Tag: BPO

The 40-40 Rule of Disruption in Global Services | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Everest Group research has analyzed the impact that automation will have on the services industry. Our opinion, which we refer to as the 40-40 Rule, is that 40 percent of all outsourcing contracts are ready to be impacted by automation and the average impact in the amount of labor to do the work will be a drop of 40 percent. We believe the 40-40 Rule affects BPO, applications outsourcing, and infrastructure.

If we’re right, this is a very substantial disruption to the services industry.

Impact in the next 18 months

What makes a contract “ready” for automation (e.g., scripts and robotics)? The contract must be close to termination and/or the customer is open to or interested in driving an automation agenda. In saying that 40 percent of all outsourcing contracts are ready to be impacted by automation Everest Group believes that 40 percent of all contracts have the potential to be affected over the next 18 months. But it won’t stop there; this party will keep going.

40-40 Rule blog tweet

Headcount reduction

The average impact on the reduction of headcount for after automating the work per contract will be about 40 percent reduction of FTEs to perform the same functions or oversee the same amount of transaction processing. The headcount reduction will range from 20 percent at the low end to 80 percent at the high end. Individual experiences will vary; but as an impact on the entire industry, we think that it could be as high as 40 percent.

The good news hidden in the bad

This is a huge impact, but it’s not all bad news for service providers. In the early situations where we’re seeing service providers take the initiative, they are able to capture — particularly in their existing accounts — higher margins by participating in some of the benefit of the reduced headcount. They can participate in two ways:

  • Charge a premium for projects
  • Often an automated structure allows moving to a more consumption-based model and providers can capture some of the benefit in premium pricing in that model

This is exhilarating in that it has the opportunity for potentially higher margins to offset the ongoing drumbeat of the demand for lower cost.

Margin uplift is all very well. But if the provider has a labor-based business and takes a 40 percent hit to its revenue, that’s a very difficult gap to overcome. And it’s even more difficult in today’s world where growth is slowing across the industry and it’s becoming harder to find new work that hasn’t been outsourced.

Everest Group sees the services industry into a brownfield in which service providers must take work from other providers rather than take work from the customer’s in-house functions.

Investment implications

Any kind of automation strategy enabling a provider to capture part of the benefits of the automation requires that the provider make up-front investments. Of course if the client is pays for the automation, it is not reasonable to expect that the provider participate in the uplift in margins. But if the provider funds or partially funds the investment, it’s more reasonable to assume that the provider will capture some of those benefits for itself, at least in the short run. So we believe there will be a significant uptick in investment intensity.

However, such investment carry a negative implication: it will cause an uptake in risk held by the provider because it will have a stranded asset that needs to be paid for even if customers’ needs or desires change over time. If the customer moves away from that automated platform, the provider may find itself straddled with an unamortized investment.

Bottom line

If we are right about the 40-40 Rule and that automation will be this powerful, we’re looking at a very substantial impact on the service industry. And I think the acceleration will be quite fast. We’ve found in the past that any disruption that changes the cost equation by over 20 percent for a specific client achieves rapid adoption. Therefore, we think customers will very aggressively seek the 40 percent reduction of labor, in which case the industry is in for a significant change and challenge.

When Is Impact Sourcing the Right Fit with Your Global Sourcing Strategy? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

This is the final blog in a series of three on the topic of impact sourcing. In the first one, I covered the fundamentals of the model and in the second, the value proposition and business case.  Now, I’ll share insights on the nature of work it is best suited for and the activities the model can potentially deliver.

Work suited for impact sourcing

Given that the targeted talent for impact sourcing are individuals with disadvantaged backgrounds, their skills levels are typically suited for specific types of BPO activities as given below.

