Organisations need to maximise the value of RPA, or robotics process automation. Here Pat Geary, chief evangelist at Blue Prism, highlights what significant RPA trends and developments can be expected this year.
RPA trend number one: a standard will emerge
RPA – is a software category that is driving seismic change across the international workplace. RPA was originally designed to provide an easy-to-control ‘Digital Workforce’ (software robots) that informs, augments, supports, and assists people in the automated fulfilment of service based tasks. With both routine and non routine based-tasks being transformed, RPA is topping the corporate agenda. This all sounds great, but there’s a problem – with all this excitement comes hype and confusion within a rapidly expanding RPA marketplace.
With over 45 ‘claimed’ RPA products now on offer – all varying significantly in quality and approach – greater clarity will be required on this complex and relatively misunderstood technology. As the RPA market starts to mature in 2019, a true RPA reference point will emerge — where the technology is run by business users through a collaborative platform — while operating within the full governance and security of the IT department. Having a universal RPA standard will become more important than ever to ensure that organisations avoid choosing either the wrong options or bad, poorly designed, options.
RPA predictions for 2019, from UiPath
RPA trend number two: Greater focus on design
Understanding the design essentials of RPA products will prove more crucial than ever to avoid buyer’s remorse and longer term issues. Many newer RPA offerings, such as robotic desktop automation, have been designed simply as quick-win tools to achieve business benefits. As organisations attempt to scale these tools to achieve bigger business goals in 2019, their design limitations will become increasingly apparent. This assertion is backed by Gartner’s recent prediction that: “Through 2021, 40% of enterprises will have RPA buyer’s remorse due to misaligned, siloed usage and inability to scale.”
For RPA to deliver value, longevity and resilience at scale, automation should be carefully planned, modeled and designed. Short-cuts to building a process will increasingly introduce risks such as ‘Grey IT’ – which is potentially very damaging to an organisation.
Therefore, 2019 will be the year where more rigour is applied to RPA vendor selection. Higher numbers of organisations will adopt a more strategic approach when selecting RPA products. Greater proof will be demanded that a RPA product is really designed for the enterprise. This will mean assessing RPA’s ability to successfully operate and scale in large, demanding, deployments. In such deployments, security, resilience and governance are just as important as speed, automation and simplicity. For those organisations new to RPA, the key challenge will be seeing through the hype, so that they opt for an RPA foundation. In this way, longer term gains are achieved.
“Robotic Process Automation delivers greater productivity in the workplace”
RPA trend number three: The digital worker evolves
The most advanced digital workers not only mimic the way human workers access and read the user interface, to combine and orchestrate any 3rd party application, they also conduct work like humans do, but only faster, with fewer errors — 24×7. These Digital Workers can collaborate too, work in teams and combine forces to complete workloads — constantly regrouping to complete time-pressured tasks.
Throughout 2019, we’ll see further evolution, with a shift from rule based decision-making automation to a more advanced intelligent automation. Importantly, these will increasingly deliver the thinking and analytical capability to make operations smarter and autonomous and thereby help ensure that digital workers more closely replicate human decision making. Six skill categories will emerge; knowledge/insight, learning, visual perception, collaboration, planning and sequencing, and problem solving – with these plug and play, intelligent capabilities sourced from leading global technology firms, to augment digital workers’ existing capabilities.
Why is artificial intelligence overshadowing RPA?
Technology firm V1, has warned that companies are in danger of missing out on major operational efficiencies because they are blindsided by AI. Although AI is tipped to transform business, many firms aren’t yet ready to adopt it and should instead be looking towards RPA which is more accessible
RPA trend number four: The AI enabler
RPA will become the execution platform of choice, for swiftly exploiting best-of-breed AI and cognitive technologies across the digital enterprise. The most advanced digital workers will seamlessly interact with human workers, systems and applications to create a powerful, intelligent, digital ecosystem.
For example, sophisticated digital workers are starting to make use of natural language processing, intelligent optical character recognition (OCR), communication analytics, process optimisation and machine learning (ML). A large Pharmaceutical company has an automated documentation digitisation and discrepancy checking solution using OCR that alerts teams of any data mismatches or gaps across shipping documents. Another combined digital worker and ML program scans for potential compliance risks from conversations with customers.
RPA trend number five: set to become strategic
For RPA to deliver value, longevity and resilience, then at scale, automation will increasingly become more carefully planned, modeled and designed.
The single most important factor in achieving superior outcomes — one that shapes and informs all RPA-related activities — is the adoption of a strategic approach to its introduction and management within the enterprise. Over 2019, more organisations will start taking a more holistic, strategic approach to RPA by re-imagining processes and organisational structure and other technologies. As a result, a wider range of RPA cases will emerge.
Critical success factors will include integrating RPA into a broader automation strategy, alignment with process governance, key stakeholder support, and process optimisation being combined with RPA. Other critical success factors include partnering with IT and external partners; developing expertise in automation and process optimisation; clear governance and operating model, a centralised framework for IT architecture and infrastructure, and stakeholder communications and change management.
By getting the RPA strategy right, organisations will achieve even greater shareholder, customer and employee value — such as efficiency savings and increased productivity. They will also experience unexpected returns that may include; discovering much better regulatory compliance, faster delivery of new products to market, enhanced customer service and increased employee skills and satisfaction.