RPA: we take a look at UiPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere

Last October, Grand View Research, forecast that the RPA market would be worth $3.11 billion by 2025 — a remarkably precise figure.  It projects a compound annual growth rate of 31.1% between now and then.  But given that UiPath is targeting a robot on every desk, and given so many claims about automation freeing up a big chunk of worker’s time, and for that matter creating what they have started calling digital workers — a market size of $3.1 billion by 2025 seems to be a tad on the conservative side.

There is another point of view, others argue that the RPA market has become overhyped; that companies are installing RPA without any clear understanding of why they need it, or indeed why they don’t need it, and in some cases, company valuations are, shall we say, seem quite aggressive.

So we spoke to:

Guy Kirkwood, UiPath’s chief evangelist


James Dening, VP and European RPA evangelist at Automation Anywhere


Pat Geary, chief evangelist at Blue Prism

We started by asking them to each define what they mean by RPA.

Guy Kirkwood, UiPath: “RPA mimics human physical activity; moving data through and between any system or application, in the same way a person does.”

James Dening, Automation Anywhere: “For us RPA is the ability to automate any rules-based process across any technology stack in both the attended and unattended world.”

Pat Geary, Blue Prism:  “RPA Is a software category created by Blue Prism that provides an easy-to-control ‘Digital Workforce’ that informs, augments, supports and assists people in the automation of rules-based mission critical procedures and tasks. This category is now entering its next evolutionary phase —  ‘connected-RPA’ — which promises an exciting era of collaborative technology innovation – led by digitally savvy business users – enabled by ever greater, intelligent, business automation.”

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What is the difference between RPA and AI?

Guy Kirkwood, UiPath: “AI mimics human cognitive activity; seeing things, reading things, listening to things and then making decisions in the same way a person does. By combining both RPA and AI, people can get the robot to take over the things they don’t want to do and help them do the things that they do want to do.”

James Dening, Automation Anywhere: “RPA deals with structured, rules-based data processes. AI deals more with semi-structured data and has the ability to learn and improve as it processes that data.”

Pat Geary, Blue Prism: “RPA informs, augments, supports and assists people in the automated fulfilment of service based tasks and AI is the simulation of human intelligence by machines. However, connected-RPA is emerging as the execution platform of choice for swiftly utilising best-of-breed cloud, AI and other cognitive technologies  — across the digital enterprise.”

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How does your product stand out from competitors?

Guy Kirkwood, UiPath:  “UiPath is open and collaborative. Its success, as arguably the fastest-growing enterprise software company in history, has been driven by its community of 250,000 users. They are the ones who come up with the good ideas, the new technologies to look at, the new implementation partners to talk to, and so on. No other RPA vendor has this reach.”

James Dening, Automation Anywhere: “Automation Anywhere’s platform is the most intuitive to use, fastest to scale and it’s secure by design. Added to this, the capabilities of our digital workers enable unparalleled automation deployment.”

Pat Geary, Blue Prism: “What makes Blue Prism’s digital workers unique is they’re designed to be the most scalable, secure, controllable, intelligent and connected — with no coding required, so they can be run by business users — through a centralised, collaborative, RPA platform. Crucially, these digital workers also operate safely within the full governance and security of the IT department within the most demanding enterprise environments, making them easy to operate at scale.”

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How does OCR come into the equation?

Guy Kirkwood, UiPath: “OCR, or rather intelligent OCR is part of computer vision. It is required for a robot to understand and act on what it ‘sees’. “

James Dening, Automation Anywhere: “OCR essentially enables you to capture data and text in documents. Cognitive RPA enables you to analyse and classify documents based on far more than the just the text within them.”

Pat Geary, Blue Prism: “For OCR, a large pharmaceutical company uses digital workers to create an automated documentation digitisation and discrepancy checking solution using OCR that alerts teams of any data mismatches or gaps across shipping documents.”

Where do you stand on talk about there being too much hype on RPA?

Guy Kirkwood, UiPath: “Anyone that describes RPA as over-hyped, misunderstands the potential. Why? Let’s take Workday, it is a $38 billion market cap business that focuses entirely on HR. Salesforce is a $113 billion market cap business that is only in sales and marketing. With RPA, there is no limit to where it can spread; there is no part of any business that cannot benefit. RPA is therefore right at the start of its life. Ultimately, we believe that every person will have their own robot.”

James Dening, Automation Anywhere:  “In reality, I think we are only just starting to hear about the true potential of RPA, as many businesses are in the early stages of implementing RPA but we’re yet to see them openly talking about it.”

Pat Geary, Blue Prism: “With over 45 ‘claimed’ RPA products now on offer  — all varying significantly in quality and approach  — greater clarity — rather than hype — is required on this complex and relatively misunderstood technology. Better insight will enable organisations to more accurately assess the true capabilities and suitability of RPA platforms — so they avoid choosing either the wrong options or bad, poorly designed, options.”

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Is there a danger that some companies are implementing RPA, without fully understanding what it can offer, as a result they may be left disappointed?

Guy Kirkwood, UiPath: “We do not presume to know everything, which is why we recommend everyone implementing RPA follows a step-by-step guide to implementation, produced by analyst firm Everest Group. This Playbook is available free from UiPath.”

James Dening, Automation Anywhere: “Our recent research with Goldsmiths, University of London  shows that the greatest ROI on RPA investment is achieved with simultaneous investment in people. Businesses need to understand how RPA fits within their operations, but ultimately the key to successful RPA implementation is diligent planning and management of the organisation’s workforce transformation.”

Pat Geary, Blue Prism: “Organisations that avoid long-term disappointment are the ones that have thoroughly assessed RPA’s ability to successfully operate and scale in their environments — understanding that ease of use, security, resilience, governance and scalability are the most appropriate selection criteria. To ensure that RPA delivers optimal value in any environment, Blue Prism created the industry’s most comprehensive methodology for best practice and implementation principles. However, many organisations are implementing simple RDA (robot desk automation) deployments, having been sold as RPA. With RDA, organisations get little business benefit as the desktop robot is mostly idle, there is an inherent lack of central control, security, audit and governance — and it’s near impossible to scale.”

Over the next weeks, we will be looking at RPA, the challenges and the opportunities as we drill down into the core issues. Stay tuned.

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Michael Baxter

.Michael Baxter is a tech, economic and investment journalist. He has written four books, including iDisrupted and Living in the age of the jerk. He is the editor of Techopian.com and the host of the ESG...