The enterprise is parched for automation and organizations of all types are turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to kick-start the transition of digitizing legacy processes. Analysts with Gartner today projected that we can expect to see worldwide spending on RPA software to shoot up from last year’s $680 million all the way to $2.4B in 2022.
By that time, it believes that 85 percent of large and very large organizations will have deployed some form of RPA. Already we see credible movement toward that number, as Gartner statedthat eight in ten of these organizations had completed proofs of concepts and pilots in 2018 designed to scale RPA implementation in 2019.
The role of RPA in many organizations is often to grease the wheels at manual chokepoints across the enterprise.
“Organizations are adopting RPA when they have a lot of manual data integration tasks between applications and are looking for cost-effective integration methods,” explains Saikat Ray, senior research director at Gartner.
The real “sweet spot,” according to Jakob Freund, co-founder and CEO of Camunda, a workflow automation company, is automating tasks at organizations that have legacy, monolithic software that simply do not offer APIs do that integration.
While RPA is far from new technology, it has definitely experienced its fair share of early stumbles. According to the experts at EY, RPA deployments have a 30 percent to 50 percent failure rate. Many like Freund believe that this can be chalked up to applying to RPA in situations for which it isn’t suited.
“Based on what RPA products offer, we don’t see RPA as a solution for modeling and monitoring end-to-end core business processes, even though RPA might participate in the processes,” he says. “The word ‘robotic’ has a connotation that sparks the imagination and perhaps obscures what RPA really does best–leading to a risk of disappointment or missed expectations when trying to use RPA to solve a problem it’s not suited for.”
In addition, many organizations struggle with RPA because they’re trying to automate away deeply embedded problems within the processes themselves.
“RPA isn’t magic,” says Vishal Awasthi, Chief Technology Officer at Dolphin Enterprise Solutions Corp. “A broken process – whether done by a person or RPA – is still broken.”
In order to get over that, Awasthi believes organizations have got to create a process roadmap that identifies where they need to fix processes and where RPA makes sense. As organizations start to work out these kinks, this is likely where we’ll see the acceleration predicted by Gartner. According to Ray and his team, as RPA grows in the next few years it’ll evolve beyond cost optimization as it’s combined with artificial intelligence (AI) technologies such as chatbots, machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP) to deliver more value in productivity and customer experience.
The question is how long this rapid growth will last, as many experts see the RPA boom as a crutch for old-school organizations to help them go faster while they figure out how to modernize their monolithic legacy applications.
“Organizations should realize that the RPA approach is a temporary remedy, not a sustainable solution,” says Freund.
He believes that RPA isn’t needed in a microservices environment where everything is interconnected by APIs.
“There is a reason why there are no RPA case studies coming from truly modern digital companies such as Google or LinkedIn,” he says. “The sooner an organization gets this more disruptive modernization done, the better for the long-term success.”