Exploring Projects Where RPA Really Did Change A Business

IBA Group
Mark Hillary

Why do companies really implement Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? The technology journals endlessly talk about robotics, framed by ‘Terminator’ images, but what are the benefits reported by those companies that have already explored RPA? According to the robotics consulting firm Symphony, these are the main benefits found after RPA has been deployed:

  • 86 per cent say RPA significantly reduces costs
  • 86 per cent feel RPA reduces risk and improves compliance
  • 86 per cent believe RPA improves process effectiveness and efficiency
  • 89 per cent believe RPA improves the quality of work
  • 91 per cent say RPA saves companies time on repetitive tasks

As you might expect from a system that is focused on automation, the focus is on saving time, improving quality, and reducing risk. RPA is often talked about as a technology that can replace people, but it is smarter to think in terms of how it can help people to do their job better – to always remain inside compliance regulations or to consistently deliver processes without errors.


This feature in IT Pro explores several RPA deployments and asks why the projects were successful and whether the companies involved achieved what they expected. Examples include:

  • A car manufacturer offering a bot that could answer questions about their vehicle, such as what a light on the dashboard means. Additionally the messenger bot maintains a relationship with the customer and sends reminders such as when it is time for maintenance or tasks such as an oil change.
  • A recruitment company used a bot to analyse CVs automatically and submit only those meeting all the required criteria. This allowed the recruitment consultant to scan far more CVs than would be possible manually.
  • A bot that could add information on music concerts to a website focused on music events. Instead of manually Googling for information on events and then copying information to the database, the bot could just search and populate the database automatically.

What’s interesting here is that these are all very different projects, but they previously required a large amount of repetitive manual work – especially the recruitment and music examples. In these examples, people would be performing repetitive manual searches many times. The bot allows them to focus more on the search results, rather than wasting time performing the searches. The car example shows that with a little thought, an existing process such as sending reminders to a customer can be performed in a more interactive way that actually should help to build a closer brand to customer relationship.


HfS Research believes that the RPA market will be big – around $1.2bn by 2021 – but they also exercise some restraint. HfS believes that many of the predictions linked to RPA are ‘ridiculous’ and typical of the hype we see whenever a new technology becomes trendy. This is always a danger when new technologies become popular. They are often seen as a solution looking for a problem. Executives start asking why we don’t have an RPA strategy without identifying where RPA can actually help to improve their business processes. However, as the IT Pro case studies demonstrate, it is possible to take specific processes and to automate them so quality and efficiency is improved.

RPA is not about a robotic takeover and a complete end to all manual work, but it is an opportunity to dramatically increase efficiency in any part of your business that suffers from a need to perform repetitive manual tasks. It will be an important business strategy, but let’s stop framing discussions about robotics with ‘Terminator’ images.

Click here for information on how IBA Group can help design an RPA solution that works for your business.

IAOP Recognizes IBA Group for Delivery Excellence

IBA Group
Irina Kiptikova

The International Association of Outsourcing Professionals launched a series of blogs devoted to The Global Outsourcing 100® list that recognizes the world’s best outsourcing service providers and advisors. The blog articles are focused on the four judging categories of The Global Outsourcing 100 and on what it takes for companies not only to make the list, but to achieve distinguishing ‘stars’.

“Hip hip hooray…it’s not the New Year but it sure does feel like it around here with the buzz and excitement of IAOP’s 10th edition of The Global Outsourcing 100®!” – This is how IAOP opens its first series of blogs on The Global Outsourcing 100.

Each organization completed a rigorous, opt-in application to compete for inclusion in The Global Outsourcing 100. The achievements were assessed based on the following four distinct areas: Delivery; Programs for Innovation; Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); and Size & Growth. Those companies that have distinguished themselves receive half or full stars in one or more specific judging category.

IBA Group has been enrolled in the rating, which is actually organized as a contest since 2006. The list has been evolving and the rules have been changing, but IBA and other outsourcing providers keep applying to be among the best 100. It is not only a good chance to receive exposure. It is also an opportunity to see how the company is doing against others and to set targets for improvement.

