enabling you to share in the enhanced service and cost-saving benefits, go for it. They can give you much quicker access to these technologies – and spare you the multitude of challenges that come with bringing these outsourced tasks back in-house.
The key point is that organizations must have a strategy and detailed plan for where they will deploy AI technologies themselves and where they will surrender these efforts to third-party providers.
With regard to shared services and outsourcing, automating the transactional work can enable organizations to keep the strategic, value-adding work in the home country, with fewer people. People with the training, re-skilling, experience and ambition to take on higher-value work such as analysis, strategic thinking, market segmentation and the like.
Make your move
Clearly, intelligent automation is having a major impact on GBS as well as corporate organizational models. And over time, it will erode delivery boundaries within and between functions in the organization itself.
In a “boundary-less” model, digital services and digital labor will eliminate the typical siloed functions, and functional organizations and delivery models will significantly diminish or disappear over time. Transactional work will be automated, and a small number of functional SMEs will define strategies, guide work and handle exceptions—often via a centralized COE. This will enable a customer-focused service model structured for internal and external stakeholders and reducing corporate overhead. Becoming a boundary-less enterprise is definitely an aspirational goal that will depend on how quickly industries adopt the new model.
And now is the time for the GBS organization to step up to the role of being the enterprise’s leader in evolving to support intelligent automation—and the many benefits and opportunities it can provide.