It’s always risky predicting the future, but as I look at the changing ‘world of work’ and the revolution that is about to take place, some things are inevitable. What we don’t know is how rapidly new technologies and ways of working will be adopted. Many digital and automation innovations already exist and I’m sure will be commonplace before we know it; driverless cars, robotic customer service agents or true artificial intelligence and learning systems.
Currently however, their widespread adoption appears cost prohibitive. But, given that technology evolution tracks Moore’s Law, the rate of progression and performance continues to accelerate, bringing these changes to us before we know it; making the new digital world of work the new norm, and in doing so displacing human workers to perform hopefully better and higher level tasks.
In the near term as the services industry prepares itself for the changes to come I make the following predictions (or should I say hunches) for 2015...
- RPA Bandwagon - There will be 15 or more players claiming to be providing true Robotic Process Automation technology before the start of the year and 25 by the end of the year. This is a bandwagon that everyone will jump on. As a consequence, those who cannot distinguish themselves as true enterprise players will find themselves swimming in a commodity tide.
- Impact Lift-Off - We will see several large Impact Sourcing deals during the year through non-conventional BPO players. The continued need for major enterprises to be seen to embrace CSR and the availability of technology to drive work to ever more remote locations will fuel this charge. Whilst the volume will appear tiny relative to the scale of the BPO industry, I predict this being one of the fastest growing sectors.
- Autopilot Mishap - I follow Gartner’s belief that algorithms will drive at least one major market disruption this year. The use of technology to monitor for a series of events in markets or in the World at large and to trigger automated actions will move beyond trading systems and be observed in multiple other market sectors.
- Offshore Plateau - Perhaps my most radical prediction for 2015 is that BPO revenue growth in India, China and the Philippines will be flat. The increasing friction from inflation and attrition will drive several landmark repatriations and automation will start to make a dent in new deals and renewals.
- Robots for Sale - I think we will see the start of some robotic process automation acquisition activity as FOMO (fear of missing out) kicks in with the large BPO and consulting markets. There are very few knowledgeable and experienced resources available in the market from a technology, marketing and implementation perspective and this will become the battlefield for talent following on from the recent mobile and digital talent war.
- Best of Times/End of Times - Opinions will become increasingly polarised around the benefits of automation versus the evil of Artificial Intelligence. The social and political ramifications are huge. Whether you follow the Elon Musk pessimism or the Carlos Slims optimistic 3-day working week, what’s inevitable is that emotions and sensitivity will rise. We can all imagine the mass hysteria following the first announcements of “disasters” at the hands of AI or robotics. Perhaps unfounded but certainly good emotive news fodder; i.e. the first death by driverless car accident or a Customer Service disaster at the hands of AI.
Predictions like this are never right, it goes with the territory. In this case I think the year ahead could be significantly more exciting than any prediction I could sensibly make. The real challenge in these rapidly changing times for the Enterprise is to know what to do in response to the vast array of choices now available. There is no substitution for good independent advice around creating speed to value but retaining the stealth and flexibility to change to the new Digital World that’s coming at warp speed. Lets get started!!
Happy New Year!