Can offshoring survive the robot onslaught?

Robotic automation touted as replacement for mundane IT and BPO work.
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Offshoring has managed to survive the cyclical beating it takes whenever a presidential campaign season rolls around, but can it survive the onslaught of the robots? CIO magazine's Stephanie Overby takes a look at how robotic automation and autonomic systems might steal business from providers offshore.

With a development toolkit from Blue Prism, a start-up in the United Kingdom, businesses can build software "robots" to do work that has typically required people. These robots make rules-based business processes automated, and they don't require much attention or interpretation by humans. They work best for routine tasks, like filling out a benefits form that draws from different systems but doesn't require any analysis by a human. In other words, it does the work of a data entry worker.

Naturally, these software robots are less expensive--about one-third the cost, according to Blue Prism--to employ than human workers, who increasingly are employed by offshore outsourcers. So far, the company boasts Telefonica, Fidelity Investments and Experian among its large customers.

Another robot automation company, IPSoft, which is based in New York, offers what it calls "autonomic IT services." Its IPCenter offering detects, diagnoses and solves incidents in a self-governing fashion, learning from its own experiences. The idea is to put robotics in charge of the mundane tasks IT support staff have long complained about. The company touts one customer that has automated three-fourths of its server management and cut its infrastructure workforce in half.

The downside to robotic automation, Overby notes, is that enterprises may resist the use of software tools over which they have no control. What's more, there will always be some business processes that require human judgment and experience.

For more:
- see Stephanie Overby's article at CIO

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