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More than knowing the answer, knowing the next steps to take is more important. 

Over the past few years, companies look to Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firms for executing their non-core business functions. These are low-skill, time-consuming jobs that business owners wanted to clear out of their way. With outsourcing, they can maximize their time, money and effort on the more crucial business aspects. This is the type of work that kept the BPO industry growing into the robust sector it is today.

However, with artificial intelligence like chatbots, BPO employees face a strong competitor.  With these types of job being the key function in keeping the entire industry alive, worries about job loss are only reasonable. In 2015, 1.2 million Filipinos were employed in the BPO sector.

How the BPO Industry is Responding to Artificial Intelligence

In more recent news, Sitel’s CEO Craig Reines regarded this presumed direction of how artificial intelligence will affect the industry’s employment rate as a myth, with the lack of human touch among machines as his main argument. He pushes that the machines’ lack of emotional intelligence and limited ability to process information, which are the two skills that remain essential in BPO services like contact center solutions, strengthens the competitive edge of humans over machines.

Nonetheless, it remains a threat to the availability of low-skill roles for human employment. In response to this, BPO companies venture into merging machine and human resources in performing low-skill jobs. As an example, a human support in chat services will only carry out the conversation if a chat bot fails to address a request. Indeed, machines have the capability to help human beings perform faster in delivering their tasks, but not wholly replace them at this point.

Despite this, with artificial intelligence continually developing, it is possible that the time will come where low-skill jobs will no longer require human intervention. For this reason, the possibility of a shift in the services demand for BPO companies is undeniably higher. But just as soon, business owners will turn to BPOs to perform their core business functions, altering their demand for low-skill jobs to mid- or high-skill jobs. This is better known as Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO).

How the Local BPO Industry is Responding to Artificial Intelligence

This opportunity was tackled at the Information Technology and Business Process Management of the Philippines (IBPAP)’s General Membership Assembly Meeting last September 21, 2017. To sum up, IBPAP proposes to prepare for the shift through the re-skilling and up-skilling of existing members in the IT-BPM sector. To demonstrate one initiative during the event, they mentioned that IBPAP will hold a Human Tech Talk Series to increase awareness about new technological advancements that can be incorporated into the business sector, like virtual reality.

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