  • Transactional, repeatable, and high volume: Typically includes non-voice support for back-office work and voice-based work on a selective basis when business needs align with talent capabilities
  • Bespoke work, not amenable to “industrialization”: Typically requiring human intervention to handle case-to-case customization or work that cannot be fully automated
  • Work that is generally suitable to offshoring: Typically includes work with no regulatory or legal restrictions on offshoring or in situations where cost savings and efficiencies are key objectives

Having said the above, impact sourcing employees have demonstrated a wide-range of aptitude from basic data entry to complex data processing. For example, Pangea3 used impact sourcing to deliver complex contract abstraction services; Deloitte in South Africa is using impact sourcing to deliver accounting services and is considering hiring impact workers in its other offices across Africa.

Is impact sourcing actionable?

So, what does this mean for companies considering impact sourcing for BPO work? Are there tangible examples of work where companies use impact sourcing in a meaningful manner? The answer is an unequivocal yes! To illustrate impact sourcing in action, consider the example of a typical optical character recognition (OCR) image validation process given in the box below. The blue text represents activities that fit with impact sourcing and may be completed by impact workers.

A typical OCR image validation process
  • Documents prepared for scanning
  • OCR software process converts document to TIFF, JPEG, PDF image. Software reads text block by block and translates into machine language
  • Agents validate translation by software
  • Agents index data or text to enable content based retrieval
  • Quality control by supervisor/manager
  • QA releases to database or document management system

 

There are many more such processes where impact sourcing can be an attractive fit for delivery of BPO services. Some of these are given in the table below.

Sales & marketing
  • Sales data capture and validation
  • Telemarketing
  • Content conversion, editing, and tagging
  • Document digitization (e.g., customer forms digitization)
Supply chain management
  • Data entry (e.g., order entry, package tracking)
  • Document digitization and archiving (e.g., claims forms)
Finance & accounting
  • OCR image validation
  • Invoice data entry
  • Indexing invoices
  • Paper invoice digitization and archiving
Industry specific operations
  • E-commerce support (e.g., transcription, translation, content tagging, basic online research)
  • Debt collections
  • Location tagging
Customer service
  • Domestic voice support in vernacular languages
  • L1 technical helpdesk
Human resource
  • Document scanning and indexing (e.g., employee expense claim forms)
  • Data entry in HR information systems

 

The notable point is that there are companies already using impact sourcing to deliver many of the services mentioned above. For example, RuralShores is delivering invoice processing, mortgage document digitization, customer care, logistics management services using impact sourcing. Accenture uses impact sourcing to deliver not only basic F&A processes but also more complex HR, PO, F&A functions. These are also echoed in the examples from Aegis, Infosys, and Quatrro. We also saw earlier how Deloitte and Pangea3 are using impact sourcing for complex work. These examples substantiate that impact sourcing is actionable and a viable alternative to traditional BPO.

Conclusion

In conclusion, in this series of three blogs, I discussed how impact sourcing is an established phenomenon that offers access to previously untapped talent pool, lower attrition and the ability to achieve corporate social responsibility and diversity objectives as compared to traditional BPO. There are many large, global companies that have acknowledged the benefits of impact sourcing and have adopted it in their business process service delivery. It is a win-win business service delivery model with optimized enhancements and creates tangible positive impact on people that extends to communities as well.


Everest Group, supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, conducted an in-depth assessment on impact sourcing (IS) as a business process service delivery construct. The study presents a detailed, fact-based business case for IS that substantiates the benefits of the IS model for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). Additionally, it sizes the current IS market for BPO work, profiles the landscape, details the business case, and shares experiences of companies through case studies and testimonials. The report focuses on Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, India, and the Philippines.

The Rockefeller Foundation aims to catalyze the IS sector in Africa through its Digital Jobs Africa Initiative. The Foundation’s role is to ensure positive social and economic impact on 1 million people by supporting high potential but disadvantaged youth to work in the dynamic outsourcing sector in Africa, benefitting them, their families and communities. The Foundation recognizes that the most sustainable and scalable path to achieving this impact is because of the tangible business value impact sourcing provides. Impact sourcing enables companies to purposefully participate in building an inclusive global economy, gaining business efficiencies while changing people’s lives.

Visit our impact sourcing page for more information.

Be sure to join our webinar, The Business Case for Impact Sourcing on today at 9 a.m. CT / 10 a.m. ET / 3 p.m. BST / 7:30 p.m. IST. Register now.


