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Robotic automation would soon alter the world of IT Services procurement

Espresso-live Speakers
by Sakthi Prasad
3 April 2014

IT helpdesk services, which are typically manned by hundreds of trained workers, are ubiquitous in all organizations. Typical distress calls to a helpdesk would range from malfunctioning printers to a user's inability to access a PC. Hundreds of man hours are spent solving these teething issues day-in and day-out. And user support is mostly provided via phones.

How will the world look like if such services are automated, completely removing the need for human intervention? Or to be more precise, does it make sense to employ robots to help reset an employee's mailbox password?

Robotic Automation, a process dubbed by experts as a "disruptive technology," can come in handy for category managers looking to save money as well as manpower resources. Such automation can potentially save up to 40% in labor costs.

An offshore human FTE costs 30,000 USD per year, whereas a virtual software engineer or a robotic FTE costs only 15,000 USD, which results in straight 50% savings for an organization, according to Beroe analysts V. Sathwik Mohan and Saheli Chakraborty Hazra.

For example, TNT Courier services implemented robotic automation to manage password reset and had saved about 1.1 million pounds.

Besides costs, robots can also save on time. It was found that a human resource was taking an average of 12 minutes to resolve an issue. In contrast, an automated system took an average of 4 minutes to resolve similar issues.

Mohan and Hazra have also estimated that an automated robot was almost never wrong, giving it a near 100 percent accuracy.

Of course, there are always risks involved when humans completely depend on machines. Remember HAL 9000 - the menacing fictional character in Arthur C. Clarke's "2001: Space Odyssey" that was in turn immortalised on silver screen by Stanley Kubrick?

In the novel and the film, HAL 9000 was shown as developing "consciousness" of its own and ends up jeopardizing the space mission helmed by protagonist Dave.

Besides the possibility of HAL 9000-type rogue intelligence, there is another risk associated with the maturity of business process. A robot can be taught to handle simple and standardized process but can fall short if a process is complex and involved natural language capabilities.

Yet another challenge is Vendor Lock-in, which is one of the common challenges faced in business process outsourcing.

On an average, an automation contract could last anywhere between 2 and 4 years. The process know-how is completely disclosed to the automation vendor and this acts as a barrier in switching between vendors. This risk can be overcome by designing contracts with clauses of IP retention for the process know-how, according to Mohan and Hazra.

Network intrusion also poses a challenge to companies looking to implement robotic automation. Hackers can always play havoc if they gain access to critical systems. And one needs fool proof security protocols to eliminate this threat.

After weighing the costs and benefits, it would always make sense for IT procurement managers to go for robotic automation where ever necessary.

Hazra and Mohan say that as of now only non-voice helpdesk process is automated. Perhaps in the next 2 years, natural language processing capabilities could emerge as a big force and completely change the way humans interact with machines. When this technology reaches maturity, it would aid the automation of voice-based processes.

Also, in about 6 to 8 years, artificially intelligent entities would be ready to design new software and also automatically carry out the testing process. Cognizant Technology Solutions and Accenture have followed Infosys in adopting platforms to automate their Infrastructure services, Hazra and Mohan say.

To cut a long story short: The robots are coming and IT procurement managers will have to watch out for them.

To watch the webinar on the same topic, please click on the following link: http://beroeinc.co/Ohfeyt

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