RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is one of the hottest sectors of the tech market. Some of the world’s top venture capitalists – such as Sequoia Capital, CapitalG and Accel Partners – have invested enormous sums in startups like UiPath and Automation Anywhere. According to Grand View Research, Inc., the spending on RPA is expected to hit $8.75 billion by 2024.
The irony is that this category has been around for awhile and was kind of a backwater. But with the breakthroughs in AI (Artificial Intelligence), the industry has come to life.
So what is RPA? Well, first of all, the “robotic” part of the term is somewhat misleading. RPA is not about physical robots. Rather, the technology is based on software robots. They essentially are focused on automating tedious activities, such as in back offices. These include processing insurance claims, payroll, procurement, bank reconciliation, quote-to-cash and invoices.
And the impact can be transformative on an organization. For example, a company can leverage RPA to reduce its reliance on outsourcing, which can be a big cost saver. There may also be less of a need for hiring internally.
Yet even if there is not much of a drop in headcount, there should still be material improvements in productivity. Based on research from Automation Anywhere, RPA can automate processes 70% faster. In other words, employees will have more time to devote to value-added activities.
Here are some other benefits:
- Accuracy: RPA eliminates human error.
- Compliance: Legal and regulatory requirements can be embedded in the systems.
- Tracking: There can be diagnosis of technical issues and monitoring of risks, such as with customer service.
“RPA is a way for enterprises to create a true virtual workforce that drives business agility and efficiency,” said Richard French, who is the CRO at Kryon. “It is managed just as any other team in the organization and can interact with people just as other employees would interact with one another.”
The process of using RPA is also straightforward. “Show your bots what you do, then let them do the work,” said Mukund Srigopal, who is the Director of Product Marketing at Automation Anywhere. “They can interact with any system or application the same way you do. Bots can learn and they can also be cloned. It’s code-free, non-disruptive, non-invasive, and easy. Leading RPA platforms can add a layer of cognitive intelligence to the automation of business processes.”
Now RPA is not without its challenges (hey, no technology is a panacea!). There does need to be a rethinking of the current processes in place of an organization. After all, it’s not a good idea to automate a sub-par system!
Next, if there are major changes to the existing transaction platforms, it will take some time to retool the RPA. This can actually be a prolonged effort if there are many bots.
Bottom Line On RPA
When it comes to RPA, the costs for implementation are modest, especially when compared to the return. “Once implemented, the capabilities are easily scalable,” said French.
RPA is also a good way for a company to transition to AI. “There has been a proliferation of AI-enabled services in recent years, but businesses often struggle to operationalize them,” said Srigopal. “But RPA is a great way to infuse AI capabilities into business processes. A platform like ours can offer deep learning models built on neural networks to intelligently automate activities like document processing. For the most part, traditional RPA works well in very structured and predictable scenarios.”