Photo credit: The Rockefeller Foundation

Robotic Process Automation and Anti-incumbency in Business Process Services (BPS) – Opportunity or Threat? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

While robotic process automation (RPA) is creating opportunities for the newer breed of service providers, their more established competitors are feeling the pressure of change. RPA would cannibalize the established service providers’ labor arbitrage business which they have invested in for decades. At an initial estimate, we see a phenomenon of 40-40 emerging which means 40% of existing BPS work is likely to get impacted by RPA with a 40% lower cost impact. Free of this legacy, newer service providers can ride the wave of automation to gain market share quickly. Cannibalization is not the only threat to established vendors. The RPA disruption has coincided and in part fuelled the current trend for anti-incumbency. In 2013, for example, Everest Group research shows that over half of Finance and Accounting Outsourcing (FAO) contracts were taken away from the incumbent provider when they came up for renewal. In this market the newer breed of service providers could be seen as agile and unencumbered by legacy investments in labor arbitrage. However, established providers are also upping their game and this means it will likely be a buyers’ market in the mature BPS segments.
40-40 Phenomenon: 40% of existing #BPS work likely to get impacted by #RPA wtih 40% lower cost impact

The Newer Breed of Service Providers

The newer breed of service providers are those which have either focused strategically on RPA as a growth engine (and have limited legacy non-voice BPS business), or which have been newly established as pure-play RPA-based service providers. Let’s look at the one illustrative provider in each of these two categories respectively – Sutherland Global Services and Genfour.

Sutherland Global Services

Sutherland Global Services (SGS), a leading contact center player, is arguably one of the first service providers to strategically focus on RPA as well as actively market it for the non-voice BPS space. It has made automation a key part of its proposition and is leveraging it to differentiate itself from other service providers that either rely heavily on offshore resources or global majors that can implement automation through major transformation and system integration projects. This strategic focus has led it to develop partnerships with RPA technology providers such as Blue Prism. It has also seen the company develop its own RPA software layer which links to and supports third party automation technologies. Another key capability that SGS has developed is a 24×7 control tower, which maintains existing automations to ensure continuous operations.

SGS refers to a recent contract win as a sign that its focus on RPA is paying off. As part of the RPA-led BPO deal with an European travel company, it is taking over two operational centers in Scandinavia and Estonia.  It already has circa 400 people in Sophia delivering transactional and front-office services. The largely U.S. based service provider will leverage the additional delivery centers to grow in Europe. That growth, according to SGS, is going strongly with annual targets reached and exceeded part way through its financial year. Other RPA-led deals are in the pipeline.

We believe, as a relatively newer service provider in the non-voice BPS space, SGS is transitioning to a mostly automation-enabled provider in the back- and middle- office. We estimate that automation currently accounts for 10%-15% of its FAO & middle-office services but is rising fast. 

Genfour

Genfour was founded in 2012 to offer a different way of providing back-office services. Today it offers Robotics as a Service, on a cloud-based infrastructure on-demand. The proposition to lower costs is strong given the benefits of automation combined with a cloud infrastructure. Its challenge is to win over skeptics that do not yet believe that robots can do as good a job as people in delivering business processes.

Genfour also offers consultancy, development and on-going run operations. It has gained six clients since it was established and these include organizations such as NHS Scotland, IFDS, Coral and RAC.

Genfour is building an annuity-based business model where, not only does it generate revenue from the reselling of robotic software but also from managing every robot that it operates on behalf of its clients. It is already achieving a high operating margin for a business process service provider at 22% in H1 2014. This is set to stay at 20% to 21% full year.

Both SGS and Genfour see the use of automation as a good fit to the increasing buy-side appetite for transaction or outcome-based pricing instead of the input/FTE-based model.  Genfour started out with its “as a service” model while SGS is in a transition state. It is offering banded pricing using virtual FTEs and some blended pricing where people and robots are mixed.

