BPO: evolutions and opportunities in document capture outsourcing

BPOs with document scanning and process outsourcing activities have ample opportunities to differentiate themselves in a rapidly evolving landscape, certainly in the large digitization and document-intensive processes space.

While they are facing a range of new challenges on top of existing ones, many of these challenges are also the drivers of the document (scanning and process) outsourcing business opportunities and market evolutions for 2017 and beyond.

As organizations increasingly outsource processes, functions and operations so they can focus on their core goals, document scanning, processing and management gets increasingly outsourced as well. The same is happening in other IT and information management activities, even with regards to security.

As organizations move from digitization to digital transformation, BPOs and high-end document service bureaus need to transform as well

It fits in an overall evolution whereby organizations want to create the possibilities to be more agile in order to digitally transform, innovate and leverage the benefits of digitization and digitalization, without having to deal with the hassle internally. Another evolution which fits in this broader picture is the movement of ever more functions, including mission-critical ones, to the cloud and even the public cloud as we reported previously.

BPO and document service bureau evolutions - high-volume digitization outsourcing in transformation

In this article we take a look at the evolutions and implications of this phenomenon for BPOs and larger document service bureaus in the context of capture-related (business) process outsourcing.

Note: we are not covering offshoring nor printing and mainly look at outsourcing in the scope of high-volume and high-speed digitization operations.

What the customer wants the BPO and document service bureau to know

Obviously, companies want to focus on their core tasks in a world of fast-paced change, knowing that the activities/processes/functions they outsource are being taken care off in the best possible way.

De facto this means they don’t really care too much about how BPOs, scanning bureaus and document process outsourcing providers in general get the job done. All they want is that the job gets done as agreed, that they can sleep at night, that they can focus on their mission and challenges, that support – if needed – is impeccable, that they have transparency and visibility whenever they want it, that the outsourcer clearly gets their business, needs and goals, and that costs are avoided and stringent SLAs (Service Level Agreements) are met. In other words: trust, clarity and, increasingly, solid partnerships.

The impact of this evolution on document scanning and management outsourcing providers and BPOs is huge. Moreover, BPOs which are active in this field, are  expected to evolve in many other ways too.

How else could it be? As organizations need to focus on new regulations such as the far-reaching GDPR, embrace new technologies to transform and innovate, have more demanding customers and operate in competitive and often extremely rapidly changing markets, they can’t work with BPOs and document service bureaus that don’t evolve with them and move further in value-added services in the high-volume digitization and document capture and processing needs they have across specific types of documents and processes.

Expected evolutions and transformations to keep up with the changing realities of the BPO customer

These expected evolutions and transformations in the outsourced document capture and services space, among others (more below) concern technological evolutions so BPOs can work according to the changing technology infrastructure and overall reality of the organization.

Others are an increased focus on business processes as this is exactly what most organizations do as well: looking more at incoming documents, data and information from the business process, ‘case management’ and thus end customer perspective (think claims processing for instance in insurance); and the need to move up offerings from traditional digitization and document processing tasks to the information flow, business process, services and overall business dimension (BPOs increasingly need to speak the language of business, just as IT firms do). Or let’s call it the evolution from document service outsourcing to business process outsourcing, which has been going on for some time.

Obviously these evolutions do not affect all BPOs, document processing outsourcers and service bureaus as some have specialized in niche activities, among other possible reasons. Yet, in general it affects most (and do remember we only cover capture and the consequent actions and processes here).

Impact of changing document processing outsourcing ecosystems on the document capture market

The document capture/processing outsourcing ecosystem doesn’t just consist of the BPOs and larger scanning bureaus, their customers and (indirectly but very importantly) the customers of their customers, who are the driving force of all these evolutions, all the way down to the stakeholders which play a part in this overall ecosystem.

On top of the changes from a customer perspective and the needed evolutions (and thus big opportunities), BPOs keep having their own challenges, although most fit in the customer demand context. Yet, the high-capacity document processing BPO industry is also highly competitive.

And this brings us to another part of that document process outsourcing ecosystem: the vendors of professional high-speed and high-volume document scanners, advanced document capture and processing software, information management solutions (depending on the use case and type of documents, such as invoice processing, digitization of healthcare records, claims processing and so forth) and the providers of services and solutions for document service bureaus and BPOs overall. It’s clear that they too need to adapt the ways they work with their customers (the BPOs) in order to help them tackle all the above mentioned challenges, leverage the opportunities that come with them and enhance or even transform the ways they work. It’s also clear that they need to speak the real-life business and process challenge language of BPOs instead of just speaking about functionality and specs.

As said: if end customer needs, technological evolutions and market realities change it affects anyone in any value chain. And that includes the full ecosystem of digitization, document capture, document processing and all processes which are involved further down the line where the business process and case management approach indeed increasingly take center stage.

These evolutions translate in, among others, the go-to-market strategies of vendors and solution providers, their business models (even with approaches that are relatively novel such as reversed forms of result-based payment models, whereby for instance realized cost savings are shared), the market as such (a whole lot of partnerships and consolidation going on) and the products/solutions themselves whereby ‘intelligence’ and business process optimization are some of the keywords.

The changing pace and depth of evolutions in document outsourcing

This list is not exhaustive and most of the evolutions described aren’t new at all. Companies do expect more from BPOs, service bureaus and document outsourcing companies since quite some time and have been focusing on their core business activities, with an impact on business process outsourcing since several years as well.

However, what is changing is the pace and depth at which it all happens. From the impact of new technologies to a focus on handling more document and information formats, sources and carriers to the very drivers of the BPO market evolutions: they are all coming together and shape the industry for years to come.

The common denominator for BPOs: a continuous shift towards value-added services in a changing ecosystem, while managing more traditional concerns such as costs, overhead and faster processing of data from documents, closer to the business process, systems, information flows and customer/business outcomes.

We will look at specific technological, business and other drivers in the BPO, service bureau and document process and management outsourcing market, with a focus on the capture market, later.

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