A look ahead at 2017

Outsourcing trends to watch in 2017

Here are 10 predictions for the year ahead in IT outsourcing.

A look ahead at 2017

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6. RPA gets smart

Look for RPA tools to include increasing levels of intelligence. “Adding cognitive features to RPA has been going on in different ways. At its simplest form, there is some degree of context awareness when robots are running. In the more advanced form, there is computer vision and natural language processing,” says Sarah Burnett, vice president of research with Everest Group. “More is to come as RPA vendors either build or partner for AI.”

[ Related: Building a business case for offshore robotic process automation ]

RPA vendors will get smarter as well, turning their software applications into platforms that enable the seamless addition of new features. “The successful ones will be able to combine their base platform with third-party technology to increase the depth and breadth of their software to satisfy a diverse set of client requirements,” Burnett says.

CIOs should expect more calls from automation and robotics vendors this year. And if they’re not contacted, their business partners will be. “As IT robot products proliferate, these vendors are going to hit the street, and their company names will become commonplace within the C-Suite,” says Strichman. “IT professionals at all levels should expect to hear from these vendors. And they should listen.”

7. The call center fades

As self-service tools and intelligent assistants like virtual agents and chat bots become more prevalent, the call center as we know it will face extinction. In their place we will see the rise of the tech-enabled contact center, says Anna Frazzetto, chief digital technology officer and senior vice president with Harvey Nash. “Contact Centers can handle more volume with less agents because virtual agent can work on several clients at the same time,” Frazzetto says. “As these efficiencies become more apparent, organizations with products and services to sell [will shy] away from investments in mega call centers that require staffs of thousands.”

[ Related: Why outsourced call center roles are coming back onshore ]

Customers will rationalize their contact center vendor portfolios and identify key strategic partners, says Everest Group’s Ranjan, driven by the need to create integrated and seamless customer experiences.

8. Print services get sexy

CIOs have been paying increased attention to driving out cost in print and print related services through optimizing processes in recent years. But in 2017, we’ll see CIOs begin to leverage print services strategies in initiatives aimed at improving the customer experience, according to ISG managing director Dave Zamorski.

“Efforts will focus on enabling customers to choose their method of communication, whether through online services, social media, email, mobile, or traditional print,” Zamorski says. “As such, print operations will become a key component in enterprise-wide digital transformation strategies.”

9. Cognitive strategies get clearer

“Over the past year service providers have rushed to market with a wide range of home-grown cognitive platforms,” says Jeff Augustin, managing director with ISG.In many cases, providers overstated unproven capabilities, resulting in market confusion and hype.” This year, providers will clarify their messages and focus on specific success stories.

“There’s still a long way to go in terms of clarifying true differentiation in cognitive capabilities and solutions,” Augustin says. “[But] rather than telling customers their solution will solve all their problems, in 2017 providers will reassure their customers that their solutions are gaining traction, and will use actual case studies to highlight specific business results.”

10. The market consolidates

This year saw significant merger and acquisition activity in the IT and business process services sector. That consolidation will continue and likely increase in 2017 with only the strongest players surviving. “Competition between providers continues to be fierce, and providers who have incomplete solutions will either join forces and form alliances,” says Seidl, “or they will be told, ‘the tribe has spoken,’ and they will be out.”

This story, "Outsourcing trends to watch in 2017" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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