Anti-incumbency

Anti-incumbency provides opportunities for the newer breed of service providers which could be seen by potential clients as agile an unencumbered by legacy investments. However, these service providers will have to have the ability to scale services and offer slick switching processes if they target contract renewals.  Competition is intense in the market with established service providers making investments to optimize and streamline the switching process. For example, multiple service providers have developed specialized transition management solutions to streamline switching and subsequent transition.

Established Service Providers

There has been a great deal of buzz about RPA in the market recently. This is making established service providers increasingly highlight their own automation capabilities and make new strategic alliances with third party automation software vendors. Examples include EXL, Infosys and Steria which have been largely using their own automation tools. In addition, some such as Steria and Genpact, have also set up partnerships with third party software vendors (e.g. Blue Prism & Automic). These and others will be looking to narrow the gap in mindshare between themselves and the new generation of service providers which have gained market share through strong messaging and strategic use of RPA.

Buyers are increasingly becoming focused on higher-end value proposition. They are willing to switch to a new provider, in case the incumbent is unable to deliver value beyond just labor arbitrage and basic process efficiency. Established service providers that are building on their RPA capabilities will be looking to make up for cannibalization of revenue by opening up new higher value opportunities such as analytics services. RPA can help them reduce internal costs too. Apart from helping the bottom line, given anti-incumbency, this would enable them to more easily absorb the cost involved in clients switching.

Everest Group will be publishing a report on Service Delivery Automation (SDA) shortly. It will be discussing the findings of the report at its half-day Robotic Process Automation event for buy-side clients in Dallas on October 22nd. Review the agenda and request an invitation

Watch out for forthcoming research reports from Everest Group on anti-incumbency, analytics, and technology / automation in the BPS space for a deeper-dive into these dynamics.

The Business Case for Impact Sourcing | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

This blog is the second in a series of three on impact sourcing. In my first blog, I gave an introduction to impact sourcing in terms of what it is, its constituents, and why it matters. Now I’ll focus on its value proposition and business case.

Impact sourcing value proposition

The graphic below provides a snapshot of impact sourcing value proposition, which is based on five key elements, i.e., low cost, reliable delivery, access to alternate talent, stable workforce, and social benefits.

Low cost

Impact sourcing offers significant cost arbitrage over source locations for offshore BPO. At 70%+, this arbitrage is comparable than the arbitrage offered by traditional offshoring. In fact, as compared to traditional sourcing, impact sourcing offers savings across both “in-house employment” and “outsourcing” models. For example, in South Africa, people costs for impact workers are 8-10% lower than traditional workers when averaged over a three year period for in-house employment. In India, impact sourcing offers 35-40% savings as compared to traditional BPO in an outsourced model.

The drivers for these additional savings over traditional sourcing models vary by location. For example, in South Africa, lower costs are driven by lower attrition and some differences in salaries. In India, the savings are primarily driven by lower people cost and facilities cost in tier-3/rural location for IS operations as compared to tier-1 locations for traditional sourcing. To get a better understanding of cost for impact sourcing across different locations, check-out the detailed report.

Proven and reliable delivery

Our research shows that the performance achieved from impact sourcing is comparable to traditional BPOs with a robust track record of meeting client SLAs/KPIs and expectations. There are multiple examples as illustrated in the case studies of Teleperformance, Accenture, RuralShores, and SureHire. Even in cases where the performance of impact workers is not tracked, there is strong endorsement of performance being comparable to traditional workers.

Furthermore, companies have successfully mitigated the concerns (e.g., lack of talent, data security, and infrastructure) linked to service delivery using impact sourcing by focusing on skills development initiatives and replicating security infrastructure similar to traditional sourcing. For example, Aegis SA provides 12-16 week training program for impact workers that teaches basic office competencies and behavioral skills. In addition, there are several training institutes (Impact Sourcing Academy, Harambee, Careerbox, Piramal Udgam) that focus on developing the skill-sets of impact workers. Many pure play impact sourcing service providers (e.g., RuralShores) have implemented robust infrastructure to mitigate concerns on data security.

