The London School of Economics is stepping up to examine the emerging trend of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

To help separate RPA reality from marketing hype, the school’s Outsourcing Unit has begun producing a series of case studies examining the use of RPA by customers of Blue Prism, one of the first organizations to bring RPA software to the BPO market.

One of the challenges of marketing RPA and convincing organizations to adopt it, or at the very least, pilot-test it, is clearly defining RPA its capabilities.

In their first case study, a look at Blue Prism RPA used in a telecom company Telefónica O2, LSE professors and researchers describe RPA as the “automation of service tasks that were previously performed by humans … to be clear–we are not talking about technology enablement where technologies like desktop scripts assist human agents but actual software automation that replaces some or all the work previously performed by people.”

Telefónica O2 rolled out its RPA project in waves, beginning with 20 software “robots” (one robot = one Blue Prism software license). In the next wave, the number of robots were increased to 75. Today, the company uses more than 160 robots for automating a large number of processes. The processes include credit checks, order processing, customer reassignment, SIM swaps and customer data updates. As of Q1 2015, process involving software robots made up 35 percent of all back-office transactions.
The researchers report that by adopting RPA, Telefónica O2 has reduced the number of FTE’s require for these processes by “hundreds.” The payback period on the RPA rollout took 12 months. The three-year return on investment is measured between 650 and 800 percent, with Telfónica O2 reporting £950,00 in net benefits.

In interviews with Telefónica O2 managers, the researchers learned that in many cases turnaround time for key processes had been lowered from days to minutes, significantly improving the customer experience.

“I’ve spent nearly three decades analyzing various business approaches and systems,” said LSE Professor Leslie Willcocks, who is leading the Outsourcing Unit’s investigation of RPA’s real-world results. “What RPA offers can be transformative when it comes to streamlining business operations in an efficient, accurate and secure way. We research it because it’s going to be hugely impactful, but is still developing and can go in different ways. I’m eager to continue speaking with major customers and providers to dispense with many myths and pinpoint how RPA really can be leveraged to optimize business performance.”

Follow this link to download the Telefónica O2 case study and other case studies from the Blue Prism web site.