The first blog article by IAOP is devoted to the Delivery Excellence judging category. The category includes company recognitions, customer references, company certifications, and the number of Certified Outsourcing Professionals on staff.

Delivery Excellence is a strong area for IBA Group. This year, the company received the score 7.25 for delivery excellence of the highest 8 points. It is a distinguishing accomplishment, given that the average score of the participating companies in this category was 5.86. IAOP awarded IBA Group a half star for Delivery Excellence.

Reshoring

IBA Group
Mark Hillary

The calls for companies to explore reshoring keep getting louder, led largely by a new sense of nationalism in Europe that was on show during the recent European elections. Many voters are rejecting internationalism in favour of wanting to see more business done close to home.
There has also been a change in the cost of doing business in Europe. In fact, the FT reports that the UK is now the cheapest manufacturing location in all of Western Europe.

But in all the reports about reshoring becoming something of a trend, the focus is always on manufacturing, not the IT or IT service market. Intellectual services appear to be purchased from the best possible location and the talk of reshoring this year has not changed this.
The way IT services are purchased is certainly changing. The concept of an app store being taken from the consumer market and applied to enterprise systems is becoming a reality and cloud-based computing power on demand is becoming normal.

These differences in the way that IT projects are planned and delivered will ensure that customers continue buying from the best global location for their own needs. With most technology projects today the emphasis is on the required skills – if you can’t find them nearby then it’s only natural to look overseas and hi-tech services operate on a global platform.

So it is true that Panasonic is thinking about moving manufacturing back to Japan, and Otis moved their elevator production from Mexico back to the USA, but in IT development it looks like the future will remain global – bits and bytes can be delivered online unlike cars, DVD players, or elevators.

Eastern Europe is becoming a tech hub

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

Several business magazines and journals have been focused on growth in Central and Eastern Europe over the past few months. The main angle of the observations is that the CEE region has moved far beyond the traditional role as a lower cost alternative to undertaking technology work in Western Europe and is now fostering a hub of talent that should be sought after by the world.

There are now a number of successful startup companies from the region that are dominating their own niche. Ustream from Hungary is a great example. People all over the world are using the Ustream app to live stream events direct from their phone to the Internet without ever questioning where the app came from.

And even in the more traditional IT service sector, the talent available is some of the best in the world. The CEE region regularly ranks at the top of the world for educational achievements in maths, science, and technology. In the 2013 Google Code Jam competition, 16 or the 24 finalists were from Eastern Europe.

The IT service sector is already strong and mature and the startup sector is growing. All the major European accelerators are now regularly visiting the CEE region and looking for companies to invest in. This growth in the innovative startup sector will only make the wider IT community stronger as the CEE region becomes a place that people want to include on their CV. Have you explored some of the opportunities available from companies working in the CEE region yet?

Rightshoring Decision-Making Process

On October 4, 2013, Professional Outsourcing published a video interview with Sergei Levteev, IBA Group Chairman. In the interview entitled Rightshoring Decision-Making Process, Levteev shared his perspective of rightshoring.

