The voice of the business, customer and IT services industry, the ABSL Association, celebrates its 10th birthday. Over the past ten years of its operations, which, in addition to sharing know-how, educating and advocating the needs of centres, also includes cooperation with new investors and promoting the Czech Republic as an ideal destination for establishing and operating a business service centre, the industry has grown threefold and become a stable pillar of the Czech economy. The next decade will be marked by continued digitisation, expansion of the range of services provided, market consolidation, focus on sustainability and the introduction of new forms of work. By 2030, the industry will employ 250,000 people.
“While we no longer expect the dynamic expansion of recent years, when we grew at double-digit rates every year, the industry will continue to expand, both in terms of the scope of services provided and the number of employees. However, in terms of economic contribution, the growth will be much more dynamic than before, mainly due to the focus on higher value-added work,”
says the director of ABSL Jonathan Appleton, adding that simple transactional work, such as invoice recording or logistics coordination, is no longer heading to the Czech Republic, but highly skilled professional work that includes research and development, data analysis, digitisation of business processes, and innovation.
“Over the past year, 20 new centres have started operations in the Czech Republic, which is a similar number to, for example, a market several times larger such as Poland. It is therefore clear that despite the rising costs local centres must face today, our country still offers attractive potential for the international business, IT and customer service industry,”
says Jonathan Appleton. According to the predictions, the industry is on track to grow by another 90 000 jobs by 2030.
Skills – a key driver of growth
However, the main driver of growth is no longer cheap labour, but the skills of local people, the country’s ability to attract talent from around the world and the adoption of technology. In addition to Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Optical Character Recognition (OCR, 62%) is increasingly being adopted in the sector. Almost a third of centres have taken chatbots into the live phase, a quarter is using artificial intelligence, a fifth machine learning, the same proportion are using automatic natural language processing technology and 17% are using video or image recognition.
“Artificial intelligence is probably the biggest boom at the moment. Our data show that centres that have deployed AI are growing at twice the rate of the industry average. This is because AI can improve productivity and efficiency,”
comments Jonathan Appleton, adding that AI is creating a range of new jobs in areas such as AI software development, data analytics and AI project management. The pandemic has been a strong catalyst for the adoption of these technologies, accelerating their adoption in 63% of centres, and 82% of centres want to move forward with digital transformation this year.
Hundreds of services and processes
Going forward, we can expect to see an even broader rollout of technologies that enable far more business services to be delivered centrally. Whereas twenty years ago, when the industry started to establish itself in the country, centres focused mainly on basic financial services and processes, today centres provide services in dozens of areas and handle hundreds of operations – from managing employee training or preparing job offers and contracts in HR, through route and delivery planning in logistics, to predictive analytics, legal services or security audits. New directions may include, for example, the area of ESG – both in terms of audits and the introduction of new processes and reporting. Two-thirds of the centres plan to expand their scope of services in the next two years.
New ways of work
The next period will also see further growth in new forms of work, according to ABSL’s forecast. The industry is already synonymous with flexible working, where people can work anytime and anywhere. However, there is expected to be a greater expansion of job-sharing, an increase in alternative hours and an interest in working with freelancers and project collaboration. So far, 14% of all workers in the industry use part-time or freelance work, and their share is expected to double by 2030.
“Other trends for the next decade will include market consolidation as smaller centres begin to merge with larger ones, a stronger focus on sustainability and ESG compliance, and an emphasis on training to maintain high skills and thus market relevance and potential for further industry development and growth,”
concludes Jonathan Appleton.