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Outsource

8
min read
November 6, 2019

RPA vs. Traditional Outsourcing - Which One Is Right for You?

Ryan Douglas

Ryan Douglas

A regular contributor to Invisible, Ryan Douglas is a B2B copywriter from Austin, TX. He helps SaaS brands generate more leads, boost conversion rates, and reduce churn via authentic content marketing strategies.
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RPA and traditional outsourcing are hot topics these days. With organizations being asked to do more with fewer resources, companies are looking for solutions to reduce costs and increase output. While both RPA and traditional outsourcing can accomplish these goals, they do so in very different ways. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of each, starting with the area people are most accustomed to - traditional outsourcing.

What is Traditional Outsourcing?

outsource work
Traditional outsourcing has long been the standard for subcontracting work.

For many years, boosting work output required hiring additional employees. Which naturally meant expanding the budget for salaries and company overhead. Nowadays, that’s no longer the case. 

With outsourcing, businesses can increase productivity without increasing employee headcounts. This common productivity strategy leverages the power of reduced offshore labor rates to improve returns on every dollar spent. 

From enterprise brands contracting out large IT projects, to SMBs adding virtual assistants for office support, outsourcing is all around us. Even food deliveries are being outsourced (domestically) via online apps and independent drivers. 

While the implementation may vary, the core principle remains the same - hiring outsiders to do work previously managed by internal teams. In most cases, to save time, money, or boost business output. Traditional outsourcing has redefined labor costs by offshoring job functions to areas where the cost of doing business is cheaper. 

Countries like India, Russia, and Thailand have reinvigorated their economies by building the infrastructure and global talent workforce to meet this demand. And by all accounts, business is booming.

 

What are the Benefits of Traditional Outsourcing?

Although outsourcing provides numerous advantages, the biggest has to be cost savings. As previously mentioned, labor rates are significantly cheaper in other parts of the world. Thus, many of the same tasks can be performed offshore for a fraction of the cost of using in-house talent

Low Cost, High Quality

The beauty of outsourcing is that many “global” workers offer the same talent upside as their onshore counterparts. This holds especially true when it comes to technical knowledge and abilities as many contractors have degrees or strong backgrounds in their specialty areas. 

Companies are often pleasantly surprised to find out just how good outsourced results are. Besides saving money and maintaining standards, outsourcing also helps to encourage faster growth. 

Stronger Employee Utilization

It’s a simple fact - employees who are bogged down in low-value technical or administrative tasks are not being fully utilized. The specific knowledge and abilities you hired them for are wasted or become watered-down (at best). 

Why pay top-dollar for great talent and then leave them to sit idle?

Traditional outsourcing allows companies to reassign everyday tasks to offshore workers so that existing employees can focus on higher-ROI assignments. The type of projects that not only create value for the organization but promote employee satisfaction as well. 

Scalability

Outsourcing also helps businesses quickly ramp up production as needed. Rather than muddle through the process of hiring and training additional staff, organizations can quickly bring new outsourced talent onboard to complete assignments. 

By utilizing contracted help, companies avoid providing benefits or training new staff.  Ready-skilled workers boost output and make project turnaround times faster. 

Most importantly, once the work is complete, organizations can choose to keep the outsourced talent in play - or end the contract with no further liability. A stark contrast to reducing the workforce in an onshore environment.

 

What About the Downsides?

While traditional outsourcing is an attractive option for many brands, there are a few considerations to keep in mind. For starters, there can be a lot of setup involved before getting underway. Besides the technical hurdles, there are several operational boundaries to define. 

These details include the scope of assignments, minimum service levels, and liability agreements for the work to be performed. Not to mention the complications of data security, privacy, or regulatory issues that may arise working with foreign entities. 

Although partnering with an experienced business process outsourcing provider can alleviate many of these concerns, it’s still important to do your homework. After all, it only takes a single data breach or violation to create a PR nightmare.  