PO: Hello, Sergei. Could you introduce yourself please and your title and role at IBA?
SL: I’m Sergei Levteev. My position in the company is Chairman of the Supervisory Board. It is clear that I’m responsible for all strategic questions in our company, namely finance, investment, and marketing policy.
PO: Could you tell us a little bit about the services that IBA provides?
SL: We are an IT company and our main direction is to provide outsourcing for different projects in different countries. And these are various services: from programming development to support of these programs, migration, and consulting. This is our main activity.
PO: Ok. What is IBA expertise in outsourcing?
SL: First of all, it is necessary to say that IBA was a pioneer of this business in Eastern Europe and now we fulfill projects on five continents in more than 40 countries already. The size of these projects that we are doing starts from a few people and is up to thousands of men/months. And duration is also sometimes quite big: from a few weeks up to a few years. We are covering by our services various platforms. During these years, we have really created partner relations with our major customers.
PO: We are here to discuss rightshoring. What’s IBA definition of righshoring and why is it important for organizations?
SL: In my point of view, mainly you should make a choice between different destinations. In the past, outsourcing was practically equal to Indians. Now, more and more understanding is coming that companies from Eastern Europe where we are present and have our main development centers can fulfill these tasks, probably with a bigger advantage for the customer. Also, it is necessary to add that different expertise and a high level of this expertise is present in Eastern Europe just now. And it is one of the advantages of this direction when you are looking for rightsourcing.
PO: How should an organization approach the idea of rightshoring if they’re looking to outsource?
SL: First of all, to look for references about an organization with whom you are in contact. IT outsourcing is not so easy, it is not so easy to describe what’s necessary to do. There should be some level of trust and this trust is coming from the reference of organizations that already have experience of working with such company. Second point is that it’s necessary to find the right expertise. You know, it’s not possible to cover all expertise that is present in information technology. Some companies specialize in one direction, some are active in another. And it is the right expertise that should be found in various proposals. Once again, I would like to add that some level of common understanding should be found between an outsourcing company and a company which is looking for outsourcing. It means that the same words, the same descriptions should be understood absolutely similarly. This is very important.
PO: So, it’s quite a complex decision–making process then. It’s not just deciding on cost or vertical expertise or a region, is that right?
SL: Sure. Of course, cost is very important because we are on the market and should be competitive. But it’s also necessary to understand what is behind this cost. And very important here is the reference that a service provider can present to the outsourcers. Also, it’s very important to understand that nobody can provide a full range of services and every company has some specialization. It’s necessary to find the right service provider who had expertise for years in a particular technology.
PO: Finally what are the pitfalls around right shoring — what should organisations avoid?
SL: First of all, outsourcers should understand that relations with a service provider will be different than with their own staff, especially when it is an offshoring service, which is the most economical type of outsourcing. An outsourcer feels that it will be absolutely similar, if he has no experience so far. It will be necessary to create such relations from the beginning. Second point is the necessity to pay attention to the items which are not written in the contract. For example, attrition rate of the service provider. We’re proud that in our case we have one of the lowest attrition rates among IT service providers. It’s also an important point that it is necessary to create common understanding for the terminology, for any words you are putting in the contract or any agreement. Sometimes outsourcers and service providers understand the same words differently. I think these are three major points in this case.
PO: Thank you, Sergei.

How is outsourcing changing the IT market today?

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

Outsourcing is changing fast. Cloud computing, the consumerisation of IT, and trends such as BYOD have all changed the way the CIO plans for IT needs and engages with IT partners.

Outsourcing used to be about literally dealing with ‘my mess for less’. A company with an internal business or IT process would hire an expert service provider who just performed the same function – hopefully making it better or cheaper over time.

Now that IT has become so integral to the function of modern companies, the IT suppliers have become trusted delivery partners. The client company simply cannot deliver without the expertise of their IT partner.

But IT can be procured in many ways today. The iPhone has taught consumers that apps can be installed when needed and deleted when they are not. Services like Gmail have taught consumers that very important systems can be web-based – there is no need for expensive locally installed software.

All these lessons are flowing back into the enterprise and changing how companies want to procure technology. But with the supplier community so well entrenched, how is this going to change the outsourcing market?

This Computer Weekly feature explores some of the questions, but one thing is clear, expert suppliers of solutions are still needed. As these changes flow from the consumer market to the enterprise it is likely that companies will need partners to be closer and more reactive than ever – this looks good for suppliers based in Eastern Europe rather than far from their clients.

Is It Time to Stop Using the Word ‘Outsourcing’?

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

Technology industry analyst HfS Research has launched a survey asking whether they should stop using the word ‘outsourcing’ in their coverage of the industry – and even whether the technology services industry should entirely stop using the word. Is it a dirty, tainted word?

Most involved in technology outsourcing have moved on from the old days of labour arbitrage or augmentation. Service providers like IBA don’t just pitch themselves as the cheapest offshore service providers; they position themselves as the experts in whatever they do. They promote specific areas of business and expertise.

The buy-side clients commissioning work (or outsourcing the work) from the service providers know that they are buying in expert services, usually services they could not perform in-house. They don’t want the cheapest provider – they want the best for their business.

