BPO vs RPA - Which Option is Right for You?

October 22, 2019
min to read
Ryan Douglas
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BPO and RPA are two of the most popular business productivity solutions available today. Even if you’ve never heard of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) or Robotic Process Automation (RPA), chances are you’ve already encountered them at some point. Whether interacting with a chatbot, speaking with outsourced tech support, or receiving an automated text about your order, these two technologies were an integral part of the experience.

While BPO and RPA both fall under the umbrella of outsourced services, each has distinct advantages in terms of how (and when) to implement them. Companies often have questions surrounding their usage such as: “Does one work better than the other?” Not necessarily. It depends on the context of the application. Or, “Is it possible to combine both?”. Absolutely. Some of the biggest benefits come from marrying the two processes together. 

We’ll talk more about how to integrate them in a moment, but first, let’s take a look at each category individually. BPO is up first.


What is BPO?

BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) is a labor reduction strategy designed to reduce costs and increase output. The core component of BPO is identifying mundane or repetitive processes and outsourcing them to other areas where labor is cheaper (but still of high-quality). While in use for decades, BPO has grown exponentially the last few years due to advancements in technology and communication. 

Common examples of BPO services include data entry, bookkeeping and accounting, and customer service. Generally, most common back office, recruiting, sales or marketing tasks can be improved by outsourcing.

Nowadays, companies have access to a talented global workforce that can operate from virtually anywhere. People that can complete assignments quickly and safely using managed productivity platforms. And while organizations can (and sometimes do) implement their own outsourcing programs, working with an established BPO provider often makes more sense.

BPO firms are typically better at managing the outsourcing process itself because of their vast resources and experience. Not to mention that most providers already have templated models for frequently requested services. Experienced BPO vendors also have large pools of employee talent to pull from and knowledge about training staff and working with local IT personnel. 

This type of in-depth experience allows BPO vendors to thrive with process management and provide maximum client value for each outsourced assignment.


What Are the Benefits of BPO?

BPO offers a number of worthwhile business process outsourcing benefits for organizations of all sizes. To start with, offloading repetitive, mundane tasks allows companies to better utilize existing resources. Considering the average knowledge worker salary is going up each year, asking them to input data or collect email addresses is not the best use of their time. 

By outsourcing common tasks, employees can be reassigned to high-value projects that deliver better ROI for the organization.

Additionally, putting workers in roles they enjoy improves morale and makes for a more productive workforce. After all, candidates are hired for their unique knowledge, skills, and experience that drives business growth. Not to spend hours filling out forms or updating spreadsheets.

Along with the prioritization of talent resources, BPO also helps to reduce expenses. In large part, because wages and the cost of living are significantly lower in other parts of the world. However, the talent level of offshore workers remains high. 

Business Process Outsourcing leverages this disparity by helping global professionals connect with employers who need their services. It also allows local companies to drastically reduce labor costs by exporting routine business tasks to others. 

Organizations and their clients receive the same high-quality service they’re used to. But without the added costs or hassle of hiring and training additional employees.

What is RPA?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a specialized form of outsourcing that uses software robots (AKA bots) to complete basic tasks normally handled by end-users. While the term “robots” can be confusing, there are no artificial life forms involved. 

RPA is programming code designed to capture and replicate human activity

These bots capture and interpret data between IT applications to update databases, complete transactional processing, or supplement back-office operations. One of the smartest aspects of RPA is that it works silently, unobtrusively in the background. 

Once a user shows the software what to do, the bot takes over and repeats that task until told otherwise. This allows employees to keep working on more thought-intensive assignments while RPA crunches numbers or updates files on their behalf. 

Although bots are ideal “copycats” to reduce monotonous work, they can’t actually “think” for themselves. This type of capability is reserved for more advanced (and expensive) forms of AI (Artificial Intelligence). 

RPA is dependent on clearly defined rules and instructions to operate correctly. Thus, robotic process automation is best suited for simple, repetitive tasks with predictable inputs and outputs. Typically, ones that require minimal oversight to complete.

Nonetheless, RPA is a reliable, economical way to support daily operations in modern businesses.


What Are the Benefits of RPA?

Companies who implement robotic process automation report massive gains in terms of time and cost savings. Along with major boosts in productivity, accuracy, and efficiency. Just like with Business Process Outsourcing, RPA enhances the existing capabilities of an organization while providing the extra bandwidth needed for growth. 

While some may view investing in intelligent automation as merely another business expense, nothing could be further from the truth. The ROI of a well-designed RPA program pays for itself many times over. McKinsey - the global management consulting firm - reports that RPA investment returns can be between 30 and 200 percent in the first year alone.  

Once RPA resources are set up and running, the cost for maintenance and upkeep are minimal as well. Especially in comparison to hiring and training additional employees.

RPA Improves Output Efficiency

Another area in which robotic process automation shines is speed and productivity. Because data is processed in real-time against established rules, the resulting output is instantaneous. Automation means there is no decision-making involved or reason for delay. 

Business output is also improved by the fact that bots can work 24/7. They don’t need sleep, breaks, and the only nourishment required is more data. Long after employees have gone home for the night, bots remain to update files and generate reports for the next business day. 

Just like with business process outsourcing, RPA makes better use of employees’ time also. Instead of wasting hours on trivial tasks, bots can handle the tedious busywork and allow humans to focus on other high-value assignments.  

It should be noted that RPA is best applied to stable, well-aligned processes that have documented performance metrics. These types of use cases are easier to implement and provide a good baseline for measuring output quality and performance. They’re also easier to troubleshoot should any problems arise.

