In 2017, a Deloitte survey found that enterprises were convinced robotic process automation (RPA) could deliver a significant boost in productivity, higher quality, faster turnaround time, and improved compliance. Yet, only three per cent of organizations managed to scale RPA to a level of 50 or more robots. There were palpable gaps between what businesses wanted and what they got.
The analysts have been cautious with their predictions. While Gartner estimated that the global RPA market size would grow by 41 per cent year-over-year to 2020, according to Market Research Future reports, the RPA market will touch USD 2,700 Million by 2023, at 29 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2017 and 2023.
Looking back, 2018 will be considered the watershed year when RPA managed to come into its own in the dynamic digital environment. This was the year when RPA disrupted industries as diverse as banking, healthcare, insurance, retail, telecommunications, manufacturing and supply chain across the globe.
The RPA advantage
Defined as an application technology where software or robots are used to automate the handling of high volume and repeatable tasks, RPA is more forward-looking than traditional IT automation. Thanks to its innate capability to learn and adapt to changing circumstances, RPA offers increased value to organizations.
From better efficiency and qualitative improvements in key processes to enhanced employee engagement and augmented customer experience, RPA has the ability to streamline processes, enhance communication, and remove geographical barriers. The biggest advantage, experts concur, is that the technology automates repetitive, time-consuming jobs, thereby redirecting the workforce to perform value-added tasks, reducing costs and errors.
KPMG believes that RPA can cut costs by up to 75 per cent for financial firms, while EY says RPA can save HR teams up to 35 per cent. A study by International Data Corporation (IDC) found that not only can businesses cut down on the operational costs, but they, typically, also recover their initial investment in 10 months to two years.
Highlights from 2018
* Two to tango:
The human-robot relationship got more engaging with the integration of ‘attended bots’ into the desktop workspace. As robotic and human work complemented each other – with robots automating specific tasks within organizations and humans focusing on more high-value work – the fear of automation taking away jobs was slowly being put to rest. The human workers will need to evolve, of course, as RPA applications offer digital, versatile, flexible and scalable workforce solutions.
In 2018, RPA robots found their true calling in the world of Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data. As the amount of unstructured data – generated by mobile phones, tablets, electrical appliances, wearable devices, industrial equipment, and the like – increases, the robots have started to play a pivotal role in the management and streamlining of the data processes to provide valuable business insights.
*For the customer:
This year saw businesses deploy RPA solutions to enhance customer service and support experience. As robots managed repetitive customer queries and interactions quicker and more efficiently, they helped build customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Today, enterprises are employing a combination of bots and humans to respond to a wide range of customer queries swiftly, intelligently and with empathy.
*The intelligence factor:
As enterprises began to explore the artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) features in RPA tools, 2018 witnessed the ushering of a new era of understanding and analysis of data. RPA itself is undergoing a transformation, known as Intelligent Process Automation (IPA). Apart from better productivity and ROI, these pursuits have been driving creative accomplishments, with better decision-making abilities and knowledge-based programming.
The North Tyneside council in England has an army of robots to help citizens fill in forms for benefit claims. Not only is the process much quicker – 50 per cent reduction in time spent entering data and 45 per cent reduction in time taken to process new claims – but also more efficient, with the system autonomously assessing the fraud risk of each applicant.
It’s a matter of time before the UK-based local authority’s RPA revolution story finds resonance in private as well as public sector enterprises across the world. Not just the big organizations, but also small and medium enterprises (SME) embracing digital transformation will find greater need and broader opportunities for RPA.
Market collaborations are impacting portfolios of RPA companies significantly. Whether it’s SAP’s acquisition of Contextor or Microsoft deals with leading RPA firms like Kryon, UiPath and Blue Prism, businesses are adapting to market changes. Recently, UiPath and Automation Anywhere raised over half a billion dollars between them in their respective series funding rounds.
Perhaps, 2019 will see enterprises create new roles such as Bot Trainer, Bot Developer and RPA Manager as RPA continues to transform every aspect of business. However, success will depend on implementing RPA right and tapping into the tool most suitable for the business.
It all begins with a sound plan. You got one?