Archive for the ‘Business Process’ Category

BPO trends for 2014

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

It is the end of the year and everyone loves to get the crystal ball out. I’ve just been alerted to predictions made by TX based BPO, Datamark.

1. Pioneers and new entrants gain traction in the robotic process automation/autonomics space

Seems a sensible bet, says I (as you might expect)…

Is robotic automation the antidote to BPO “zombieism”?

Monday, November 11th, 2013

Interesting article over at Diginomica positing that software robotics is a “one to watch” technology for the BPO sector. Quoting extensively from HfS Research, Den Howlett questions how fast such technologies will be adopted in the industry.

Barclays: “Robots” can automate 30% of our workforce

Friday, April 26th, 2013

Business Standard is reporting Barclays’ CEO, Antony Jenkins, telling investors that robotic automation, inspired by Japanese car manufacturing, could eliminate 30% of their workforce (40,000 employees) over the next ten years.

Controversial in many ways, but my personal opinion, as a bank customer (both personal and business), is that banks should be much more efficient and charge me less, whilst freeing up capital for investment in economic growth.

Welcome to Robotistan, have a nice day!

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Blue Prism is participating in a webinar from leading sourcing analyst, Horses for Sources. We would be delighted if you could join us Thursday 25th April at 15.30pm UK time for “A Tour of Robotistan”. The registration link is as follows:


  • Definition of Robotic Automation (RA)
  • Business processes best suited to RA
  • How RA enables business process analysts to do software development
  • Enterprise end-user case study: Telefónica
  • BPO services provider case study: GenFour
  • How RA can help BPO providers win new business and improve retention
  • How RA shifts BPO providers’ focus from labor arbitrage to innovation
  • Robotic Automation demo
  • Audience Q & A
  • Robotic Automation: Can service industries learn from manufacturing?

    Friday, February 1st, 2013

    I gave a speech at Intellect‘s Automate Britain launch on 30 Jan. Here is the transcript.

    Intellect Automate Britain Campaign

    My name is Alastair Bathgate. I come from a process improvement background. This is me in 1985; in charge of Time and Motion at an NGA and SOGAT82 unionised print factory. (If you want to learn about labour relations in the context of industry automation, take a TARDIS back to the post Eddy Shah 1980s printing industry.)

    Having spent so much time stressing over minute improvements in manufacturing, a career move to a bank drew a stark contrast in the apparently relaxed attitude to process efficiency and product quality. I remember an article in the internal staff magazine where a team leader was trumpeting the significant increase in productivity created by the installation of a brand new mainframe terminal, the cost justification for which had taken several accountancy man years and the IT lead time approximately 6 months. The year? 1988. It was the second ever piece of end user computer equipment installed in the 200 FTE savings administration department at Bradford & Bingley. I worked in a fledgling O & M department.

    Today, I am CEO of Blue Prism, a British software company pioneering software robotics for the back office. I founded Blue Prism to address the frustration operational managers have in making simple process improvements and the observation that the only way to address the problems was to employ staff…somewhere in the world.

    I thought it would be good to start with a little history of robots in manufacturing.


    If I’d known you were a robot, I’d have baked a….

    Thursday, January 31st, 2013

    Little fun story from a customer: A global fund manager. The automation team were up against time deadlines (no pun intended) to automate a “Deceased Notifications” process, on behalf of the UK Legals team. It was delivered bang on time, putting it live in mid January. So impressed and grateful were the ladies in the legal department after the first week of operation that one of them made this cake.

    Operational Agility Forum – managing the change

    Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

    Yesterday I attended the Operational Agility Forum Steering Group’s seventh meeting hosted by Npower in Swindon. Attendees includes both large enterprises and BPOs. The focus is on business process. It was a lively and interesting debate and I learnt some important stuff.

    In implementing an OA strategy, most members subscribe to a Eliminate/Automate/Offshore (EAO) methodology. Firstly using tools like Lean to reduce process labour, then automating and finally offshoring as a means of reducing cost for processes that cannot be automated. Of course, there is still very much an onshore presence for customer service and political reasons.

