Service Delivery Automation (SDA) encompasses cognitive computing as well as RPA (robotic process automation). Software providers that provide SDA come to market with an enterprise licensing structure that basically requires the customer to license a number of agents for a specific length of time. But in using this licensing model, service providers unintentionally constrain adoption and open the door for competitors’ differentiation. Along with the average Joe becoming increasingly accustomed to downloading an app to a smart phone in seconds and receiving immediate gratification utilizing powerful, easy to use technology comes uncomfortable questions for corporate IT. “Why can’t you do this? If it only cost me $5 to get this from Apple, why does it cost me millions to get a much worse product months, if not years, later from you?”
Behind this new sense of entitlement is the growing reality that these new apps offer dramatically increased levels of automation, allowing for activities that were previously the providence of experts but are now self-service, giving the user far greater control. Even more profound is the complete reorientation of perspective as technology is developed and deployed from the consumers’ ease-of-use rallying cry, increasingly far away from delivery organizations’ focus on efficiency and corporate control.
These same secular forces that are creating a profound change in IT are also beginning to drive change in shared services organizations and how they address business processes. Think end-to-end processing for talent management and learning in HR, and purchase-to-pay and record-to-report to name in F&A. As with their IT counterparts, these processes are increasingly being automated and shifting toward a self-service delivery structure. This not only reduces costs but also places increased power in the hands of the user community.
Now those internal groups that deliver IT and business processes are facing a harsh reality. They are no longer dominated by stovepipe delivery organizations designed to capture the efficiency of specialization, centralization and labor arbitrage. Rather they are quickly turning into flatter organizations that are delivery-oriented around a user’s view of the process, with emphasis on the transparency of information flow, and process designs that prioritize ease of use over traditional corporate command and control.
As these changes rework the business process landscape, they portend coming shifts in how third parties will be utilized. It is likely we’ll see a reversal in the current trend that allows for increased provider control of processes, with firms increasingly choosing to design solutions that place control within the firm and wherever possible in the user community, thereby also reversing the current provider push for outcome-based pricing. And increased levels of automation may diminish the amount of labor arbitrage which is utilized.
All of this is best summed up by a client who recently told me, “I am no longer looking for a delivery vendor that provides high quality silent running. I am now looking for a transformational partner that will help me implement my new vision and then play a supporting role.”