Virtual Workforce Management


Lessons Learned

A Hybrid Workplace

Visit an office of any large organization and you are likely to witness something very similar. An open office space, or so called “trading floor” has replaced a traditional closed office layout. Companies have transformed operations to accommodate knowledge workers. Demand for processing of large volumes of data coming in and out of the global market place where communication, decisions, products and services are increasingly data centric.

Jobs outsourcing has rationalized work distribution across geographies. Labor arbitrage, however, can go only so far. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, corporate executives have been augmenting human workforce with technology. An approach referred to as “Robotic Process Automation” or RPA makes it possible to perform tasks following a set of step-by-step instructions. Because data processing is a largely repetitive task performed by passing information across multiple systems the work does not have to be actually executed by a human. People orchestrate activities using RPA without actually having to execute the tasks themselves.

In fact, many organizations today employ virtual workforce. Hundreds, if not thousands of virtual workers have jobs across major Services companies in the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America. According to a survey conducted with 30 major US organizations, a company employing 100,000 is likely to have additional 1,000 virtual workers.

Business Process Outsourcing, Financial Services, Telecommunications, Healthcare are only few out of many industries adopting virtual workers. Capable of a 24 hour work day without deviating from the instructions provided by the supervisor they keep record of every action. This provides extra productivity and levels of control vital for companies in highly scrutinized industry sectors such as Banking or Insurance. Salaries per virtual worker range from $5,000 to $15,000, while each of such “employees” can handle at least 3 times the amount of workload.

An operation where human and “virtual” workforces are merged can operate at a much higher capacity and scale. “Lifting and shifting” work around does not, however lead to success. People still deliver cognitive thinking, communication and other tasks occurring outside of the systems environment. Virtual workers are good at data execution. Combining the two forces can be powerful. Every organization realizes the potential. The hesitation is rooted in the amount of effort it takes adjust to the existing operating model.

Automation requires an operational environment where work is effectively distributed between humans and technology systems. Knowledge work automation is not an exception. Manufacturing has been successfully delegating work to the technology for centuries. Services industries are beginning to adjusting their operations, altering organizational structures, policies and procedures. Nevertheless, automation technology is finally robust and tested to justify the effort. Organizations that succeed at making the updates stand to see the benefits of a hybrid workplace in increased productivity and new business opportunities.

Tristan Gitman