According to Gartner, global spending on robotic process automation software (or Robotic Process Automation) are expected to reach $2.9 billion this year; a trend that confirms the idea that machines are indeed stealing jobs, focusing, fortunately, on tedious and repetitive tasks, but nevertheless necessary. Could all of this change? Is RPA being phased out? Or does she still have a future?
According to Varsha Mehta, market research specialist at Gartner, RPA software vendors are now going “beyond the traditional offer focused on a single technology, towards a more sophisticated toolbox”. These tools include low-code application platforms, process/task mining, decision modeling and the use of on-demand integration platforms (iPaaS). According to Varsha Mehta, the goal is to create “planned platforms to achievehyperautomation “.
Obviously, customers want more for their money. If big data gives organizations analytical migraines, the harm is mitigated, to some extent, by the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). But if these tools provide, for example, insights into operational and commercial mechanics, customer habits or even financial modelling, RPA, for its part, answers the question “how”.
Nelson Petracek, CTO at TIBCO Software, closely monitors business trends and data intelligence. He finds that functional, process-driven RPA is essential to the overall technology mix needed to meet an organization’s expectations for profitability and productivity.
“This technological convergence must be implemented to achieve a broader automation objective,” explains the CTO. “This space now shows a little more maturity. Also, it is no longer a question of having a robot that goes hand in hand with a human or that replaces it, but rather of integrating a robot in the context of a larger set of capabilities. »
By way of example, Nelson Petracek explains how, within the framework of a process mining or task mining, a bot does non-intrusive introspection by mining application logs and system loads, then paints a picture of how employees operate and determines whether they are taking certain shortcuts or repeating the same ones tasks. The idea here is to build the big picture, help improve processes, increase profitability, and even boost productivity.
Increasing productivity, reducing costs, and freeing up valuable employee time are the three main drivers of process automation, made possible by RPA. A recent Deloitte survey on intelligent automation found that many organizations are aware of it, with 74% of respondents saying they have already implemented RPA.
“Organizations that have gone beyond piloting intelligent automation tell us they have achieved an average cost reduction of 32% in the areas they have targeted, compared to 24% in 2020,” says David Wright. , a partner in Deloitte’s Intelligent Automation team.
Profitability and beyond
However, the role of RPA today is evolving into a broader set of intelligent automation capabilities. So what are the implications in terms of expectations? Can robotic process automation be considered a pure yield technology or not?
David Wright explains that an intelligent mix including RPA paves the way for better human-machine integration and leads organizations to take a different look at RPA. Businesses that process a large volume of transactions and struggle with integration and legacy systems issues are likely to consider RPA – and the broader intelligent automation function – as a way to overcome data bottlenecks. potential strangulation.
“If you don’t have the funds to [remplacer votre technologie héritée par des applications modernes]intelligent automation is a way to put optimization and automation on top of it,” says David Wright.
This approach will also help resolve some of the silo issues already somewhat ironed out by existing RPA implementations. Managing Director for EMEA at Laiye – a company in Gartner’s 2022 RPA Magic Quadrant – Neil Parker explains how RPA is being deployed across different industries to help information and to “free them from an unbearable administrative burden which they are mostly confronted with”.
“Yet even RPA was left behind to become legacy technology as digital transformation gained momentum. Now we talk about intelligent automation, which can really help to bring RPA to a level corresponding to the real tasks that are demanded of today’s employee. »
So it’s a good time for RPA. In reality, the market seems somewhat fragmented, although its main players, such as UiPath which went public on the New York Stock Exchange last year, and companies such as Salesforce (via its subsidiary MuleSoft), Microsoft, Automation Anywhere and Pega are positioned as Leaders or Visionaries in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant. All of these companies see intelligent automation as an upcoming opportunity for transformation.
