Half of back-office tasks can be automated, says iOPEX

Our operations experts are being trained to build bots: CEO

Close to 50% of all back-office tasks can be automated, declares Shiva Ramani, CEO iOPEX Technologies.

And bots (short for software robots, or programmes) making some human activity redundant is not a future possibility. The Chennai-based iOPEX is currently offering its clients a tariff plan for use of its bots, across ‘simple, medium and complex’ categories, depending on the kind of work a bot is enabled to do.

To get bots working on repetitive tasks or those that follow a structured flow, iOPEX is re-skilling front-office and back-office employees as programmers. “We are moving towards a Technical Implementation Centre for operational robots.”

Orchestra by architects

A software architect decides which parts of the software need to be connected for a given application or need.

“The person who was the operations expert in the old world has turned into a programmer in the new world. The programmer follows the architect’s design and connects the different parts of the workflow to convert it to a bot,” says Mr. Ramani.

iOPEX’s bots can be put to work for a diverse set of segments be they retail, supply chain, accounting, insurance or telecom. “Our vision is: exception management is with humans but repeated transactions are done by bots.”

“We are helping a telecom conglomerate reduce workforce needs for a particular BPO team from over 1500 to about 900 now. Our bots are helping deliver savings. Insurance is another area where we have introduced our bots to do basic jobs. We have seven of the Fortune 100 using our bots now.”

Twenty customers of iOPEX are using 500 bots built by the provider. Mr. Ramani added that the objective was to raise that count to about 3,000 bots in the next 12 months.

How many humans can a bot replace? “One bot can do work equivalent to that being done by 2.5 full-time equivalents [or humans on a full time job].” It is pertinent to note that India’s business process management sector employs about 1.2 million people, according to Nasscom, the representative body for the industry.

Even with all the progress in automation, says Mr. Ramani, “We are still in what is the Y2K equivalent of automation. The evolution is basic automation with bots, followed by complex automation, finally going into cognitive automation with artificial intelligence and machine learning.”

A question of when

How does a client know when to choose a bot for a transaction? “We apply the rule of 5. If we can save them 500 clicks, across 5 applications processes and help in 5 decisions, then our bot will have added value.”

“From a skills perspective, we look for people with maths and statistics backgrounds — specifically, with the skills to make correlations.” On the supply side, we are still at only 1% of what the market needs in terms of statistics skills, he says.

He flags the need for in-depth study. “For long, our education has helped us dive an inch deep and a mile wide; now it is time to go much deeper in these areas of study.”

Click here to view the original article that was published in The Hindu.