If it goes ahead, the Optus move will see a number of HR and accounting functions outsourced to external firms as well as having some of the human functions sent offshore.
“Optus continually reviews its operations to ensure it has the right organisational structure in place to achieve its goals" an Optus spokesperson told HC Online.
"We are currently reviewing our back office HR and finance operations to identify potential activities that could be outsourced over the next 12 months. We are also looking at ways that we can enhance our finance and HR functions through better analytics, systems and technology to evolve service delivery across our business. While we are talking to a number of parties, we have not finalised arrangements with any vendors."
"Specific roles which may be affected have not yet been identified but we will work with employees who may be affected by these changes.”
But reaction to the move questions the HR role itself. Rohit Sharma, director of Mindfields, told the Australian Financial Review he was surprised Optus was outsourcing in the traditional way when there are now automation options available to get the HR job done more efficiently, onshore and in-house.
"Conventional offshoring is fast becoming obsolete due to the maturity and falling costs of automation" – Rohit Sharma
Sharma is talking about RPA – robotic process automation. Firms such as Mindfields are showing large organisations how to automate “rule-based non-judgmental processes” across back office operations, including HR support operations such as payroll administration, helpdesk support and customer service, conventionally done by people. ANZ Banking Group is already testing RPA across some back office functions normally performed by people.
"Conventional offshoring is fast becoming obsolete due to the maturity and falling costs of automation," said Sharma. "We have also brought some processes back to onshore, as there is no longer a business case for offshoring and to losing ownership or control of these processes."
The shake-up in the Optus HR function isn’t only about outsourcing, offshoring and robotics. Optus is also pursuing another trend in HR: data analytics. Optus is seeking a more efficient way of deriving insights from its HR data via a new analytics system.
Speculation over a decision by Optus to offshore its HR and finance-accounting back office functions has opened the debate on the future of HR professionals and their use of technology.