Many enterprises today are already partaking of the benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) today – improved efficiency and time savings, cost reduction, enhanced business processes, and delivery of a better customer experience, to name but a few. However, the technology has a lot more to offer, but is hindered by a disparate and potentially disjointed approach to its adoption in the enterprise.
2019 will be the year that the RPA market will see a dramatic and rapid maturation. RPA vendors will be put to the test and they will either see their market valuations soar or begin to hear the hissing of a deflating bubble with warning signs of a ‘hype cycle’ crash.
In the last five years, RPA vendors have primarily focused on the ‘demand’ side of the business – i.e. providing the market with an understanding of the commercial value of the technology with a view to convincing prospects to try RPA. While the industry has succeeded on the demand side, its time RPA vendors shifted their focus to the ‘supply’ side of the equation – i.e. managing the demand by creating a supply of knowledgeable RPA leaders armed with capable software, to enable customers to scale RPA in the enterprise effectively.
In 2019, we’ll see the following shifts take place in the RPA landscape:
1) Organisations will demand more from their RPA vendors. Thus far, vendors have focused on offering proof of concepts to generate interest and buy-in to the technology. In 2019, it won’t be enough to just offer a proof of concept demonstration to get new business as companies will demand a clear path to enterprise level scalability that delivers end to end smart automation, backed by quantifiable results and ROI.
2) In today’s world where there is an app for everything, for security reasons, enterprises are looking for more advanced authentication than merely passwords. As RPA is extended to the front office and customer-related business processes, biometric authentication and facial recognition, will become part of the equation. It will enhance security of course, but coupled with mobility and serverless computing, the approach will provide a very powerful enterprise-secure RPA offering. This bringing together of security through the authentication and validation via biometrics to RPA is a natural progression for RPA technology, especially as the ‘self-service’ environment takes greater hold with customers increasingly executing more and more tasks via their smartphones.
3) With data security and compliance becoming an increasingly important topic in 2019, companies will demand that their RPA solutions conform with regulatory requirements such as GDPR. It’s a glaring necessity that will continue to drive the market forward with innovation. This will help put in automated controls reducing manual controls to strengthen the security
4) Vendors will need to provide companies with serverless computing and improved licensing models to enhance the attractiveness of RPA to global enterprises. The current licensing norm is one licence for one robot on one server. This works in a pilot/proof of concept scenario, but when an organisation has 1000s of robots this 1:1:1 architecture is simply not feasible from an operational perspective. Allowing businesses access to as many bots as organisations need, or want, demands improved architecture. Serverless computing negates capacity planning and facilitates the offer of better licensing models. It will allow enterprise to easily scale out to as many robots and resources they need, as and when they require them.
5) RPA prices will decline due to competition, commodisation and the improvement in licensing models based around consumption, driving improved capacity usage levels for customers. Presently, the industry average for robot licence utilisation is approximately 35 per cent, but of course enterprises are paying for 100 per cent capacity.
6) Large software vendors will continue to acquire RPA capability, wrapping in RPA to provide automation capabilities, as core, out of the box offering. This will leave RPA vendors that have built niche market plays around larger software applications with a need to be nimble and platform agnostic to survive.
7) RPA vendors will align with the macro shift of moving from data collection to data analysis. Cognitive capture, Natural Language Processing and AI algorithms that transform unstructured data into useful business insights that can be scored and delivered to support high level business decision making, will be a critical asset and differentiation of offering during 2019.
Presently typically, there are a group of analysts (either internally or externally) who undertake data analysis. However, merely collecting data to present to an end user group is no longer good enough. RPA vendors will need to do more than building reporting and dashboarding into their solutions. They will need to build in some ‘smarts’ into their product so that as they are collecting data, the solution is able to simultaneously analyse it. For instance, invoice processing is an example. Typically, invoices to enterprise comes from several vendors and there is a great degree of variation in the terms and conditions of such bills. RPA solutions need to analyse the unstructured data and non standardised formats as they are collected for trends and business issues for better operational efficiency.
8) BPO vendors will make alignments with RPA vendors in a bid to reduce the risk of being re-shored. BPOs will work closely as partners, both as a consumer and reseller of RPA.
Today, many companies are looking to re-shore tasks (not the jobs), not to give it to people to execute, but to automation. Consequently, there is a realisation among BPO vendors that RPA is threatening their business model. They potentially may even re-position/describe themselves along the lines of intelligent processing providers – rather than employing people to undertake processing tasks, they may look at adopting automation toolkits to perform the outsourced business processing for companies.
9) Business will embrace RPA within their internal organisation, creating new positions that will allow scalability to be a reality. Bot trainers, bot developers and RPA managers will be commonplace in the workforce. Unlike previously where say finance managers were employed to manage people, similar roles will be created to manage the RPA finance digital workers. This represents true upskilling by enterprises and a huge new opportunity for individuals, who will become substantially more marketable. Companies will also begin to show case and market their automation programmes in recruiting efforts to attract talent.
10) 5G rollout will promote greater mobility, as data becomes more accessible, allowing individuals to consume and control information from their mobile devices. Managing RPA bots from anywhere will become a reality, as RPA vendors create SDKs that give customers the ability to manage and interact remotely, from locations they haven’t been able to do before.
In 2019 RPA will come into its own, as vendors mature in their approach and mindset, driven by enterprise demands for scale, compliance, mobility and security.
Chris Huff, Chief Strategy Officer, Kofax
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