Last month, amongst fierce competition from some of the most prominent outsourcing leaders, Symphony’s COO, David Brain, won the National Outsourcing Association’s ‘Consultant of the Year’ award. This prestigious award not only highlights Symphony’s role as a leader in RPA and service delivery but is also a testament to David Brain’s distinguished achievements that are shaping the industry. On the same day, before receiving the award, he was interviewed about RPA and the future of outsourcing. The video of the interview below is an opportunity to catch a glimpse of his insights and thought process.
My name is David Brain, I’m the cofounder and Chief Operating Officer of Symphony Ventures.
[Question] Will robotic process automation be superseded by other technologies in coming years, or is RPA here to stay permanently?
Yes, I don’t think it’s a case of new technology superseding, but rather, complementing and working with the existing RPA capabilities. RPA is a fantastic toolset to really deliver automation of transactional, rule-based work, and that work is very prolific across service centers and companies worldwide. Essentially, automating that still leaves a huge opportunity across the organizations to embark on those projects, and then complementing that with more AI and cognitive tools really helps to then address the more judgement-based activities.
[Question] Can you tell us something we don’t already know about RPA?
I think there are really 3 immediate things that come to mind.
- The first is that it’s a lot harder than people give it credit for. It doesn’t mean it’s doomed to failure. In fact, we’ve seen a large number of very successful projects. But, they are projects which require more investment upfront and understanding the business case, working with the IT functions in order to get the governance in place and also making sure that the understanding of the processes and exceptions is thoroughly thought through before embarking on the project.
- The second is that we are seeing a lot of opportunities around processes and organizations that have not embarked on offshoring or outsourcing. That really opens up the window for where RPA can start to have more of an impact on the more onshore, retained functions that have resisted the trends to date.
- The last thing is that it is not so much that we’ve seen around removing headcount. It’s very much being deployed with our clients around where they’re looking to grow the business or achieve higher quality or reduce attrition. In many of those cases, the people have been either able to be released through natural attrition or have gone on to more fulfilling roles within the organization.
[Question] Other than RPA, what’s the one upcoming trend or technology that will most disrupt outsourcing?
I think there’s quite a few here. I don’t think it’s necessarily one technology, but a lot of technologies that come to form this trend. The trend is now going to be more about customer experience and user experience. Combining RPA with the other automation technologies, some of the AI and cognitive, as well as other commercial models such as as-a-service delivery, will enable organizations to bring new propositions to the market, which would compete with the existing BPO services that are available today.
[Question] The worlds of outsourcing and digital are colliding – what’s your main word of advice for those looking to come out on top?
It’s an interesting question. We work with many customers, both the end organizations themselves as well as BPO service firms, and the advice to both is to be very realistic about what the benefits are you are going to achieve from this, and what it’s going to take to achieve them. Some people see RPA, still, as a ‘silver bullet,’ they think it’s very quick to implement, but also think it is going to be the answer to increasing revenue and increasing margins within firms. Whereas realistically, it’s a cheaper, more effective way of delivering services. I think firms need to take a very considered approach as to how they build out their capability, both in terms of what technology they choose and also in terms of the processes that are right for the service. Symphony’s part, working with these clients, is very much about establishing that capability and ensuring successful pilots which then lead on to be larger implementations.
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