RPA Generates High-Quality Work

While the main focus is on cost and speed, RPA also helps to generate better results. Robotic process automation is a great option for businesses looking to reduce human errors or standardize workflows. After all, no matter how well-trained employees are, it’s virtually impossible to go about each task in the exact same manner. 

Small differences don’t necessarily mean better or worse, but they do create inconsistency. And inconsistencies are often the difference between delighting one customer and infuriating the next. 

RPA ensures there is no deviation from established guidelines. 

Bots follow a predefined set of rules to handle data and execute against them the same way every time. While humans occasionally forget, have lapses in judgment, or simply make a mistake, bots are immune to these problems. 

If the input data does not conform to standards, an exception will occur. Thus, if the rules are configured correctly, outputs remain precise and predictable. Companies are able to complete as many transactions as needed without having to worry about performance or data integrity. 

Not only is this great for putting out a reliable product, but it also helps to maintain compliance. If data does not conform to a predefined checklist, it gets rejected.

Lastly, robotic process automation is easy to scale. Once processes are in place and working, adding more bots is easy. Brands can upsize (or downsize) to match capacity without needing major infrastructure revisions or additional personnel.

Combining BPO and RPA Maximizes Results

Although BPO and RPA are technically different methods of outsourcing, they still share many positive commonalities. Companies who are able to successfully combine the two experience benefits that don’t exist when used separately.

For instance, RPA has near limitless capacity. With the right number of bots in place, organizations can process mountains of data with incredible speed, precision, and accuracy. However, robotic process automation does have one significant limitation - bots don’t know what to do unless they’re told. 

They can’t natively interpret data and are unable to make critical decisions. 

They follow the instructions of their programming code and nothing else. If a situation arises where instructions are missing (or incorrect), the bot’s behavior may be unpredictable. Often generating errors or - in some cases - nothing at all.

For these types of scenarios, keeping humans in the loop is critical for success. Support personnel can step in and correct programming issues as they arise. They can also perform quality control checks to ensure bot output is in line with expectations. 

Humans are also needed should any system changes require a workflow update - whether it be from a new business process, modification, or removal.  

Remember, bots are designed to manage the tedious, repetitive tasks that employees typically want to avoid. Tasks like updating records, moving or copying files, performing computations, or sending messages or updates. 

However, the purpose of RPA is to complement knowledge workers - not replace them.

BPO Balances RPA

Employees will always be needed to manage the unique situations where creative or critical thinking is a non-negotiable. Like sensitive “human” transactions that demand empathy or require people skills. Such as walking a client through a series of troubleshooting steps to resolve a problem. Or independently weighing the pros and cons of a major decision before choosing a course of action. 

These are typical scenarios where there’s no substitute for human intelligence. 

As mentioned earlier, bots will simply halt or produce errors if there are problems with the input data. Due to the nature of RPA, an unresolved issue with one entry or transaction can be easily duplicated and spread amongst others. Again, a spot where humans are needed to resolve such exceptions and keep the process moving. 

Think of RPA is a digital productivity machine that hums along the majority of the time. Yet, if there is a breakdown in equipment - or some type of backup on the digital assembly line - the machines can’t fix themselves. That’s when the people managing them come into play and must intervene. 

Bottom line - BPO and RPA complement one another. 

RPA provides the speed, precision, and accuracy to drive growth and cust costs. While BPO reduces labor expenses and effort for tasks that can’t be automated or require a human touch to be effective. Combining both services is an optimal way to do business.


Working With a BPO/RPA Service Provider

One of the biggest concerns about implementing a new outsourcing/automation solution is how to get started. Management may be keen on the idea, but it often falls on IT’s shoulders to get the job done. While in-house technology teams have an understanding of standard business solutions, outsourcing and automation is typically not in their wheelhouse. 

Most technology professionals don’t have specialized knowledge about BPO or RPA. Even if they do, the majority lack the physical resources or training required to implement the program. As is the case with other business processes, when the task can be done better, faster, or cheaper elsewhere outsourcing makes sense. 

This is where partnering with an experienced BPO service provider can deliver results.

Companies like Invisible Technologies maintain a global workforce of highly skilled talent to maximize outsourcing dollars. These on-demand employees are vetted and background checked to ensure the utmost in safety and reliability. 

Working with an RPA vendor, companies avoid the hassle of sourcing and training new talent. And costs are controlled since there’s no additional expense for office overhead or employee salaries. Everything - set up, service, and support - is included in a single flat rate. 

Not to mention that Invisible’s outsourcing and automation services are cloud-based programs. That means no capital expenses to purchase equipment nor any software to buy or maintain. 

Best of all, you’re never locked into a single option or service package. With the ability to scale as much as needed, brands can add (or remove) service at any time.


BPO and RPA - Achieve More While Doing Less

In the end, BPO and RPA are both great outsourcing models. Each is designed to boost productivity by offloading work and automating common business processes. Although these two services are frequently paired together, the key is in understanding how each can best be applied to an organization. 

For companies looking to increase output without major infrastructure or process changes, RPA is a terrific investment. However, for tasks that require business intelligence or human interaction, BPO is the way to go. 

No matter which option you choose, working with a solutions provider like Invisible is a smart choice. We help brands leverage their existing resources to grow bigger and faster - without added investments in human capital or additional technology.

Whether you’re ready to dive headfirst into automation - or just dip your toes in the outsourcing pool - Invisible can help. We offer customizable process automation solutions for most sales, recruiting, as well as comprehensive support for insurance operations. Our flat-rate pricing packages include unlimited users and you can upgrade or downgrade service at any time.

Contact us today and one of our dedicated account reps will be glad to walk you through the process. Whether you're looking for strategy, implementation, or managed service solutions our team of experts is ready to assist.

Hayley Darden Marketing Invisible Technologies
Ryan Douglas
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