Proximity and Collaboration

Beyond security concerns, there are other nuances that come with offshoring relationships. One of which is the impact of alternate business hours on communication and collaboration. While select providers operate on a 24/7 basis, many others do not. 

Think about a New York customer that needs help at 3 pm Eastern time. Except that it’s midnight at the call center in New Delhi. Certainly not ideal for real-time transaction support.

However, this isn’t a problem for tasks that are not time-sensitive in nature. Like performing research, copying files, or dozens of other back-end operation assignments. 

In these cases, the cost savings and added productivity outweigh any collaboration issues. However, companies must decide on a case-by-case basis if they’re willing to accept such limitations. 

Social Impact

A less tangible effect of outsourcing is how it can impact existing employee morale or public perception. When in-house talent sees work being sent offshore, it naturally creates a bit of anxiety and concern. Employees may wonder just how much work is going to be outsourced and/or if their roles could be up next.  

That’s why it’s important to bring employees into the conversation early and help them feel comfortable with the process. Another key to emphasize is that outsourcing certain tasks is in their best interest. Because it frees them from mundane work and allows them to instead focus on high-value assignments.

 

What is RPA?

rpa robotic process automation

Housed under the same umbrella, RPA is a completely different animal than its traditional outsourcing counterpart. RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation and, much as the name implies, involves using technology (rather than people) to accomplish common business assignments.

While it sounds cool, RPA does not involve actual robots. There are no tin-clad animatronics making copies for the meeting or roaming the office hallways. Instead, these helpers come in the form of “bots” - small units of programming code that reside on user desktops or centralized servers.

These bots actively “listen” to what users do on the computer - and when called upon - replicate the actions of their human counterparts. Thereby assisting employees with completing routine, process-oriented tasks that would otherwise slow them down. 

The “robotic” software is completely unobtrusive to the end-user - allowing employees to use their devices as normal while RPA does its work in the background. The concept may seem weird, but the results are nothing to sneer at.  

What Are the Benefits of Using RPA?

Once properly configured, RPA bots can offer significant improvements in terms of both operational costs and business output. As stated, there are some startup costs involved with getting RPA going, but it’s very affordable to maintain afterward. The most common expenses typically arise from infrastructure changes or programming updates. 

Over time, RPA’s lightning-fast automation can result in huge savings as compared with recruiting, training, and paying for additional employees. And there are no benefit payments, vacation and sick time allocations, or overhead costs for workspaces or personal equipment. 

Once implemented, software bots require very few resources to continue operating. 

Higher Output

Along the same lines, robotic process automation offers more productive and predictable end results. While people and machines alike can both do exceptional work, humans need downtime. We require sleep, food, and occasionally get sick. That’s not the case with robots. RPA bots can run 24/7 with little or no downtime.

Bots don’t care what time it is, how cold the weather feels, or who won the big game last night. All they want to do is work. Thus, many brands launch their RPA armies at night to crunch numbers or process data while employees are away. 

In doing so, they set their teams up for success the following day. With all the grunt work completed ahead of time, employees can hit the ground running on high-value assignments. 

Consistency

And we can’t talk about performance without mentioning consistency. 

Robotic process automation is a great option to promote compliance and strict adherence to guidelines.

Because of their inherent design, bots complete transactions based on programmed flowcharts. If the answer is “yes”, one sequence of events happens. Should the answer be “no”, an entirely different path is followed. 

This type of regimented processing ensures that organizations get predictable results each and every time. Bots won’t deviate from standards - if something isn’t right, the process ends or the program throws an error. A huge contradiction when you consider the many “grey areas” of human interpretation.

While one person might see a situation as acceptable, another may view it as completely wrong. Human emotion is not rule-driven like robots. 

This, of course, is a poor fit for tasks requiring critical thought or creativity. But for repetitive work - with clearly defined inputs and outputs - RPA makes for a perfect solution. 

Speed

Last but not least, bots are fast. Very fast. 

