Astronomers say that a supernova strikes when a star completely reinvents itself at the core. Supernovae have been rare occurrences, with only five being ever visible to the naked eye in the last 1,000 years. Away from the realm of galaxies, the business process management (BPM) industry experienced its own ‘2X Supernova’ moment, with the unexpected onset of the Covid pandemic and totally reimagined value creation. While the transformation from business process outsourcing (BPO) to BPM happened years ago, this ‘2X Supernova’ moment caused a momentous change in the blink of an eye.

It’s worth noting the Indian BPM industry is today 1.4 million people-strong, and has seen revenues soar to $44 billion in FY22. These numbers depict a story of how an industry has come into its own, serving as an agile transformative partner to business enterprises and providing predictable outcomes amid unpredictable business variability. The BPM sector is extensively leveraging digital and edge technologies (Artificial Intelligence, Robotic Process Automation, advanced analytics and hyperautomation) to build new and resilient business models for a world where anything can happen. It has seen the distinct evolution of business continuity planning (BCP) into what I call Pandemic Continuity Planning (PCP). Plus, it has thrown a secure shield with industry-leading infosec standards to enhance control and compliance — irrespective of operating models and locations — and ensure cybersafe work and outcomes.

Next-gen transformation

It has been a purposeful evolution from BPO to BPM in the last two decades. Both in terms of value proposition and associated technology levers, the industry moved admirably up the value scale — from cost advantage in its 1.0 version to efficiency and quality in its 2.0 version — and to experience in its 3.0 version. In its mind-boggling speed of next-gen transformation to BPM 4.0, this industry has unleashed a five-dimensional force of all-encompassing change. Spanning the entire gamut of the front, middle and back-office enterprise, it has brought in: 1) design thinking leadership for superior and seamless stakeholder experience; 2) data and digital-driven application of technology at scale through integrated digital platforms that has facilitated a seamless flow and integration of data, analytics, AI and automation; 3) domain-centric expertise for enhanced depth and meaningful amalgamation of industry understanding, process excellence and technology edge; 4) DevOps-led collaboration between IT development, operations, and business process operations for maximum speed, scale and agility; and 5) distributed workforce enablement of top-skilled talent in hybrid work models and flexible work arrangements

Faced with challenging demands of highly empowered and brand-agnostic customers, organisations across the globe have increasingly turned to the BPM industry to deliver integrated and hyper-personalised customer experiences. And, BPM 4.0 players who had set themselves on an accelerated trajectory of progression, swiftly converted the compulsions of Covid to opportunities in anticipating and addressing the needs of businesses. In fact, even before the pandemic struck, CXOs across the globe were looking to keep their enterprises ahead of the market through digital transformation. Leveraging data and emerging technologies was becoming a key differentiator to widening the gap between competition, and accelerated responses to business and market changes were becoming the top business priority.

This dovetailed perfectly with the vision and initiatives of BPM players, who had risen in the value chain as strategic partners – moving decisively away from a full-time equivalent or FTE-based model to co-creation, output and outcome-based service models. BPM leaders have surged amazingly ahead into what I call the ‘HyperLead’ mode, partnering with global enterprises to rapidly build digital business models with industry-specific and cross-industry ‘multiple in-a-box’ solutions. The leaders of the industry have stepped up to make continuous investments in building their portfolio of digital transformation-led solutions, innovation labs and specialised centers of excellence and, more importantly, in digitally distributed global work models.

Far-reaching impact

Without a shadow of doubt, the Indian BPM industry is poised for an exciting era of accelerated growth, given its talent, technology and leadership capabilities. The emergence of Tier 2 and 3 cities, on the back of rapid infrastructural growth, is unlocking new opportunities for the sector. This expansion is enabling the industry to create significant employment opportunities and take advantage of the untapped talent, especially the women workforce available in these cities.

The engagement between enterprises and their BPM partners has irreversibly moved from efficient execution to driving strategic orchestration of future success, designing winning operating models and solutions, and ensuring an always-prepared talent workforce through innovative talent models and organisation structures. Technology will assume center stage in BPM 4.0, through platform-based services, to holistically integrate multiple digital elements into a seamless ecosystem of data, insights and predictive decision-making. The return on investment will be more holistic and outcome-based, encompassing a refreshing set of parameters that reflect true and skin-in-the-game partnership.

Outperformance against this tremendous promise calls for unified efforts with respect to mindset, appetite for risk and readiness to invest in talent, technology and infrastructure. BPM solution providers will have to enhance their stakeholder branding, especially with the emerging workforce. Designing a compelling employee value proposition of skilling, learning and purposeful engagement will be key. Talking about the workforce, it’s heartening to see the industry lay focus on gender diversity and inclusivity and hiring women employees at all levels.

With its incredible history and proven record of intelligent evolution, there is no reason why the Indian BPM industry cannot successfully steer global businesses to a profitable future.

The writer is Group CEO, WNS