Is offshoring dead? Has our belief in the ability to drive down costs by exporting work to cheaper economies started to wain? I am certainly aware of companies who have gone through the process of offshoring only to bring the work back again.
(I’m not talking about Geordie Shore here. That is something completely different though any company that wishes to locate in the region and make use of the excellent workforce would be more than welcome.)
This has been particularly true where the exported work was managing the contact with customers.
Many people have felt uncomfortable with the inability of a foreign employee to understand what was being asked or the context in which it is being requested. Small differences in culture are important and misunderstandings can lead to suspicion of the company’s intent. Simple things such as referring to women as ma’am don’t go down well. In truth no company should offshore its customer contact as without it then there is no business.
The economic advantage has proved to be not as great as the economic loss caused by dissatisfied customers moving elsewhere. Businesses cannot treat their customers as commodities.
But there is a new offshoring threat emerging. It does not involve another country or other races of people. It is the opportunity presented by robotic process automation, or RPA, the ability to offshore work to machines.
Of course this is a story as old as time itself. Human work has always been replaced by machines that are more efficient, effective and accurate. Machines may break down but they don’t need a break. Unlike us humans, machines are comfortable doing the same thing over and over again. Indeed that is what they do best.
Where humans are doing work of that nature then RPA will replace them. Their work will be offshored to extraneous industrial and technical environments. But this is not a dystopian view. Humans will always be able to do things that machines can’t and technology has ultimately created more jobs than it has deleted.
RPA is coming fast and it is its pace of change that is the biggest threat to the way that we work.