Large and untapped talent pool

Given most locations in Africa (South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco) and Asia (India and Philippines) where impact sourcing is largely used have a high unemployment rate among the youth, impact sourcing provides an opportunity to access this large, untapped qualified pool. For example, there are over 155,000 unemployed graduates in South Africa. Over 35% graduate youth (age 15-29 years) in rural India are unemployed. Through impact sourcing companies tap into this alternate pool to augment talent supply. For example, impact sourcing has become TCS’ primary source for entry-level talent during non-campus-hiring season and enables extending its recruitment throughout the year. A detailed case study on TCS illustrates this in greater detail and provides insights on its outcome.

This talent pool is especially suited to serve the domestic market. Companies leverage this talent pool as source of competitive advantage for domestic service delivery, given local language capabilities and cost arbitrage. For example, RuralShores uses impact sourcing for vernacular language support for domestic market.

Stable and engaged workforce

One of the strongest elements of impact sourcing value proposition is the stability and motivation levels associated with impact workers. Our research shows that impact workers have 15-40% lower attrition than traditional BPO workers and exhibit high motivation levels that leads to improved performance over a period of time and lower hiring and training costs. This is endorsed by many companies using impact sourcing. A study by Careerbox comparing the performance of impact workers with traditional workers shows about 10% higher retention for impact workers measured after 90 days and 180 days of recruitment.

The lower attrition rates are driven by the strong emotional bond and loyalty towards the employer that helped educate, train and provide employment to the disadvantaged worker. In addition, impact sourcing provides a strong fit with personal/family aspirations (e.g., opportunity to work in local community without migrating to urban centers). Furthermore, for most impact workers BPO is a preferred career option compared to alternatives (e.g. agricultural, industrial labor), as it offers higher salaries and better work environment.

Social Impact

These four value proposition elements – low cost, reliable delivery, access to alternate talent, and stable workforce – are built around the fifth one – the social impact. In fact, the value proposition for impact sourcing exists because of the types of employees hired. Impact sourcing employees are high potential but disadvantaged economically, socially or some other way. For example, they may come from a low-income area or not have had the opportunity for a university education. Impact sourcing offers these types of people an opportunity to earn and build transferable workplace skills. As a result, employees improve their well-being, and the well-being of their families and communities. (See my blog Impact Sourcing 101: The Fundamentals of a Powerful Global Sourcing Model for a full explanation.)

A study done by RuralShores among 650 respondents across 11 of its centers shows significant improvement in the living standards of its employees after joining RuralShores. To illustrate this with a few indicators, 46% of its employees purchased mobile phones, 56% purchased consumer durable goods, average of 20% increase in family savings. This is echoed in Accenture’s experience of impact sourcing where annual income of impact workers increased by ~33% post employment.

Impact sourcing really is a win-win with tangible positive impact on business and on people. Any which way you look at it, the combined value proposition of impact sourcing is compelling, especially for certain types of BPO work.

In my next blog, I’ll share my perspectives on the aptness of impact sourcing to business.


Everest Group, supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, conducted an in-depth assessment on impact sourcing (IS) as a business process service delivery construct. The study presents a detailed, fact-based business case for IS that substantiates the benefits of the IS model for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). Additionally, it sizes the current IS market for BPO work, profiles the landscape, details the business case, and shares experiences of companies through case studies and testimonials. The report focuses on Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, India, and the Philippines.

The Rockefeller Foundation aims to catalyze the IS sector in Africa through its Digital Jobs Africa Initiative. The Foundation’s role is to ensure positive social and economic impact on 1 million people by supporting high potential but disadvantaged youth to work in the dynamic outsourcing sector in Africa, benefitting them, their families and communities. The Foundation recognizes that the most sustainable and scalable path to achieving this impact is because of the tangible business value impact sourcing provides. Impact sourcing enables companies to purposefully participate in building an inclusive global economy, gaining business efficiencies while changing people’s lives.


Visit our impact sourcing page for more information.

Be sure to join our webinar, The Business Case for Impact Sourcing on Tuesday, October 7, 2014.


Photo credit: The Rockefeller Foundation

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