Offshored business tasks may return home, thanks to advanced process automation 

Business process automation technologies are poised to lure back work that was offshored to take advantage of low labor costs, according to two professors from Babson College, a private business school in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Babson Distinguished Professor Thomas H. Davenport, and Bala Iyer, Professor and Chair of Babson’s  Technology, Operations and Information Management Division, shared their insights on the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry in a recent CIO Journal article, “Bringing Outsourcing Back–to Machines.”

Driving this relocation trend are smarter, more powerful automation technologies, which many industry players have been marketing as “robotic process automation” (RPA). Davenport and Iyer say they don’t like that term, and prefer to call it simply, “process automation.”

If computers, programmed with advanced algorithms and capable of the processing power necessary for artificial intelligence applications, can perform tasks now outsourced to humans, then the work should begin to migrate to countries where automation is taking root and spreading, the professors say.

“As it turns out, the U.S. is the leader in automation, as well as the biggest consumer of offshore outsourcing,” they write. “That suggests a tectonic shift in the economic landscape for outsourcing buyers and sellers.”

Some examples of what companies are doing with process automation include disk space monitoring and file management, rebooting frozen PCs, and creating new employee email accounts.

Davenport and Iyer say another possible relocation driver will be electricity costs and the availability of eco-friendly energy sources. Automation’s biggest cost may be the power needed to run and cool data centers, giving countries with green power production a major advantage.

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