Whether it is a home robot that vacuums your floor, a driverless car, a flying drone or voice recognition software on your phone, robots are emerging in our lives as never before. Researchers confirm that the presence of robots will eventually bridge the digital-physical divide and dramatically impact human lives.

For example according to Horses for Sources’ recent study BPO on the Brink of A New Generation: Technology Transformation, 47% of BPO buyers indicate automation as a critical component of the BPO capabilities, which, until recently, had not that often been in the conversations between buyers, service providers and advisors. 

NASA astronaut shakes hand with his new assistant: Robonaut 2 that is capable of handling a wide variety of tools and machine interfaces.
Source: NASA

This seems to prove that process automation may be a significant game-changer in BPO. But is the industry ready for robotics? Has it seen this army of Robots on the horizon? Or… maybe they are already there?

I think that the key requirement in Finance and Accounting Outsourcing is to understand and align with the CFO’s agenda.
The core principles and outcomes sought after are likely to be common to all CFOs irrespective of the type of business they are in. They will look for a scalable platform supporting growth, protection against risks, strong cash and working capital position and they will want to spend less time on the basics of accounting and more time in supporting and developing strategy and driving key business initiatives.
New technologies such as robotics and process automation are already being used within BPO to enable CFOs to focus on their strategic activities while achieving lower costs, additional efficiency and productivity.

But what exactly do robotics and process automation mean?

Robotics and process automation allow business users to quickly and accurately automate simple and rule-based processes in order to drive efficiency and minimize errors associated with manual data entry.  

We have been delivering business process automation for some years and have created software ‘robots’ that improve operational efficiency, effectiveness and strengthen controls for our clients. Lever 5 of Capgemini’s Global Enterprise Model contains a blueprint which looks holistically at technology and includes robotics as well as other emerging technologies.
My belief however is that robotics, exciting though the topic is, are only part of the answer to the more fundamental and strategic change that is happening – the integration of all the layers of support functions into a fully-integrated platform containing services, processes and technology. This is an offer that would provide CFOs an ‘Amazon-like’ or ‘supermarket-like’ experience when it comes to their finance function. Imagine a CFO swiping a credit card to buy invoice processing services, or using biometric recognition to buy an improvement in DSO….  
Robots, invisible but with a prominent place in the technology layer of the integrated stack, will of course support the achievement of the CFO’s goals and an improved buying experience. Maybe in the future an artificial smile may even appear on robotic faces from the pride of a job well done, a business outcome met… and maybe they will share their pride with one of you while sipping freshly brewed, fragrant and delicious coffee data from a fancy digital coffee mug…
However the true test of their artificial intelligence could be whether they become frustrated when their homo sapiens colleagues keep forgetting that processes must be fixed first before automation and when they have to correct the same and same mistakes again in their robotic automated way!

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