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Over the last decade, many Australian companies have kept their back office processes onshore. Their global counterparts, on the other hand, have been industriously offshoring activities to benefit from labour cost arbitrage.
This difference is likely due to Australia’s strong national pride, lack of scale, laid-back approach to business and life in general, lack of scale and financial pressure from the 2007-08 global crisis.
With regard to operational excellence, you might assume this makes Aussie companies significantly worse off compared to other international players. But this is not true. In fact, having retained skills and resources onshore might actually become a competitive advantage in terms of the rapidly approaching digital workforce trend.
Cognitive automation and process robotics will be a game changer for the workforce of the future. The ability to mimic human tasks quickly and minimal effort may sound futuristic, but it is already happening all around you, whether you know it or not. Robotics has been used in the logistics and supply chain area for years and we all benefit from progress in this area. Now, process robotics is entering the corporate world and digitising human interactions at high speed. In the very near future, we will see a digital workforce area that is characterised by significantly lower operational cost, improved accuracy, no operating hour restrictions, and full control over service quality. As back-office processes become more and more digitised, we will see an uptake in customer focus.
Australian companies that have not heavily off-shored their back-office processes will hugely benefit from process robotics and cognitive automation as part of entering the era of the digital workforce. With skills and resources on-shore, they have the opportunity to lift their operational excellence to leading shared services organisations or business process outsourcing providers, without going through major business disruption caused by off-shoring or process re-engineering.
At long last, the lack of scale, financial pressure and trademark laid-back approach to business and offshoring has put Australian companies in a great position to become global leaders, without going through years of transformation and change. Having said that, we are yet to see whether Australian companies will recognise the opportunity and lead the transformation to the digital workforce area.
Julia is a Partner in the Finance Consulting team in Sydney, with a strong focus on large-scale finance and back office transformation, including shared services, operating models and process improvement. Julia works across multiple industries with a particular emphasis on real estate. Her professional career began in Austria, followed by seven other countries before settling in Australia in 2011. As a trained life coach, Julia is passionate about helping people to achieve their personal best and as such is a highly sought after mentor amongst her team.