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BPESA: The future of GBS: threat or opportunity?

By Johan Steyn, September 2021

Published by Business Process Enabling South Africa (BPESA):

Global business services (GBS), which often includes both shared services and outsourcing, are increasingly being used by leading companies to create alignment among their business units, serving as a single enterprise organisation or network that can drive collaboration and efficiency to improve service delivery.

Large corporations continue to embrace shared services models to suit their global reach as they extend their operations throughout the world. Human capital management, finance, accounting, supply chain and back-office support services are delivered through a global network of regional service centres. Greater cost savings compared to typical country-specific shared services models, as well as increased employee engagement, faster working capital cycles, and enhanced vendor relationships, are some of the significant benefits that are realised.

Business process automation has a long history of increasing processing speed while also lowering costs. In an ever-increasingly competitive global economy, all businesses strive to produce more work with fewer employees while reacting faster to their clients' needs. The era of Smart Automation (also known as Intelligent Automation) has pushed business process automation into a new era, powered by record-high processing speeds, Cloud computing, and new technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

The future of GBS is under threat

GBS's future resides in its capacity to help organisations accomplish even more with less by combining data and expertise from different businesses, departments, and regions to change customer and employee experiences with predictive insights at unprecedented speed. As many businesses across the world implement smart technology platforms they realise benefits on their own which may cause them to reconsider their GBS partnering model.

The technological platforms currently implemented by the vast majority of global enterprises fall into three main categories:

  1. Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

RPA involves the use of a virtual worker (or software “robot”) to complete tasks using a software application user interface, replacing the need for human intervention. RPA is logic-based software that automates repetitive digital tasks or rule- and logic-driven steps.

  1. Virtual agents

Virtual agents (VAs) are customer relationship management software platforms that pose to be online customer agents that, in terms of language and communication, behave like humans. Customers can use them to do regular transactions like making reservations, ordering catalogue goods, answering common inquiries, and updating their customer profiles. Natural language processing may also be used by VA software to comprehend the customer's purpose and direct them to their desired conclusion.

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is the use of computer software to do activities typically associated with human intellect, such as decision making, pattern identification, speech recognition, and language translation. This technology can learn and think and go beyond what RPA and virtual assistants can do, which are restricted to organised and repetitive duties. Both structured and unstructured data may be used by AI software to sense, reason, and execute tasks.

GBS service offerings in the future

​​Whatever your point of view, you can't deny that these new technologies will have a significant impact on how GBS businesses offer services in the future. Whether they are a problem or an opportunity, it is preferable to deal with them now rather than later.

Let's have a look at a couple of examples:

  1. Decisions on Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)

Companies have relied on BPO solution providers for years to reduce the costs of conventional, rule-based, repetitive operations. As a result, BPO solution providers relocated their service centres to emerging nations with cheaper labour prices. But what if RPA bots could automate the processes involved? Insofar as many organisations are trying to adapt new intelligent automation technologies to their solution offerings, this would either decrease the requirement to outsource chosen operations or have an influence on the selection of which BPO service provider to choose.

  1. RPA's capacity to automate repeated process transactions

GBS executives are debating whether to switch to a single-instance ERP system or cope with the hassles of numerous ERP solutions throughout their global presence. RPA solutions can help them avoid this dilemma by acting as a simple integration platform. If their customer service personnel are presently logging into one system and then utilizing that data to input into another, RPA may be a more cost-effective option than switching to a single ERP system.

  1. Decisions concerning the location of CEOs

The same may be stated for centres of excellence. These have traditionally been placed near the company's headquarters, where service professionals may be found. Some or all of these activities can be performed anywhere in the globe where AI systems are capable of doing complicated analytical tasks.

Imagine the potential of our people

South Africa is uniquely situated as a prefered destination for outsourcing business services. I close my eyes and imagine the world-class outsource centres we could build in rural areas, staffed with young people who are ambitious, excited and well trained in the craft of digital technology.

We can work together to make the dream a reality by utilising the potential of smart technology and create world-class service centres. We have the power to combine our influence and expertise in training young people to work alongside digital assistants and become the workforce of business service teams admired across the world.

It is time to turn our dreams into action. The time is now.


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