If you are involved in outsourcing or shared services of any kind, and have been for several years, you are familiar with the key trends in the space. These generally fall into three categories – operational, analytical and inspirational. But all of them have recently taken a back seat to a concept that has dominated conferences, blogs, and analyst reports in the last six months: digital labor. First, let's explore where we've come from.
The History of Delivery Trends
Operations – the granddaddy of them all, this is just good, stable, reliable delivery – often from consolidated or arbitraged locations. The backbone of the multi-trillion dollar business services space is the ability for enterprises or third-party service partners to centralize work, and often leverage cheaper labor. This approach is not without its challenges, but it's also where stories of delivery heroism and miracle working abound. Simply put, teams all over the world burn the candle on both ends to make this reality work for clients, and parts of it will be with us (dare I say) forever.
Analytics – the act of doing work creates data, data that business services firms realized is as important, or even more so, than the transactional work they are performing. And thus was born the 'analytics and insight' generation of value adding and differentiation, in which services firms hoped to gain a higher standing in their clients' minds by contributing original and informed points-of-view to strategic and operational discussions. This too was an area of great promise, and sometimes great value.
Inspiration – finally, there was a generation of vendor relationships and contracts based on a hope and a promise of great 'transformation' and 'innovation' – where inspiration supplanted stable delivery as the true measure of value for money. This one is hard to quantify, and even harder to define. Suffice it to say, clients wanted Innovation out of teams who's DNA was hardwired for solid delivery.
Every single one of the concepts and trends listed above was (and is) valuable, creative (in its own right), and differentiating. But, they all had their day in the sun. Some proved to be more meaty and substantial than others. But now they get back-page billing to the new trend in town – digital labor.
Digital labor is here. And there are several real, stable, capable tools available (including NICE's Real-Time suite) that will enable delivery teams to finally unleash the Operations, Analytics, and Inspiration for which they so yearn. And how will they do this?
Operations – it's no secret, middle and back-office transactions are hugely automatable. The heroics of throwing people at a problem is no longer necessary. Instead, the science of process design, transformation, and task automation is how true operational excellence and efficiency will be gained. Digital Labor that works 24x7, faithfully follows business rules, and is easy to manage will be the new holy grail for operational success.
Analytics – the challenge of operational data collection, cleansing, and interpretation is gone. Digital Labor timestamps everything, is fully auditable, and creates a tsunami of data from which to glean analytics and insight. It is a blessing for Data Scientists.
Inspiration – freed from operational doldrums and reporting forensics, the process experts in a delivery team are unleashed to both thrive in high-value-adding work, and apply their hard-earned knowledge of their enterprise to more creative activities. With some guidance, the best source of game-changing ideas is the team of experts already hard at work. Digital Labor unleashes good teams to be truly great.
So, the foundations of the past (operations, analytics and inspiration) are more important than ever to good solid business services delivery. It is now imperative that shared services organizations leverage the new tools available to them, so they may benefit from this new way of working.