    When using automation tools like Blue Prism – they need to sit as part of the operational strategy, not the IT strategy. IT guys in the room all subscribed to the need for IT to provision the tools, create scalable hardware and provide governance and support. But agility only comes when business ops control their own destiny, build their own processes, choose their own priorities.

    Culture is an important success factor with some subscribing to the idea that Business and IT should share the same KPIs to align objectives and motivations. One member had outsourced business processes to Accenture and noted that their KPI alignment delivered enormous agility.

    It is also clear, as with any initiative that involved cost reduction as one of its objectives, the cultural side of change is important. It was interesting note that, of the Blue Prism users in the room who had between them reduced their FTE headcount by many hundreds, not one single worker had been made redundant as a result. There is a soft side to change that needs to be taken care of.

    The next BPO offshore destination? Robotistan…

    Friday, November 2nd, 2012

    Analyst firm, Horses for Sources, who are driving most of the adventurous thought leadership in the global outsourcing industry, have taken a look at Blue Prism and made their views public on their lively and provocative blog.

    In a humourous post, James Slaby argues that robots will drive down processing costs for BPOs and reduce the need to offshore for cost saving reasons. If you get the automation strategy right the economics are “jaw-dropping”.

    “Outsourcing has always been about people, process and technology. Scratch that. It’s about process and technology, with people an optional extra…..” – Read the rest of the blog post here.

    Robotic automation – from factory to back office

    Monday, October 15th, 2012

    My marketing director, a keen petrol head, sent me this YouTube link showing how robotic automation works in a BMW factory. It bought to mind the seminal Fiat Strada advertisement from 1979 – thirty three (yes, 33) years ago. As an aside, I always wondered what the association was between an Italian car and the Barber of Seville. Never mind. Equally, never mind that the cars fell apart frequently, or that the production team turned up to film, only to find striking workers blockading the factory. These were pioneering days of the robotic car plant.

    Whilst the British automotive industry went bust, was nationalised, privatised, and sold to Japanese and Germans for 2’6″, other parts of the world took the concept of robotics and improved it so that cars were cheaper and faster to design and build, more reliable, more flexible (I’ll spare you a long spiel about mass customisation) and more appealing to consumers.

    What is interesting from the BMW clip is that robots can’t do everything. Work is constantly handed off to real people before returning the automated line. Another thing that grabbed my attention was the detailed process design that maximises the robots’ effectiveness by preparing the work for them. For example, somebody had to design the car build process in such a way that all the painted bits hang together so the robots can spray without having to use masking tape etc.

    I think this is something that the clerical back office is only just starting to learn about. But the economic case is bound to be just as compelling.

    Stormy waters for UK banks – where’s the lifeboat?

    Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

    Let’s be honest, banks, and especially British banks, are not having a great time right now. I doubt that Bob Diamond will be the last casualty of the LIBOR manipulation affair. Stephen Hester has his own problems, and I would imagine that whether he takes a bonus or not will be the last thing on his mind right now.

    There is often little that can be done to correct problems of the past. No use crying over spilt milk, as the saying goes. But who clears up the mess when a BACS tape is wrongly processed? Who refunds bank charges when a software upgrade puts batch processing behind and wages don’t make it to customers’ accounts? When a regulator rules that a regulated product was mis-sold, who organises the refunds? Operations of course!

    A great example of this is PPI. Banks were ruled to have sold inappropriate payment protection insurance policies alongside loans and other forms of credit. Now, certain UK banks have created and staffed specific divisions to handle the PPI complaints. A fundamentally simple process – read complaint, check PPI was sold, evaluate whether compensation due, calculate and issue refund, write to customer – is consuming hundreds of jobs. Whilst this is good for the Indian offshoring industry, enlightened banks are using technology, such as robotic software, to automate these rules based tasks so that refunds are evaluated more accurately and more quickly. This does more than reduce the number of onshore and offshore staff required. It enables regulator deadlines to be met, customers to be dealt with faster, balance sheet provisions to be more accurate.