People 'n' Issues

Robots in your business

June 3rd, 2016
Robotics and automation technologies present new opportunities for South African organisations to redefine their Business Process Services (BPS) functions, say RAJESH SEHGAL and GAVIN HOLME of Wipro.
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With robotics at the centre, organisations are able to scale faster, enter new markets or industries and become more fluid and responsive to customer needs.

Robotics is driving what we could succinctly refer to as an evolution from ‘efficiency’ to ‘effectiveness’

What does this mean?

Firstly, robotics offers far greater value than just simplifying and automating what were previously manual processes. It sets the scene for cognitive analytics: where systems start detecting patterns, learning of their own accord and providing new insights into potential business opportunities.

Secondly, it enables the smoother flow of operations in increasingly complex business ecosystems. By being able to tightly integrate internal business silos and external business partners, organisations enjoy the benefits of true collaboration.

For example, by analysing buying trends and automatically sending data to suppliers or partners, firms can optimise their supply chains and distribution networks.

Thirdly, by connecting with an organisation’s legacy systems, robotics can unearth hidden value from the data lying in this infrastructure. Tasks that were previously too complex as they required system integration, were time-consuming, or expensive for humans to perform, can now be performed at a fraction of the cost by the intelligent application of robotics.

And finally, robotics-focused BPS allows firms to elevate parts of their workforce to higher-value roles.

By detecting patterns and automatically plugging into workflow environments, BPS removes many of the lower-value operational activities from staff. Human capital resources can be devoted to higher-value strategic business management instead of operational efficiency.

Bigger opportunities

Taking a broader perspective, robotics-based BPS promises to realise the vision of South Africa becoming a leading BPS outsourcing hub for the rest of the world.

Factors like local currency devaluation, strong English-language skills, similar time zones to Western Europe and good connectivity offer South Africa an excellent potential to become a net exporter of BPS skills and services.

Through our local operations and various training endeavours, Wipro is playing a catalysing role in achieving this ambition.

For example, of the 1450 Wipro staff delivering services for African customers, approximately 300 are from previously disadvantaged South African backgrounds. Wipro absorbs newly-fledged graduates and invests in rigorous business and technical training programmes and have found employment within the organisation delivering value to our customers.

This is just example of how by developing local skills, and then combining those with advancements in robotics and automation, Africa can very quickly become a premier destination for outsourced BPS services.

Whether we are discussing robotics within the organisation, or more broadly at a national level, now is the right time to seriously start considering the technology and how it can enhance the region’s companies, government departments and the economy at large.

Robotics-based BPS will continue to evolve at rapid rates over the coming years and those that adopt the technology earlier will have a clear advantage over their peers.

* Rajesh Sehgal, Global Head of Quality & Process Excellence, Wipro BPS and Gavin Holme, Country Head, Africa, Wipro Technologies

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