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.

Outsourcing Trends Becoming Important in 2015

IBA Group
Mark Hillary

I was recently asked about the classic price vs service argument by a consultant who advises on IT outsourcing. I replied that I am surprised there is still a debate over this. You can compare IT supplier based on the quality of what they do and then compare equally competent suppliers on price, but price is not a primary variable that should be used to compare companies.

After all, if the service delivered does not work then how much have you saved? The price debate reminds me of where IT outsourcing was a decade ago – it was surprising to be asked about this in 2015 when most organisations have a far more mature approach to finding expert partners.

I looked at CIO magazine to see what they considered the key trends in IT outsourcing would be this year. They published a good summary at the beginning of the year and never once mentioned that price would be an important comparison point.

Several of the trends they identified are very important though and I don’t feel that they are being given enough focus in the business and technology media:

1. A focus on outcomes: outcome based pricing has been around for years, but is often focused on BPO outsourcing where specific business processes can be priced. A focus on the outcome rather than process of delivering IT will be how many projects are charged in future.

2. The business ordering direct. The CIO used to manage all information systems, but now the business units are doing far more ordering direct because many solutions can be delivered using apps or the cloud, therefore not impacting on the infrastructure managed by the CIO. This means that suppliers need to develop new relationships and change their sales strategy.

3. Analytics taking over. In areas such as CRM and customer service technology systems data is all that matters now. This approach to data-led decision-making is affecting many business functions including the more creative ones such as sales and marketing.

The IT outsourcing trends are changing and developing as the IT services space develops, but sometimes it seems that the advisors cannot escape some of the old debates.

The future for IT – apps in the cloud?

IBA Group
Mark Hillary

Technology is continuously evolving at such a rapid rate – it is impossible to predict with any certainty how it will impact on our lives in coming years. When people make predictions about how technology will evolve, try this exercise. Look back ten years and think of all the technologies you take for granted today: social networks, smart phones, mobile Internet, tablet computing. None of them existed even a decade ago – or were so nascent an elite few were the only users.

Think back a decade more and you will find yourself at the birth of the web. Adverts for major consumer products did not even feature URLs until the late 1990s. Now you see how difficult it is to predict what technologies will be common by 2015.

There will always be winners and losers in the search for new ways to use technology to achieve business success. The downfall of companies such as Nokia, Kodak, and Blackberry illustrate the consequences of not understanding how society is changing and using new technologies.

But one development that is likely to evolve further is technology outsourcing. As the world becomes more complex, it is even more unlikely that companies will retain the right kind of expertise internally. IT services will be outsourced more often because only the IT companies understand the complex technological solutions – rather than some of the drivers we saw a decade ago, such as labour arbitrage.

The globalization of IT is itself becoming more complex anyway. There are still IT service companies all over the world offering their services, but now they don’t always need to directly contract with a customer to provide a specific service. The cloud-based model allows service providers to offer a specific service – storage or computing power – that can be turned on and off as desired. The app store model many people use on their phone can also be used in the enterprise to create an environment where end users on the business front-end (not the IT department) can choose and install technology solutions themselves.

Change is taking place fast in the IT services market and nobody can predict how it will look in ten years, but one thing is for certain, IT experts need to offer a variety of delivery methods because enterprise IT is borrowing many of the ideas that consumers are already familiar with.

Understanding Big Data

IBA Group
Mark Hillary

Big Data is a subject we have explored often on this blog because it’s an area where IBA has extensive experience and knowledge, but it is often difficult to explain. How big does a database need to be before it can be considered ‘Big Data’ and why do we need this separate terminology to refer to manipulating and analysing this data when relational databases have been in use for decades?

One example that goes a long way to answering these questions is the way that customer service is changing – especially for retailers. Products used to have a phone number and email address that customers could use to reach the manufacturer or retailer – usually to complain after a purchase.

Now, customers use online forums, review sites, Twitter, Facebook as well as the more traditional and direct channels such as online chat, emails, or a voice call. Customers are not always directly contacting a brand when they comment on a product, yet they usually expect a response.

