It feels like there is less and less time these days to pause and ponder what’s going on inside the RPA market. Things are moving so fast and transforming so briskly that it seems hard to pinpoint where we’re at. Clearly, RPA has permeated a visible portion of the business world. There is general consensus of this, with actual numbers – sparse as they may be – to fall back on.
While many organizations are already climbing the RPA tree after having harvested its low hanging fruit, the reality is also that just as many, if not more, potential buyers are still barely becoming familiarized with the technology.
If we look to assess RPA’s current status by examining the standpoints of vendors, buyers, outsourcers, analysts, and media representatives, the perspective inherently varies. Even the definitions and nomenclature lay out a rather protean landscape. The marketing behind RPA keeps adding different terms to the technology, often leaving a trail of confusion for everyone to feed on.
Despite the difficulty in obtaining an accurate snapshot, there are several questions we could ask to help us identify what cultivates RPA’s maturescence.
Is RPA product-ready?
Virtually all technologies follow an S-shaped growth path in which accelerating advances ultimately mature into a plateau. RPA product acceleration has mainly been driven by sustained improvements in information technology and by the intensive competition in the business environment.
From the early days of ERP systems back in the 90’s, the historical path followed by business automation technology has been to keep specializing so that more and more transactional work instances can be addressed.
Automation operating at task-level, otherwise called desktop automation or single point automation, was where RPA stationed for several good years and built its case by helping employees to rapidly automate specific repetitive tasks.
But something was missing. Robotic efficiency was not being leveraged optimally. Work volumes could still be maximized even more, and business activities could be more successfully streamlined in an end-to-end fashion, across the entire organization, with security and compliance in check.
This is where RPA’s S-curve made a significant leap by moving off the desktop onto server-based platforms. And this is where RPA technology is now at its most mature.
No longer just about automating work, RPA has become the means to automate more efficiently in large volumes and with centralized solutions for the entire organization, both back and front office.
A full scale automation product should deliver unlimited scalability, uncompromised precision in integrating with other systems, centralized robotic management, full monitoring, and complete governance protocols for security and compliance. Anything less than that would not pass the maturity test.
For buyers, it’s crucial to be able to cut through the marketing sophistry to find an RPA product that does what it says and is implemented without headache. And the good news is that most vendors are finally starting to align their discourse with their products, ready to deliver on the promise.
Does it have enough traction with BPOs and service providers?
According to a Mindfields report from 2015, 90% of surveyed service providers intended to invest in robotic technology during 2016. More than half of them (64%) were already involved in partnerships with RPA vendors.
After having been labeled as menacingly disruptive to the BPO and shared services market, RPA became part of a genuine ambition, especially for large service providers with global delivery capabilities, to not only adapt and maintain competitive advantage but also to evolve strategically. BPOs and shared service providers are currently transforming their service models and embedding RPA into their engagements, determined to exit the linear growth model. And by building dedicated RPA Centers of Excellence and establishing governance frameworks for managing, implementing, and measuring RPA efforts, they are pushing forward the development of RPA and helping the market advance.
Is it positively endorsed by analysts and validated by the media?
This is an easy one. After many proof of technology projects and sufficient RPA implementations, embedded both within early adopters from the BPO and shared service markets as well as by standalone organizations, analysts and advisors are ready to acknowledge that RPA has gained sufficient heat. Not only that but that RPA is now quickly proliferating across an extending array of industries beyond the several already consecrated like Finance & Accounting and Insurance. Forrester actually predicts that by 2019, 25% of tasks across every job category will be automated.
Less conflated and more nuanced, the media discourse has managed to move past the prologue about what RPA is and what benefits it delivers. Instead, the tendency is now to address the more practical concerns that organizations have, like how to build an RPA project from scratch, how to choose the right vendor, whether to develop the solution in-house or partner up with third parties, and so on.
There is still massive growth potential for RPA, and a lot of it will come from the increasing adoption by large organizations. These will serve RPA a significant variety of business processes to feed on and build its muscles. Right now, there is a lot of work underway to settle another hype, the one involving the cognitive and artificial intelligence S-curve. We’re not quite there yet, so don’t let the marketing fool you. But it won’t be long before all of these digital technologies will ripen and reach maturity, complementary to each other. Let’s imagine the possibilities. And think of the responsibility that comes with maturity.