“In some industries, tedious and uncreative processes are nevertheless vital. An example of this is the many queries received by customer service agents. Also, these industries are favorable to an adoption of intelligent automation, adds Neil Parker. “Indeed, a digital worker or a software robot will simply be able to relieve the employee of an endless administrative burden, such as sorting and filing, or, in many cases, closing a trouble ticket. It will thus free the agent, who can then deal with more complex and more interesting tasks. »
This evolution of RPA towards intelligent automation is intriguing. Technology and industry sectors are often the frontrunners in these areas: a study by Deloitte indicates that their players account for around 76% of the RPA market. But there are signs of wider adoption. Attractiveness is the most important sign; one that makes RPA part of a solution that promises significant financial savings and long-term stability.
Growing interest in RPA
Don Schuerman, chief technical officer and vice president of PegaSystems, explains that he now sees interest in RPA across a spectrum of industry sectors, particularly in complex organizations with many back-end processes and need to induce more simplicity and efficiency. This trend has accelerated with COVID and continues with growing turmoil in the global economic landscape.
“This technology is ideal for any large-scale organization, with significant benefits for retail, supply chain management, government services, telecom operators and insurers. In fact, any business that directly handles large volumes of customers can reap huge benefits from RPA,” says Don Schuerman.
“Ultimately, we find that the impact of RPA is greatest when used as part of a larger process transformation initiative, combining workflow automation, RPA and, increasingly, decision-making by AI. It is therefore no longer simply a matter of automating manual tasks, but of streamlining complete processes interacting with customers. A low-code platform will federate all these elements and facilitate collaboration between IT and business departments, thus guaranteeing rapid results, but also scalability and ease of maintenance over the longer term. »
Neil Parker agrees on this point. It shows a growing adoption in some new sectors, such as travel and retail, which have suffered a rapid decline in terms of services, in particular due to a lack of staff.
“We all see the administrative chaos and staffing shortages at airports; so many problems that could easily be solved by automating the baggage handling process,” says Neil Parker. “The same goes for health. The time of nurses and doctors is far too limited to be spent managing forms or answering the same questions hundreds of times. Retailers will also see the benefit of intelligent automation in the form of conversational AI that helps boost online sales through chatbots incentives. »
And Neil Parker adds that RPA can efficiently process returns and simplify the overall customer experience. Reducing pain points and giving customers the confidence to make purchases online is not only a procedural challenge, but also a cultural and pricing challenge.
A glass slipper
However, Don Schuerman was quick to point out that RPA is by no means the solution to all technology and process ills. Far from there.
“IT decision makers should exercise caution and not over-rely on RPA when the use case is inadequate,” he says. He adds that RPA is especially valuable when it comes to automating tasks that specifically fit the following conditions: high volume, low complexity, and rule-based management.
“For example, in correlation with APIs (Application Programming Interface), RPA should only be viewed as a gateway function where no existing API is readily available. Without control, RPA can be fragile and promote ruptures. »
Don Schuerman adds that building durable automations that integrate with larger business processes is, by default, a complex task, and so customers should understand that the majority of RPA connections should be temporary. The automation of multiple long-term processes, which will interconnect both internal and external systems, machine and human tasks, custom software and third-party software integration, involves workflow or intelligent business process management (or IBMM, Intelligent Business Process Management), and not an RPA. “Still, combining IBPM and RPA will be your secret weapon,” he continues.
What to expect in 2023? With inflation and the cost of living crisis affecting consumers and businesses, are we heading for an increased shift to RPA and intelligent automation?
“We are increasingly seeing organizations replacing standalone RPA implementations with workflow solutions low code, robust and durable, likely to make RPA profitable as part of an overall automation strategy,” explains Don Schuerman.
Neil Parker agrees on this point and explains that RPA as we know it will soon disappear in favor of intelligent automation. He explains that businesses can no longer operate without AI built in from the start. Any other approach will only multiply the headaches and, given changing working patterns, skills shortages, economic pressures and competitiveness, few companies can risk it.
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The rise of RPA and beyond
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