Exploring this mass of information is a classic Big Data example. The retailers want to connect together all these communication channels into an ‘omnichannel’, yet this is impossible when they are considered to be regular databases.

If a customer emails a complaint, then tweets about the problem because their email is not answered and then finally calls because neither tweet nor email has been answered then the ideal situation for a retailer is that the agent on the phone knows about the earlier email and tweet.

But to make this work is not easy. The company has no control over Facebook or Twitter – it’s not internal data. And how can comments on a tweet be connected to a customer on the telephone?

All this is feasible, if you have enough information from various sources and you can analyse it quickly enough. Every company that interacts with their customers is now exploring this problem so maybe Big Data is about to hit the headlines again.

German Outsourcing Association Research Promotes Eastern Europe

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

The Outsourcing Journal published a research paper last year focused entirely on the merits of ITO and BPO in central and Eastern Europe.

Organised by the German Outsourcing Association this is an interesting paper with contributions from across the CEE region, including those of particular interest to IBA, such as Belarus and the Czech Republic.

Stephan Fricke, CEO of the German Outsourcing Association wrote about the future for outsourcing in the introduction to the paper: “The future looks bright for CEE IT and business process service providers. Why? Because, speaking for our home market Germany, the demand for IT skills and business process knowledge will not decrease. Quite the opposite is predicted, which is not difficult to explain. The current situation in Germany, where companies are unable to fill desperately needed positions in IT and higher qualified jobs as engineering is caused by failed educational policy and there are no signs that the government has efficient tools to manoeuvre against.”

Fricke went on to add: “So German companies will be forced to look outside their borders for IT-project support and the most accessible destination for that is the CEE region.”

Once again a major trade association has pointed out that far from sourcing being just a low-cost way of doing business, companies in Western Europe need to look beyond their own borders to grow quickly and expand. CEE-based companies like IBA are well placed to work with companies in countries such as Germany – to help them succeed as Europe enjoys economic growth once again.

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.

IBA outsourcing and the crisis in Europe

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

Back when the global economic crisis started, many industry commentators declared that this would be a boost for the international IT outsourcing market. With companies in Europe and the US struggling to ride out the downturn, there would be strong growth in offshore outsourcing.

But things never really played out like that. Outsourcing usually needs a big upfront investment in training, knowledge transfer, and additional management to make the transition run smoothly. Many companies just decided to avoid that short-term investment even if it was clear that there would be benefits in the long-term.

We are not out of the woods yet, but there is more stability. The US is growing slowly now and many countries in Europe are seeing promising growth – though the uncertainty of the Euro is still causing many to fear for the immediate future of the Mediterranean economy.

Research and consulting company, Everest Group, in a recently published research suggested that outsourcing in Europe was worth €180-200bn in 2010. Their latest research for 2011 is not published yet, but estimates suggest that this figure will have increased to about €220bn. This is about a 10 per cent increase in demand even in quite an uncertain economic climate.

Industry observers suggest that much of this new demand is because companies in France and Germany are starting to explore a more global delivery model. In the past they were far more resistant to offshoring, but today it has become a strategic necessity, regardless of the global economic situation it is just how technology is delivered today.

All this is good news for those of us who have been delivering remotely all along, right through the economic crisis. Whether companies are exploring offshore outsourcing because they need to reduce their cost, or they just need to find more expertise and faster, we know exactly how to help.

The power of Tivoli

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

The IBM Tivoli Management Framework (known as the TMF) is a systems management platform from IBM. It was originally a separate company and product, but IBM purchased Tivoli in the nineties and the product has been developed extensively since then within IBM’s software division.

The TMF is designed using a CORBA-based architecture and its real strength is that it can be used to manage a large number of remote devices in a very robust way.

Tivoli is an entire framework of tools that can be linked, rather than just a single software product, so it is very powerful and can be used in many ways. There are endless different ways in which the tools can be integrated to deliver a solution.