Estimates vary, but studies have shown that RPA can be 3 - 5X faster than manual input. Multiply this over the course of thousands of transactions and you can imagine the results. In fact, McKinsey Digital reports organizations that adopt RPA can see an ROI of 30 - 200% in the first year alone.

Numbers that are hard to ignore.

 

Are There Limitations With RPA?

As amazing as robotic process automation is there are still drawbacks to consider. Specifically, when it comes to decision making and ongoing support. 

For starters, RPA is a rules-based technology. That means every part of its operations must be explicitly spelled out in order to work correctly. Tasks that are repetitive, employ consistent data structures, and follow the same path on each iteration are ones that work best.

For example, copying entries from an online form into a customer database. As long as there’s data validation built into the form itself, bots can quickly scan the information and merge it into a database record. At a pace that’s considerably faster and more reliable than humans could ever hope to accomplish. 

However, problems arise when RPA is asked to make decisions without detailed guidance. What if some information is missing but is keyed as mandatory in the database? Will the machines know what to do? Probably not. 

Although RPA is a form of data intelligence, it’s not as advanced as full-blown Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI can “think” for itself in situations where there are limited instructions or no clear path for execution. 

RPA, on the other hand, does only what it’s told. 

The main reason RPA is so popular is the incredible amount of value provided for each dollar. Robotic process automation is a low-cost way to supplement your talent pool, increase productivity, and reduce errors. All without the expense of hiring additional staff or investing in a large-scale AI solution. 


Can RPA Be Combined with Traditional Outsourcing?

Absolutely. In fact, pairing the two makes for an ideal combination. RPA is a perfect way to save costs and increase output, but only in certain situations. Like reducing manual labor on repetitive, high-volume tasks that could be done better by others. 

Yet, in situations where creativity, critical thinking, or a personal touch is required, humans still come out on top. By merging RPA and outsourcing, companies can eliminate much of the “busy work” that steals employees’ time without dehumanizing the brand.

This provides additional bandwidth to focus on high-ROI tasks that are more enjoyable for employees while providing increased value to the organization. 

Merging outsourcing and RPA maximizes returns on each external dollar spent

In this merged model, offshore talent provides creative and decision-making abilities, while bots handle simple tasks (which are better suited for automation anyway). As a result, outsourcing firms can provide deliverables faster - and of higher-quality - without charging extra for their services. 

The benefits are even more evident when partnering with an established BPO provider. 

Companies like Invisible Technologies manage global talent pools of highly skilled, vetted workers who are available when you need them most. We coordinate all the legwork of recruiting, training and overseeing your new digital workforce so you can focus on growing your business.

Just tell us what you need and we’ll take care of the rest. 

We also have in-depth experience configuring and supporting RPA environments and offer cloud-based outsourcing service. There’s no software to install or hardware to maintain and our process library includes hundreds of common automation solutions. 

You can be up and running today and start enjoying the benefits of RPA tomorrow.

Intelligent Automation That Works for You

In the end, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for business process outsourcing. Brands must determine which activities are simple and predictable enough to make use of RPA technology. At the same time, organizations have to remain cognizant of what processes still require a human touch. 

Carefully mapping out which tasks fall into each bucket is what creates a successful program. Partnering with automation specialists like Invisible makes the process dead-simple. Our team of experts have vast experience in work outsourcing and understand what it takes to make these emerging technologies work. 

Our hybrid RPA and outsourcing solutions combine the best of both worlds and deliver maximum value to our clients.

We offer pre-configured options for many common business tasks and customized solutions for hundreds of others. 

Straightforward pricing plans let you select the service package you need with all available features included. You can switch plans at any time to scale up (or down) as much as necessary. 

Simply put - Invisible offer best in class service at prices the competition can’t touch. 

If you’ve ever considered outsourcing or RPA, there’s never been a better time to get started. Contact us today and one of our dedicated account reps will walk you through the entire process. It’s quick, easy, and you’ll love the results.  

Make your outsourcing dollars go further - with Invisible.

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