But the political rhetoric has barely changed. As the US presidential election approaches, outsourcing is still considered a dirty word for politicians and a way to score a few cheap votes by patriotically insisting that they would ban it forever. But we all know that US politicians say this at every election.

These same politicians probably calculate their budgets using Microsoft Excel and broadcast information using Cisco services. They fail to see that any large technology company is already working with global resource and any company starting today with a need for some technology development will consider hiring suppliers from all over the world.

It’s not that outsourcing is about shipping work off to cheap economies; it is that the Internet has created a global marketplace. If the marketplace is global then that can create both problems and opportunities back at home, but how come the politicians rarely focus on the opportunity of small niche companies being able to reach a bigger market?

So do you agree with HfS? Is it time the industry stopped using the term outsourcing and if so, what would be better word to replace it?

IBA Gomel celebrates 10 years

On July 27, 2011, IBA Gomel, the second largest software development center of IBA Group, celebrated its 10th anniversary. Numerous guests gathered in the Belarus Railway Sports & Cultural Center to wish all the best to IBA Gomel management and employees.

Igor Khobnya, Director of IBA Gomel, opened the event, saying: “We are celebrating our anniversary with a big family. Today, they are all here – our employees, their families, our clients, and our partners. All of them together have been creating our company during these ten years.”

See video (Russian only)

Sergei Levteev, IBA Group President, went on to say: “We are all a unified team that works for the common cause to implement projects for our customers. That is why the today’s anniversary is not only a holiday for IBA Gomel. It is a holiday for all of us. I would like to congratulate you – us – on this anniversary and to wish your commander the same confidence that he had all these years and I am sure will have in the future, and to all of you, to your families health and prosperity.”

See video (Russian only)

Valentin Kazan, IBA Group Vice President, added: “In my view, to open a development center in Gomel was a great idea. It decorated the region, and made Gomel an interesting and attractive city for young people to work here, to get pleasure, to work with their families. We receive lots of positive references from customers and I see that there is a sort of competition between Gomel and Minsk teams, and Gomel never loses and in some cases performs even better than Minsk.”

See video (Russian only)

Matthias Karius, Supplier Relationship Manager at IBM Germany, recalled a project that was implemented for a Swiss customer. IBA Gomel was able to deploy a team of 50 people in a very short time. “Ten years? Looks like it was yesterday,” he said.

See video

Winners of the online Quiz (Викторина) received prizes.

IBA Gomel celebrates 10 years IBA Gomel celebrates 10 years
IBA Gomel celebrates 10 years IBA Gomel celebrates 10 years

Miss IBA was announced.

Miss IBA

South Africa to rival Eastern Europe in outsourcing?

IBA Group

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

I was down in Cape Town, South Africa, last week. This is a market that was very strong about five years ago – they really were the place that everyone was exploring for European call centres, but then for some reason they went off the radar.

That was partly through a combination of the government reviewing how much money they spend on promoting the region, and a dearth of really good local players that could promote their offering without government money. But regardless of what happened then, it seems they are back with a bang.

South Africa is positioning itself, once again, as a key player in the BPO market with a focus on customer service, but this time exploring new areas that are different to more traditional outsourcing – social media support and agents that are working entirely off-script, with autonomy to just do what is needed to keep the customer happy.

You might ask what this has to do with Central and Eastern Europe, the general focus of this blog?

The key target for the South Africans is directly to their north, Europe. They are on the same time zone as continental Europe, and have a strong cultural and business affinity with several western European countries. They also use English as standard for education, so kids grow up using English, but other European languages are not hard to find.

So if they re-emerge from the shadows and start winning a number of BPO and IT deals that support business processes in Western Europe, it will remind many that they are still around. Some big names, such as Amazon, have shifted German and British customer support down to South Africa only recently when this might have been expected to stay in the CEE region.

It looks like the football world cup in 2010 has woken the business community to the opportunities in South Africa and the CEE customer service players are going to have to fight a little bit harder to compete.

