RPA: the key players, and what’s unique about themWe sat down with some of the key players in RPA: Automation Anywhere, NICE, UiPath, Blue Prism, Kofax, and Another Monday; to ask: ‘what’s special about you’?
Robotics process automation is one of the hottest areas in technology automation. The number of players in this market is increasing rapidly; here we take a look at size of the key players in RPA.
To be fair to all six of these RPA players, we thought we would go through each of them in alphabetical order.
RPA: we take a look at UiPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere
Robotics process automation, or RPA, is becoming big. And this month, RPA is our main theme. Information Age talks to three of the top players: Blue Prism, UiPath and Automation Anywhere. So here we begin RPA month by comparing and contrasting
We spoke to Arjen van Berkum, Chief Operations Officer at Another Monday.
“We don’t like to charge upfront costs,” he says.
In this way, he argues that the “entrepreneurial risk of making RPA adoption a success is ours. Maybe there will be a very high percentage automation rate within a specific client, however, at the outset we don’t know if it will work, but ‘since the costs are low for you, what’s the problem?’”.
He continues: “Then we can show them some scenarios and we can discuss with them some best practices. We do a workshop and ask questions like; ‘what do your people do most’ ‘What do they like?’ ‘What don’t they like’? Then we identify two or three processes we can do quickly.”
We spoke to Mihir Shukla, CEO of Automation Anywhere. Mr Shukla has been working in the internet space since the early days; and had enjoyed considerable success. Automation Anywhere is his sixth start-up. The company has 1,500 customers world wide, and has offices in around 25 countries.
Shukla claims that Automation Anywhere’s is the platform to automate processes end to end.
He says that it is simple to use, “no need to be an expert,” and the company provides best practice guides.
“If you are employing thousands of bots in digital transformation, the best approach is a leader created top down mandate.”
He also puts emphasis on getting the user experience right from the beginning: “If your starting point is to get people to use it, and love it, then they are more likely to be a willing part of the digital transformation journey.”
Automation Anywhere announces $300 million investment from SoftBank
Of all the key specialist key players in RPA, Blue Prism is the only company listed on the stock market. We spoke to Pat Geary, the company’s Chief Evangelist. Pat has an interesting claim to fame in this space, for it was he who first came up with the phrase RPA.
Blue Prism puts a quite different emphasis on RPA, indeed it goes further and argues that a lot of the ‘claimed’ players in the RPA space are not actually RPA companies at all — rather they sell what he calls RDA — robotics desktop automation.
When we spoke to Mr Geary, he put emphasis on the word guardian: Operational security guardians, resilience and backup guardians, audit guardians and governance guardians.”
He says that what he calls RDA bypasses these guardians — “sneaking stuff in without passing the guardians.”
He says Blue Prism as providing a fortress RPA, “it’s absolutely bullet-proof,” he says.
He likens the Blue Prism solution to a padded room — an area that is safe, allows for experiment, the “business can do whatever they like in there, but they’re not going to break anything.”
Finally, Pat Geary proudly claims that the company has very low churn; “all of our major accounts we had back in 2009 are still our customers.”
RPA and digital transformation: Blue Prism says it can help you sprint
We spoke to Chris Huff, Chief Strategy Officer at Kofax. Mr Huff is an ex Deloitte man, where he worked with clients applying RPA.
For Mr Huff, Kofax’s strength is in providing a complete package — not just RPA, but other complimentary products and services.
Kofax itself has been around since 1985, until a year or so ago it was publicly listed, before being bought out. According to Mr Huff it “will do revenues north of $600 million this year” and “we’re profitable to the tune of about 35% EBITDA.” So this means it is a company with considerable free cash flow. It bought RPA company Kapow a few years ago and recently forked out $400 million on a document imaging business previously part of Nuance.
So what is special about the Kofax RPA offering?
RPA is just one component of the product offering. He says there are five key products:
* Cognitive capture incorporating machine learning to take unstructured data in documents and take that unstructured data and transform it into structured format.
* Customer communications
* And mobility and engagement
He draws a parallel with Microsoft Office — part of its strength lies with the way its different tools interact with each other, “you can easily tab between the different capabilities in Microsoft Office suite without compromising data integrity.” There are five Kofax capabilities on the platform, so being able to move data between different automation capabilities without compromising the data.”
For Mr Huff, RPA is just one tool in the Kofax toolkit; a tool he likens to a hammer. “RPA struggles with scalability because it’s only starting with 25% of the available data.
Robotic Process Automation in 2019: the market will come of age says Kofax
NICE is around 30 years old. In the early days they focused on recording calls in contact centres. From there, the company “looked at ways of extracting value from all the data that was collected, and the data grew with new channels, chat, email and SMS.” The route into AI, RPA and automation grew from that.
Today NICE is listed on the NASDAQ, they have a workforce of around 6,000 globally with about 30 different product lines.
Gareth Hole, Alliance Director at NICE, told us: “We believe that automation is just one piece of the RPA puzzle. We place particular emphasis on combining the flawless execution of robotic automation with human empathy. By augmenting people, we can help them to achieve what they couldn’t do on their own.
“Think of it as real-time process optimisation. By leveraging cognitive technologies like natural language processing, voice analytics, optical character recognition and desktop analytics, our RPA solutions can understand their environment and act in real-time, operating as a virtual assistant for each employee. This can deliver benefits way beyond just efficiency, and it becomes about customer experience, getting things right first time, reducing employee on-boarding time and increasing sales revenue.”
“It’s about augmenting people,” says NICE, a leading player in RPA and software robots
“RPA and software robotics is not always about automating tasks; it’s also about accuracy, having the right conversation, it’s about supporting and augmenting people,” says Gareth Hole, alliances director at NICE, as he spoke to Information Age
Of the key players in RPA, UiPath has enjoyed perhaps the most publicity. It has been valued at over $3 billion, has raised in excess of $500 million and saw annual recurring revenue rise from $1 million to $100 million over a 21 month period to last July.
Impressive though these figures are, we should point out that UiPath is not the only key RPA player to see rapid growth and fund raising — Automation Anywhere, for example has also raised in excess of $500 million.
We spoke to Guy Kirkwood, UiPath’s Chief Evangelist.
So what’s unique about UiPath? Mr Kirkwood said: “It boils down to the way we work rather than what we do.” For Mr Kirkwood, the key word is collaboration — “the open and collaborative way we work.”
He points to reviews in Gartner Peer and G2 Crowd which he says back up this claim.
And why? “Because we give stuff away for free. In 2015, all the vendors were charging for training. So UiPath created an academy, training platform, which has since been replicated by Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere. By creating the academy platform, we are helping developers and business people necessary to spread RPA throughout their companies to train themselves up.”
This takes us to one of the key differences between UiPath and Automation Anywhere with Blue Prism. While Blue Prism talks about rival offerings as ‘merely’ desk top automation, UiPath emphasises what it calls attended and unattended robots — unattended robots being specific to end to end processes — attended more like a personal assistant. He claims that company’s need both. “UiPath and Automation Anywhere are in both attended and unattended, that is why they are growing faster.”
RPA market with UiPath in the cockpit is taking off like a rocket
The RPA market is exploding, RPA or robotic process automation, has moved up the Gartner hype cycle, and it is no longer ‘one day’ technology it is technology that is transforming business now, and UiPath sits in a comfortable position, it claims to be the fastest enterprise software company in history, and we spoke to Guy Kirkwood, its chief evangeliser.
The above list is not mean to be exhaustive, there are other RPA players, including companies like Kryon, who were were unable to interview, and sector specific specialists, such as Ultimate Software.