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Business Process Management Nirvana - Powered By Automation And Driven By Insights

by Anantha Radhakrishnan, CEO & MD, Infosys BPO December-2018

Business process management (BPM) or business process outsourcing as it was once known, has come a long way. A sunrise industry fifteen years ago, it has been characterized by several distinct phases on its journey of growth. Today, BPM is on the threshold of a new phase of revolution which promises to be the most unique and interesting period in its growth lifecycle. 

Five Phases of Growth
In the first wave of outsourcing, companies outsourced repetitive manual back-office work and handling of customer service calls that required data gathering and consolidation. During the second wave, service providers evolved to handle processes that were standardized and harmonized across client locations and that could be executed from a low cost location. In the third wave, providers were handling workflow enabled processes, improving turn-around-times, meeting service level agreements and delivering stiff quality metrics. 

BPM is currently in the fourth wave, with established service providers handling end-to-end processes, utilizing the global hub-spoke-edge model and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to impact business metrics. 

The industry is currently poised to enter the most significant phase of its growth lifecycle. The ‘new BPM’ will focus on providing business insights through data and process excellence, with a significant promise of further growth - working alongside clients to catalyze and co-create business value and enhance stakeholder experience.

The Technology Influence
The leitmotif to the BPM growth story has been technology, which has influenced and shaped the industry’s growth through all its phases. During the first two phases of growth, outsourcing service providers used information technology (Citrix, VoIP) to enable services, leading to the industry being called IT-enabled services. However, as the industry evolved, technology literally reshaped the industry. From just IT-enabled services, providers began using technology as a differentiator (workflow and whitespace solutions to augment ERP or best-of-breed). As the industry continues to evolve, it is being led by service providers who continually differentiate themselves from the herd through cutting-edge technologies that are enhancing human capabilities. These include RPA, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Data Analytics & Insights, Rich Content visualization, Mobile Technologies and enhancing User Experience through Digital.

These technologies have been a disruptive force, and service provider operating models have been radically transformed. The industry is cascading new horizons by moving away from work focused primarily on efficiency and cost, to work that is focused on efficiency, effectiveness and enhancing experience. Providers are co-creating business value by using technology as a lever to enhance human intelligence, aid business process excellence and garner data insights that enable a great stakeholder experience. This is the ‘nirvana phase’ of the industry that will unshackle it from commoditization pressures and enable focus on innovation and differentiation to create business value.

Two Necessary Paradigm Shifts 
To achieve the nirvana state, the industry needs to make two broad paradigm shifts to reimagine BPM.

The first has to do with reshaping client experiences. Service providers need to prep their clients to expect more. They need to be more and do more with less. This change can come only by moving from operational metrics (turn-around-time, SLA adherence) to metrics that tie in with business outcomes and end-customer experience. The industry needs to radically move away from a vendor mindset to a more confident partner mindset by realigning governance models to enable co-creation. 

The second paradigm shift will come about through igniting the minds of employees. A revolution will occur when employees are encouraged to be innovative and inquisitive by trying out new ideas, eliminating mundane work where possible, and building deep domain capability and expertise. Organizations must energize employees to creatively visualize underlying trends and patterns by providing working knowledge of key tools. Organizations must invest in training to develop domain and behavioral leadership which will create assertiveness and consulting skills. The new BPM employee will move from being an order taker following standard operating procedures, to an assertive consultant who can redesign processes for the future.

The Reimagined BPM – Powered by ‘Human-ware’ 
Service providers that move with speed and agility to make the above paradigm shifts will clearly be the winners who move confidently into the glorious new nirvana age of BPM. They will be able to shake off two specters that haunt the industry -commoditization and people attrition. Commoditization and the resulting price pressures will be a thing of the past when providers work on building great partnerships by delivering amplified business value for clients. Creating a significant employee value proposition for the new BPM workforce will help decrease attrition, through the virtuous cycle of continuous learning, career development, longer tenures, and higher compensations. 

These changes in industry mindset will lead to the creation of ‘human-ware’. The next generation of BPM will not be about people and/or software, but about human-ware that melds the best of people with the best of technology- with great potential for self-service, eliminating mundane work, amplifying human intelligence, visualizing value, and creating a human revolution.

Stepping across the Threshold
As BPM today stands at a significant threshold, there are great opportunities that lie ahead. All its leaders must strive to take the industry forward into the next phase of growth by continually reimagining possibilities with clients and with employees. This will set the stage for the next wave of accelerated business value, profitability, and growth – the nirvana age for BPM.