We’ve been keeping tabs on the automation trend, from the “robots-are-stealing jobs” story to the rise in interest in robotic process automation (RPA), which, in a surprise upset, is becoming one of the biggest AI and tech trends across industries. (Honestly, we thought it was going to be the John Legend thing.)
RPA has been around for a while. Traditionally, it’s referred to automating discrete tasks, such as book-keeping, data entry, inventory management, invoice and contract management, IT services like software deployment, and so on. But now AI is being infused, allowing not only automation but intelligent decision-making on top, thus the new moniker: “Intelligent” RPA.
In the past six months we’ve seen intelligent RPA investments surge: UiPath raised $225 million from major investors at a $3 billion valuation; Softomotive scored $25 million; Automation Anywhere won $300 million; FortressIQ attracted $12 million; Intel Capital led a $30 million investment in Catalytic; and Kryon bagged $40 million.
Big brands like Walmart, American Express Global Business Travel, and more have turned to RPA to streamline enterprise operations and reduce costs, but they’ve all only gotten started with more intelligent “learning” and “decisions” layers. When routine tasks are fully automated, costs are slashed anywhere from 50 to 75 percent, employees are set free to work on the strategic tasks that matter — and that includes working alongside AI to make even smarter decisions.
Forrester found that RPA improves employee experience, happiness, and engagement, which leads to marked improvement in customer satisfaction — but that the best RPA software is intelligent enough for system management — handling robots developed by employees as well as unattended robots.
Right now less than 10 percent of large enterprises have bought into the basic RPA wave, Gartner says, but that number is about to explode. RPA software adoption will ratchet up to 40 percent by 2020, with spending reaching $1 billion by 2020. In other words, because it’s transforming how companies work and directly impacting bottom lines, it’s coming forward as a competitive differentiator with major impact.
There are challenges to face first, from how to build, deploy, and scale an RPA architecture to finding skilled, knowledgeable personnel who can design and maintain their implementations, to privacy concerns.
But given the fact that RPA has already demonstrated real-world, measurable results on everything from business efficiency to the bottom line, these are challenges worth facing.