Robotic process automation implementation and market landscape

Robotic process automation (RPA) leverages artificial intelligence to configure computer software and the market is going through a lot of changes as larger integrators and vendors search for companies that will launch a breakthrough.

By Leroy Davis, 7 Mile Advisors January 31, 2018

Robotic process automation (RPA) leverages artificial intelligence to configure computer software for handling rule-based processes, manipulating data, triggering responses, and communicating with different digital systems and even customers. These solutions use artificial intelligence (AI) to execute repetitive tasks, obviating much of the need for human intervention.

The RPA market was ~$600m in 2016 and analysts expect 20%+ CAGR from 2017 to 2024. RPA is having its day as increasing demand to automate processes ranging from customer inquiries to supply chain to transaction processing place RPA implementations top of the chief intelligence officer’s (CIO’s) mind. Given these benefits, Gartner estimates that automation and artificial intelligence will reduce employee requirements in business shared-service centers by 65% by 2020. Reduce this estimate by 50% and there’s still little doubt of the compelling RPA market opportunity.

RPA business process and job impact

From desktop recorded automation to a digital workforce platform, RPA opportunity abounds. Early adoption has involved supply chain, transaction processing, and customer relationship management (CRM). Vertical industry solutions capture the most appeal, given the business process automation aspect of RPA solutions.

Employees providing manual editing and ubiquitous patchwork tasks to fill the gaps between existing enterprise processes and software face jeopardy. On the other hand, new twists on old jobs are emerging and gaining importance. Within CRM, job functions like sales orchestration will reduce the need for data entry specialists. On the information technology (IT) side, Java skill sets lend themselves to implementing many RPA solutions, and data scientist and business consulting capabilities are required to design and maintain these solutions. RPA is one of many trends increasing the need for the big 3: data scientists, business analysts, and consulting skill sets. RPA implementations are well-suited for offsite client delivery and further support the digital studio delivery approach popular in today’s IT services delivery models.

RPA customer wins, however, remain fledgling. Most implementations are small and still at the pilot stage. Boutiques have been nimble and have chased some of these smaller deals. Inevitably, over time, boutiques will push larger deals across the finish line. As larger enterprises begin RPA adoption, larger system integrators (SIs) may acquire smaller boutiques with a track record, albeit a limited one ,  in the hopes larger SI prospects will give the nod to those integrators with any use-case experience. The synergy equation of larger SIs buying boutiques for their use-case experience with emerging technologies has been one of the most dominant and compelling themes over the past decade, and RPA is expected to follow the same trend.

Implementation partners

Most of the larger SIs have RPA-focused efforts. As is the way with emerging technologies, initial projects take the form of pilots and blueprints. Visionaries see the handwriting and make the bet while laggards will wait for terrain to be settled and move in only once larger projects are up for RFPs. On paper, RPA erodes the labor-arbitrage-based offshore play; however, innovative offshore players will see beyond this and make the necessary investments here to remain competitive based on value, and not cost savings alone.

Implementation partners are still sorting out how to partner with the leading vendors. Vendors are ramping up their sales and marketing programs and rely on implementation partners to participate in the license sale process.

What implementations look like

The typical implementation follows a traditional strategic process:

  • Blueprint or road map —Facilitated session led by software vendors and/or implementation partners. Requires high-end consulting and business analyst skill sets.
  • Vendor selection/license sale —Typically a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model
  • Implementation pilot — Implementation partners help clients select low-hanging fruit. Skills required include consulting, data scientists, and business analysts.
  • Reset, expand scope, and ideally turn into multi-year projects
  • Post-implementation support —Areas such as exception handling, rules updating, and administration.

Since RPA solutions tend to automate business-process-specific activities, industry verticalization/expertise is vital to return on investment (ROI). 

Leroy Davis, partner, 7 Mile Advisors. This article originally appeared on 7 Mile Advisors’ blog. 7 Mile Advisors is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,

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