Emma Okonji and Solomon Elusoji
Given the global growth and acceptance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoTs) in business operations, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the biggest professional services companies in the world, has predicted that Nigerian businesses would soon begin to incorporate robotic automation into their operations, which is driven by AI and IoTs.
The prediction was based on a recent research findings conducted by PwC on Shared Service Centres (SSCs) and Centralised Processing Centres (CPCs) across industries in Nigeria, designed to gain first-hand opinions and insights on the maturity levels of SSCs and CPCs in Nigeria.
The report was also carried out to find out the key trends, challenges and risks in the implementation of SSCs and CPCs, as well as the opportunities of optimising them in business operations.
The survey was conducted across various industry sectors like oil and gas, manufacturing, finance, telecommunications, among others, and 93 respondents from across the various industries, participated in the survey.
According to the survey report, which was launched in Lagos recently, 83 per cent of respondents indicated Finance and Information Technology functions as major candidates for migration to Shared Service Centres, 7 per cent of CPCs surveyed employ ‘only contract staff’ while the SSC staffing model is purely a mix of contract and full time staff; and 70 per cent of respondents indicated that CPC costs are billed as part of ‘head office’ costs to various segments of the business, using an agreed allocation key.
Findings of the report also showed that 83 per cent of SSC respondents indicated that their organisations have adopted multi-function SSCs, 31 per cent of CPC respondents achieved cost savings between 10 per cent and 30 per cent, while 7 per cent of SSC respondents indicated cost savings between 10 per cent and 30 per cent.
The report further said 29 per cent of SSC and 74 per cent of CPC use allocation-based pricing models, while only 12 per cent of SSC and 26 per cent of CPC use transaction based pricing models for their businesses.
The report listed six trends that would shape the future of Shared Service and Centralised Processing Centres to include: standardisation, automation, job enrichment, scope enhancement, data analysis and service orientation.
Giving insight into the report, the Associate Director of Operations at PwC Nigeria, Adedoyin Amosun, said Nigerian businesses, especially those in the financial services, telecommunications and constructions sector, would soon begin to make use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to streamline their operations.
RPA is the use of smart software to execute processes across various systems and can be used to access business systems, access legacy ‘green screen environments’, access and extract data from web and citrix environments, use emails to trigger a process and send emails when complete, among many other functionalities.
“Typically human beings have an error rate of three to 5 per cent, but the robot has an error rate of 0.2 to 0.5 per cent, and the mistakes that are made are not actually from the robot, but could be as result of a change in the process,” Amosun said, while insisting that one of RPA’s most important attributes is accuracy.
Although there were concerns about the possible loss of human jobs with the introduction of robotics, but Amosun clarified that job losses would not be an issue that would slow down the technology adoption, since the introduction of RPA in itself, would increase job creation, productivity and efficiency.
“Skill-sets of shared services are changing, so increasingly we will need people that can analyse information and come up with insights. So it is the skill-sets that are changing. It does not necessarily mean that people will be laid off,” she said.
Associate Director at PwC, Alistair Hofert, said: “I think that the robots are the future. I think that the manual bots that robots will take away from humans will free human minds and help us do things that are much more interesting.”
Analysing the future impact of automation, the Advisory Partner and Chief Economist at PwC, Dr. Andrew Nevin, said: “I don’t know what the outcome of this is, but what I think is that society and policymakers should be thinking a lot about this now; these things are coming in without a lot of discussions on what the consequences will be.”
However, the SSC/CPC survey launch showed that more businesses in Nigeria are striving towards streamlining their business operations.