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COVID-19: Meeting the challenge and adapting – BPM industry perspective

Certain events and happenings that are not confined to a particular geography, and have the potential to spread fast, can be a turning point in the history of mankind as they alter social, economic, and behavioural norms. It can also alter the economic landscape in which business organizations operate. The outbreak of COVID-19 virus is perhaps one such event in the recent history that can usher in a shift in many aspects of our social and economic life.

Dealing with a situation like COVID-19 requires higher levels of ‘maturity’ on part of business organizations, exhibited in the following capabilities:

  1. Does the current business model have a ‘variant’ that can be executed to protect earnings, and minimize risks?
  2. Is the performance management system developed enough to capture and analyse the data that is generated due to such events?
  3. How quickly the leadership is able to infer insights from the data and information collected by the performance management system? This can give business organizations the first-mover advantage to insulate against more risks and gain from hidden opportunities.
  4. What is the workforce mix of a business organization? Is it largely humans, who can get seriously impacted by such events? Or is it largely machines that can cope with the situation relatively better and more effectively?
  5. What kind of ‘experience’ a business organization creates for its stakeholders during such critical times – direct or indirect?

Risk management framework of a business organization must contain actionable strategies, in order to develop on the five key capabilities listed above, to deal with a situation like COVID-19 outbreak.

As the virus spreads, following changes will accelerate:

  1. Increase in online spend across products and services. Some sectors may ride this growth curve early, such as education, training, and entertainment, including gaming.
  2. Change in workforce mix with more bots and robots in ‘employment’, than humans, coupled with a distributed workforce.
  3. Emergence of data security and connectivity-related businesses in a big way.
  4. Legal and accounting regulations, disclosures, to safeguard the interests of employees, providers of financial capital, and of the general public.

From a BPM industry perspective, COVID-19 is going to be such a turning point. By nature, demand for the BPM industry services is a derived one. Most of the times, such services do not constitute the ‘core’ businesses of the clients. As a result, cutting down spends on such services is among the first steps that the clients take to trim costs in a crisis situation. This makes the BPM industry vulnerable to risks and its adverse impacts.

BPM industry will be making a paradigm shift to adjust to this situation and following are the major pointers to that end:

  1. Having functional business continuity plan will be the key element in every solution design being presented to the clients.
  2. BPM industry players will invest heavily on new technologies that can automate processes, ensure data security, and enable improved connectivity across time and space.
  3. Service catalogue of BPM players will undergo a change. With transactional processing being taken over by bots, BPM will scale up in terms of offerings, which will be more tech-centred and data driven.
  4. With changes in service catalogue, skill sets of future employees will be very different. Most of the prospects will be required to have techno-functional skills.
  5. Transactional pricing model will find prominence as it can align costs to fluctuations in volume, and clients will be able to manage their costs as per their activity levels. With the pace of automation accelerating, BPM players must also adjust to it soon.
  6. Investment in facilities like building, employee transportation, and other enabling services will see a reduction over a period of time, as the workforce will be more distributed and will primarily be dominated by bots and robots.

Not all players in the BPM industry will be able to adapt to the changes brought about by this ‘turning point’ and will have to make way for others. Even those who manage to adapt, the journey ahead may not be easy. Learnings will have a cost and those who can learn will realize the ‘ROI’ and grow. As time passes and more data is collected, we will be able to visualize how the future might look like, even as government agencies across the globe fight tirelessly to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.