Nasscom report from India

IBA Group

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

Another Nasscom conference is over. This annual event in Mumbai, India, has grown into the largest and possibly most important outsourcing event in the world, with over 35 countries represented and promoted – much more than just an India-only event.

 There were several formal presentations representing the advantages of a number of different world regions. These included: Colombia, Poland, Germany, UK, South Africa, MENA (Middle-East and North Africa), and Africa in general.

The conference was organised some time ago, so it was interesting to see how the political changes in the news were affecting presentations that were supposed to be only positive. The MENA presentations in particular suffered from the various democratic challenges sweeping the region. But what was interesting to note was how presentations from established regions such as South Africa were so negatively received.

South Africa made a strong play over accent. They claimed to have the most attractive accent for voice agents in the offshore outsourcing market, yet there was very little else to support their claims. Even academics were leaving their session wondering what happened to the previously significant contact centre industry in that region.

Though Poland was the only Central and Eastern European nation actually presenting on the main agenda, they became grouped with both the UK and Germany. All EU nations and all focused far more on the availability of skills, flexibility, and knowledge than just low-cost workers.

The market for offshore outsourcing has changed and matured, so it’s good to see regions such as Poland now aligning their offering with Western Europe. The wider EU has a strong case when pitching for hi-tech work – customers and suppliers have moved on.

CEE Countries Included in Gartner’s Top 30

IBA Group

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

The analyst firm Gartner has just published new research on the top locations for offshore services in 2010, based on their analysis of the past year watching the offshoring market. The top thirty countries for offshore services were rated according to 10 criteria that will help determine which locations are right for individual organisations. The 10 criteria were: language, government support, labour pool, infrastructure, educational system, cost, political and economic environment, cultural compatibility, global and legal maturity, and data and intellectual property security and privacy. The rating scale was “poor”, “fair”, “good”, “very good” and “excellent”.

So, with five possible scores across ten criteria the results are fairly comprehensive, and so it’s interesting to note that only fast-growing developing economies feature in the top thirty:

Americas: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and Peru.

Asia/Pacific: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA): Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, Mauritius, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey and Ukraine.

Seven highly developed countries have moved out of the top thirty this year – Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore and Spain. Clearly these locations remain important as nearshoring destinations, but their value compared to other regions is fast declining.

Another interesting fact is that almost a third of all the top thirty countries in the Gartner list are from the Central and Eastern European region – demonstrating that this region is not only important as a nearshoring destination, but is also developing the expertise to sell services to the world.

Additional information is available in the report entitled “Gartner’s 30 Leading Locations for Offshore Services, 2010-2011”.

2011 to be Crucial for the Sourcing Industry in Europe?

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

A new report, titled Europe’s Global Sourcing Market: Trends Growth and Prospects, has just been produced by research firm Everest in collaboration with Egypt’s IT development agency ITIDA. Naturally enough there are several mentions within the report of how suitable Egypt is as a destination for IT outsourcing, but there are many useful observations on the growth of the entire sourcing market within Europe.

Everest noted that there are many concerns from organisations about outsourcing beyond the EU because of the perceived lack of political stability and risk of sending services beyond the EU. This risk factor is also compounded by the national infrastructure of locations such as Egypt and India. Poor roads and a requirement to have electricity generators at the office all add to the cost of service.

Everest point out that IT sourcing is currently 61 per cent of the entire European market and their estimates of growth are quite aggressive. In the decade to 2020, sourcing from the UK is expected to grow 600 per cent, and from the other western European nations by over 1,000 per cent – they are less developed in this area than the UK.

But issues such as economic uncertainty means that all this expected growth may take some time to happen. Eric Simonson, managing partner, Everest Group said: “Volumes of work are currently static and companies remain reluctant to launch transformation programmes when they are nervous.”

The example of Ireland suddenly hitting a debt crisis and needing a bailout from the EU and IMF is sending a shudder of uncertainty through European companies. Though growth is still expected across Western Europe there needs to also be confidence in future growth for companies to invest in the transformation programmes that drive further outsourcing.

The next year will be crucial for everyone involved in the sourcing industry in Europe.