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Robotic Process Automation Adoption Shifts Focus to Job Augmentation

Apr 09, 2019


The world of robotic process automation (RPA) is rapidly growing, at a pace often outstripping the expectations of most. Partly, this growth has been driven by a shift in focus away from job elimination to job augmentation. Instead of replacing employees with bots, companies are now investigating ways to use bots to do repetitive tasks and allow staff to do more value-added roles. A virtuous cycle has been created. Major RPA vendors are investing in new training and democratizing access to bots, which allows for enterprises to more rapidly adopt RPA and drive more investment in access.

RPA’s Growth Exceeds Market Expectation

At its European user conference, RPA vendor Automation Anywhere demonstrated the extent of RPA’s growth with some compelling figures:

  • 1,600 customers
  • 700 partners
  • 90 countries
  • Plans to more than double the workforce in 2019 to 3,000
  • Net promoter score of 67
  • Grew European business three times in 2018

Until recently, company strategy was focused on large, global (mostly financial services) companies with a strong preference for on-premise deployments. However, it is responding to evolving industry demands with new and imminent releases that include the following:

  • Cloud-based RPA for smaller enterprises that may struggle to deploy on-premise
  • Automation Anywhere University to improve RPA knowledge and skills
  • Bot Store, which contains prebuilt bots with specific functionality
  • Automation Anywhere Community Edition, a free version designed specifically for small companies and students

RPA Is Moving Out of the Back Office

Automation Anywhere’s customer base is skewed toward the financial services sector, and most of its use cases are in the back office. Back office use cases are great for cross-vertical growth. For example, bot-based resume scanning for recruitment or invoice processing in SAP does not drastically change between different industries. However, automating processes in operations is where companies will get the biggest returns, but require industry- and company-specific bots. For example, in its breakout session, Automation Anywhere customer Astra Zeneca stated that its most valuable bot-automated processes are for senior scientists. There are many use cases for RPA software in electricity networks, for instance monitoring SCADA alerts, workforce scheduling, or the updating of GIS software from red-line drawings.

Automation Anywhere Must Be Clearer On its Verticalization Strategy

While Automation Anywhere alluded to a verticalization strategy, there was little substance on offer. There is money on the table for operations automation across multiple industries, and once customers become comfortable with RPA in the back office, they will likely rapidly seek new use cases across the enterprise. In addition, Automation Anywhere expects that 30% of the future use cases will be the automation of processes that no one currently does. That is an interesting view to take, and is probably accurate. Combined with artificial intelligence, RPA will likely spur a wave of innovative thought on the art of the possible, similar to current innovation using blockchain. In the Energy Cloud, there will likely be opportunities for automation behind-the-meter, such as in smart home and commercial building automation and, in the future, transactive energy. The interoperability of Internet of Things (IoT) devices can be done at a user-interface (UI) level or at an application level. There are good arguments to use RPA to integrate at the UI level. Similarly, commercial building automation could benefit from RPA.

There is a big leap between automating manual processes in a back office to automating connectivity between IoT devices for energy-specific use cases. But success for RPA vendors in operations will rely on bots that can be rapidly deployed, which requires an in-depth knowledge of industry-specific business processes. Automation Anywhere will either have to acquire this knowledge through recruitment, or ensure it has sufficient partners to fill in these knowledge gaps.

Note: Automation Anywhere has a partnership with Guidehouse, Inc..