Robotic process automation software, already growing steadily in terms of sales, is also growing more diversified in its capabilities. RPA can help organizations manage workflow right alongside office workers.
The global market for robotic process automation software and services reach $898 million this year, with an astonishing compound annual growth rate of 54% until 2021 when it will reach a predicted $2.2 valuation. The IT robotics automation market as a whole is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 43% by 2023 and will reach a $1.5 billion global market value by the end of 2018.
Among the innovators in this new niche are Kryon Systems, a startup, and professional services giant EY. Kryon sells what are essentially back-office cbots; EY sells services based on similar home-grown software.
What’s the big deal about robotic process automation?
RPA is precisely the kind of unglamorous, nuts-and-bolts product that edges automation into widespread use. While exotic humanoid robots are exciting in the abstract, the majority of users need business process automation that will deliver a return on their investment.
RPA completes business tasks that people find routine, repetitive, and highly exacting. Unable to lose focus the way most people do, RPA bots can do this work with no errors due to boredom.
Kryon Systems’ product, Hybrid RPA, is designed to cure hiccups in automated business processes that are caused when the application has to wait for a person to step in for an action that only humans can take. Hybrid RPA knows the relevant ppeople and figuratively taps them on the shoulder, alerting them of the tasks that await them.
Kryon CEO Harel Tayeb said his company’s software turns back-office applications into a new sector of a company’s workforce. Tasks and information being passed between human and machine the way two office workers might.
Martin Fiore, EY’s tax talent leader for the Americas, said the firm has been focusing on collaborative RPA for about two years. Globally, about 1,000 people in EY are working directly with the software daily. There are about 250 cobots supporting services in the tax unit alone, according to Fiore.
It is a logical capability for RPA packages, and begs the question — why has it only been introduced recently?
“The algorithms are super, super hard to get right,” Tayeb said.
Fiore said that forward-looking companies are starting to see robotic process automation in general as a way of freeing employees to learn new skills, including strategic management techniques like Six Sigma, from which they and the employer benefit.
RPA adoption worldwide
In a counterintuitive trend, the regional adoption of RPA will grow fastest in the Asia-Pacific region, despite the fact that these applications obviate the need to outsource routine business tasks to the developed nations.
China and India will nevertheless buy packages to retain customers who do not want to buy or build their own. It also bears mentioning that both nations have themselves begun outsourcing services recently as their native labor pools grow more expensive relative to other Asian competitors.
It is perhaps not surprising that the banking, financial-service, and insurance industries are the biggest buyers of RPA products globally. Cutting human error and speeding processes are critical goals for these data-intensive sectors, recently illustrated by Grant Thornton’s partnership with Information Services Group to implement robotic process automation systems.
Similarly, the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ recently announced it will use Kofax’s RPA software offerings to automate over 2,000 manual processes within the bank. This will let employees instead focus on their primary role, instead of losing time performing administrative and organizational tasks.
Lastly, the automotive industry is another key user of robotic process automation software, using RPA to solve the challenges of regulatory compliance and sprawling global supply chains, while simultaneously reducing mistakes companywide.
What’s next in the development of robotic process automation?
EY’s Fiore said that even today’s RPA software is still just following given instructions. The next developmental step will involve artificial intelligence and cognitive computing, allowing the bots to gradually solve novel situations and unanticipated problems.
RPA offerings are seeing constant updating, as the continuing growth and maturation of the industry is bringing new developments to market.
DXC Technologies recently released an RPA offering integrating AI to highlight business inefficiencies, and other Level 3 cognitive, natural language processing robots are available on the market, with setup times numbering only a few weeks at most.