At IBA, we recently delivered a solution to a client that involved us connecting these tools together to create a fully integrated system:

• Tivoli Network Manager; the tool to help visualize and manage a complete network.
• Tivoli Netcool/OMNIbus; the tool that provides a complete operations management infrastructure, including the ability to identify and correct critical network issues.
• Tivoli Netcool Impact; an intelligence tool that adds context to events, helping you to manage events on the network and using intelligence to determine whether an event is critical or not.

Even this short example alone gives you an idea of the power of Tivoli. It is not just about visualizing your network with a series of graphical representations, but about adding a layer of intelligence into the network itself – almost like a self-healing network so your team only needs to manage the critical issues.

To those not involved in managing networks all this might seem quite dull, but every company needs their network to be up and running and as reliable as possible, business doesn’t happen without it, so the team keeping the network running are really ‘keeping the lights on’ at your business. Do they have the right tools for the job?

IBA Group Wins European Software Excellence Award 2012

On March 1, IT Europa announced the winners of the European Software Excellence Awards 2012 in Berlin, Germany. IBA was selected the winner in the category Database Solution.

IBA Group entered the contest for the fourth time and won for the second year in a row. In 2011, the award was in the Relationship Management category.

We were pleased to be in the same company with world IT leaders. The recepients of awards in other categories were Oracle, Fujitsu, and other reputable companies.

Watch a video clip of the award presentation.

IBA's Soupeev gets prize from sponsor - FujitsuYauheni Soupeev, IBA department headEuropean Software Excellence Award. IBA's trophyAward-winning IBA team

Outsourcing to help Europe return to growth?

IBA Group

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

In the past three years or so, since the initial credit crunch and then global economic slowdown, outsourcing as a business strategy has taken a knock.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with it as a strategy. It’s just that outsourcing usually involves change, some change in processes and the way things are done. That needs planning and transition, so even if the future state saves money, many firms have declined to go through the process of getting there while survival has been the priority.

If you look back to the time around 2008/2009, most firms were probably focused on budget revisions, retrenching people they cannot justify keeping, and targeting business activities to those that create the most immediate return – completely focusing on getting through the recession.

But talk to most firms today and there is a more interesting and positive picture emerging. There remains the fear of a double-dip recession in countries such as the UK, and Germany is starting to struggle under the weight of supporting the Eurozone, but the major economies of Europe have been growing again – albeit slower than we used to enjoy. There is certainly a growth in business optimism and a greater desire to spend on improving company operations.

Firms are exploring how best to ride the growth when it comes, and that does involve a large amount of planning how to work with partners. The focus is now on positioning a trusted group of partners together and aiming for growth over this decade.

The biggest change in behaviour will be the desire to leverage existing assets over the next couple of years. When firms have already sunk cash into developing expertise and systems in-house, they won’t just discard that knowledge overnight.

It’s been a tough time over the past couple of years, but the new decade looks like an exciting place to be and outsourcing within Europe is going to be an important business strategy that helps us all return to growth.

Danish Journalist Speaks about Belarus

From February 17 to February 18, 2011 Karim Pedersen, Technical Editor of the Danish IT newspaper ComOn, visited IBA Minsk.

Karim was in Belarus for the first time in 2006. The visit resulted in a series of articles, including IT Giant in Belarus. This year, he came again to see what has changed and what is going on.

Karim concludes: ”The big lesson from my visit here is that we are very much the same and we are very much alike. We have the same dreams, we have the same aspirations and working hard is the way to get to that future”.

Karim shares his impressions in the video clip below:

View also at IBA Group’s Youtube channel.

We look forward to a new series of articles about Belarus by Karim and to his future visits to IBA.

About Karim Pedersen

Karim Pedersen is the founder of the largest IT news website in Denmark, ComON.dk, writing about technology and telecommunications for readers in Denmark. Founded 14 years ago, ComON has grown through a range of partnerships with other Danish news media, and today the articles are syndicated to a number of other media, reaching a broad segment of the Danish population. ComON has also for four years published a print newspaper for IT managers and is closely linked with other properties at the publishing house, Mediaprovider, such as the monthly gadget magazine Gear and the photography magazine Zoom. Before starting ComON, Karim has published more than 30 books on IT in Danish and worked freelance as a software developer and web designer. Karim has travelled extensively, both in his professional and private life. Writing about IT outsourcing and globalization for ComON, he visited India, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Belarus, and Russia.

