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With AI Coming In, Will BPO Continue to Be Relevant in the Future?

There is no doubt the BPO market is thriving, but there are certain things to consider when it comes to its future. Business process outsourcing is a key economic driver in many countries. Outsourcing data entry, legal solutions and other digitization services are some of the services that come under BPO, now also known as Business Process Management (BPM). Many companies around the world prefer becoming a partner with a BPO company than hiring full-time in-house employees and this is the exact reason why the industry is booming.Artificial Intelligence

More than a million are now working in the sector directly and indirectly worldwide, and covering a wide range of digitization services like:

  • software and engineering development
  • medical data entry
  • data conversion outsourcing
  • legal process outsourcing services
  • back office outsourcing.

The BPO sector demands skills ranging from language skills to mechanical and technical skills. And above all, some patience and care!

But in this Fourth Industrial Revolution,

  • Artificial Intelligence seems to be taking over anything humans can do, and one should be worried about the BPO sector too. AI has the strength to take away BPO jobs!
  • Increase in the use of other emerging technologies – Cloud, Mobility, and Big Data to name a few – to build e-solutions for daily operations in companies have also risked the existence of BPO. The quality of inputs and efficiency in its processes, lesser number of errors and time-saving ability reduce the required amount of human processing.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is predicted to become a real challenge to business process outsourcing services. In what is expected to be 5-7 years, AI is reckoned to kill the BPO sector, if not completely, then partially. The voice contact centres or the call centres constitute 85% of the BPO jobs and is the most vulnerable. Those tasks that require creativity, such as animation, is not as endangered as the other BPO services. There is much to worry about these predictions, as Tesla’s Elon Musk warned about the doomsday, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg coming in as a response for a debate.

Dawn of a New Era

Imagine this. You need a personal assistant every time and everywhere you go. And you need to drive a car without really driving it! Both the scenarios seemed impossible and unimaginable a couple of years back, but not anymore. From Amazon’s Alexa to Tesla’s Autopilot, Artificial Intelligence has come a long way.

In 2013, no one imagined robots taking over the healthcare sector. In 2010, there were rarest of the rare people who could recreate a famous artists’ painting. But today, from mimicking famous artists by recreating their paintings using machine-learning algorithms to detecting cancer faster than humans, Artificial intelligence has come a long way in less than a decade. Where the science takes us by 2030 is beyond imagination. Be it Narrow AI or General AI, both ironically developed by humans, AI as a whole is said to outperform humans in any and every task. AI taking up the outsourcing jobs is a concern.

BPOHowever, it may not be true if we say human jobs will surely decrease or become extinct when automated machines come. For example, the number of bank employees in the US has only doubled after the introduction of automated teller machines (ATM). AI is sure to usher in new types of jobs as the new technologies will give rise to new needs and functions. But will the rise of new technologies giving way to new human jobs make up for the expulsion of call centre jobs?

  • If YES is the answer, it can take years to complete the process and the short-term suffering from AI revolution cannot be ignored.
  • With the current scenario, NO is the answer.

Whatever BPO shifts may be there, it may take a few years to be completely implemented. To face imminent challenges, at least to an extent, it is best to train those in the BPO sector to become adaptable to expeditious changes – a mere school or college education won’t do! Technologies are to be invented to make human lives easy – to improve it. Everyone from the government and society to the people who invent and develop these technologies – should ensure this. Every revolution comes with a cost, but it should not be at the cost of humans!

About Julie Clements

Julie Clements

Joined the MOS team in March of 2008. Julie Clements has background in the healthcare staffing arena; as well as 6 years as Director of Sales and Marketing at a 4 star resort. Julie was instrumental in the creation of the medical record review division (and new web site); and has especially grown this division along with data conversion of all kinds.