IBA Group wins European IT Excellence Award 2011

On February 11, 2011 IT Europa, a leading European IT publisher and market intelligence organization, announced the winners of the European IT Excellence Awards 2011 – the pan-European awards event for IT and Telecoms channels. The winners and finalists were honoured at a celebration dinner at The London Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London.

IBA Group became the winner in the category Relationship Management. Alexander Derkach, IBA Group representative, collected the prize.

See video:

Award-winning IBA team
Award-winning IBA team

Key outsourcing trends taking place in Great Britain in 2011

IBA Group

Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

This blog usually explores opportunities in Eastern Europe, but given that it is the first month of 2011, it’s worth exploring some of the key trends taking place in the most mature European outsourcing market – the United Kingdom.

Outsourcing advisory firm Equaterra just published their key trends for the UK market in 2011, based on examining 650 outsourcing contracts with over 200 companies, worth around £14 billion. Given that so many UK contracts have been examined, it was possible for the Equaterra researchers to draw some conclusions about how Western European customers are behaving, and what they will want in 2011.

Trend 1: Economic conditions are still tough, forcing companies to consider more offshore outsourcing. Eighty-seven per cent of companies will continue offshoring at present or higher levels, but sixty-one per cent will increase offshoring.

Trend 2: Cost reduction continues to be the key driver for offshoring, but financial flexibility is becoming far more important – up fifteen per cent on the previous year.

Trend 3: Global sourcing of services is far more accepted – with over seventy-five per cent of all companies using outsourcing applying some kind of offshore delivery model.

Trend 4: Multisourcing is increasing – with large-scale single-supplier contracts usually linked to low satisfaction with the contract.

Lee Ayling, EquaTerra’s Managing Director, IT Advisory UK, commented: “As in previous years, the 2010 study provides deep insights into the changing dynamics of the UK outsourcing market. One of the many points of note is that outsourcing contracts which deliver cost savings alone do not lead to higher client satisfaction. But successfully delivering cost savings plus another driver, such as access to skills or time to market, does positively impact general satisfaction – highlighting that both end users and service providers should not focus on price alone before and during an outsourcing relationship.”

For the European supplier community, the message is clear, cost remains important, but flexibility is the key. If outsourcing can create more flexible service levels and improve cash flow through more flexible financial models then it will be regarded a success.

New Opportunities Open for Outsourcing in the Government Sector

IBA Group
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary

I found myself featured recently in the pages of the Financial Times talking about offshoring to various locations, particularly when the British government is the client.

Naturally enough, as the government is undergoing a large-scale austerity programme and working hard on cost reduction across all services, the offshore outsourcing of services such as IT is being discussed far more than it was a year ago.

There are several dynamics at play in the British example. The emphasis on cost reduction rather than service innovation, a need to focus on security and risk of delivery failure, and a potential emphasis on the EU being the location of choice for many services.

The government CIO, John Suffolk, recently tendered his resignation and a replacement has yet to be announced. Suffolk was focused on changing government IT services to be more like the Apple App store, more like a cloud of public sector services. Many in government felt that these conceptual ideas for IT services would never work on such a grand scale in the public sector, and his resignation is a surprise to those who thought he was now in a strong position to change IT across the entire government.

It’s clear that the emphasis of the politicians is certainly on cost reduction for the foreseeable future and many analysts have commented that there is distaste for many of the usual suppliers, seen as bloated and too expensive. With a new vista of opportunity and a readiness to explore new partners, but a requirement to almost certainly only engage with services delivered from within the EU, this surely opens a new range of possibilities for the technology firms from Eastern Europe. If they can build the right relationships in the UK then they will find a rich seam of opportunity awaits them.