A new survey shows the dramatic impact artificial intelligence technologies will make on business processes
With this announcement that the UK government is spending an estimated £327 million on research into robotics and autonomous systems, and as businesses began to realise the economic benefits of using artificial intelligence, the stage is set for Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) technologies to have a real impact on the future of work.
Senior executives across multiple industries think new software ‘robots’, utilising attributes such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, and effective use of big data, is about to unlock significant value within the next three to five years, according to a new study released by IT consultant firm Cognizant.
More than 537 senior business and technology decision-makers think that the benefits of intelligent process automation, and mining the resulting big data with automation-enabled analytics, will bring money and meaning for their businesses: faster processing with fewer errors, unlimited scalability and lower cost of ownership, along with the ability to make more timely business decisions.
Respondents estimate they are already automating, on average, 25-40% of their workflow today, indicating this automation is occurring with workflows that follow rote procedures and manual inputs, paving the way for next generation IPA technologies to drive greater cost savings and efficiency while driving richer business insights when applied to more complex workflows.
About half of the respondents saw automation as significantly improving their business processes within three to five years. However most are still in the early stages of using process automation – the study concludes there is a long tail of process systems yet to be automated, as machine learning and artificial intelligence enable a new generation of knowledge ‘robots’ that can mimic human actions whilst interacting with multiple applications.
‘The future of process work includes connecting skilled people to increasingly powerful technologies such as autonomic computing – including artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning – that can increase savings, enhance insights, and accelerate business. This shift is playing out in just about every industry,’ said Gajen Kandiah, executive VP, Business Process Services, Cognizant. ‘Our new study findings show that this trend will only accelerate over coming years as business leaders seek agility, better customer understanding, and cost savings.’
And businesses are taking a new approach to their organisational and business process models using automation as a key delivery model to digitise and analyse.
Charles Sutherland, Executive Vice President of Research at HfS Research, who has been closely researching developments in technology and process automation, said that by implementing software robots, service providers can ensure that work is done around the clock, eliminate human error, and ensure scalability as they save costs and drive revenue.
‘Process automation also allows clients and service providers to share benefits including enhanced compliance, reduced risk and improved job satisfaction of staff,’ said Sutherland.
By Leslie Willcocks
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) continues to be a growing success story. In 2016, RPA alone experienced a 68 percent growth rate in the global market, with 2017 maintaining this momentum. Some reports have even predicted a US$ 8.75 billion market by 2024. However, merely investing in RPA is not an instant recipe for growth.
In “Service Automation Robots and The Future of Work” (2016), my colleague Mary Lacity and I highlighted successful RPA deployments and how organizations were achieving triple wins for their shareholders, customers, and employees alike. We continued tracking these developments in 2017 and also noticed something different — many less successful journeys. In practice, it appears that automation success is far from guaranteed. Wider reports provide anecdotal evidence of between 30 to 50 percent of initial projects stalling, failing to scale, being abandoned or moving to other solutions. Our most recent research has examined in detail both successful and more challenged automation deployments. It turns out that service automation — like all organizational initiatives that try to scale — can be fraught with risk. We’re seeing 41 specific risks that need to be managed in eight areas: strategy, sourcing, tool selection, stakeholder buy-in, project execution, change management, business maturity and an automation center of excellence.
One of the key risk areas is tool/platform selection. Because of the hype and confusion in the RPA marketplace, clients risk choosing the wrong tool(s), too many tools, or bad tool(s). By early 2018, over 45 tools or platforms were being sold as “RPA” and over 120 tools were being sold as some form of cognitive automation. Because the space is relatively new to many clients, it’s difficult to assess the actual capabilities and suitability of these tools. Clients must be wary of hype and “RPA washing”.
In our new report on Benchmarking the Client Experience, we extensively polled clients at Blue Prism on the results they’ve been getting by integrating RPA into existing business processes. In order to get the most valuable feedback, we set the bar high in requesting client assessments of the Blue Prism RPA platform on the following criteria: scalability, adaptability, security, service quality, employee satisfaction, ease of learning, deployment speed and overall satisfaction. From our qualitative research into process automation, these emerged as the most critical and essential characteristics and requirements for a successful enterprise-grade RPA implementation.
The overall level of satisfaction with the Blue Prism platform was extremely high in our survey. Respondents reported a 96 percent overall satisfaction rate, with 79 percent of respondents ranking Blue Prism’s platform a six or seven on a seven-point Likert Scale. Based on our 25-year research history into process improvement initiatives (BPM, shared services, outsourcing, six sigma, etc.), these are extremely high RPA satisfaction levels. Our research into IT and Business Services outsourcing finds only 20 percent of vendors getting “world class” performance, 25 percent getting good performance, 40 percent “doing OK”, while 15 percent experience poor outcomes. The record on IT projects also continues to frustrate. The most recent (2017) Standish Group CHAOS report found only a third of IT projects were successfully completed on time and on budget over the past year – the worst failure rate the Standish Group has recorded.
What, then, accounts for the impressive 96 percent overall satisfaction rate with Blue Prism?
Our observation is that not all RPA offerings are the same. The capability of RPA software depends greatly on the origins and orientations of the supplier. If designed as a desktop assistant, many RPA tools experience problems with scaling, security and integration with other information systems. Other RPA vendors offer RPA which is effectively a disguised form of what we have described as a “software-development kit,” needing a lot more IT development by the in-house team or the RPA vendor than first imagined, and incurring unanticipated expense, time and resources. True enterprise RPA, however, is designed from the start with a platform approach, to fit with wider enterprise systems. This might make it more expensive initially, and require more attention in the first few months of trial, but true enterprise RPA platforms have proven to be an investment in success later in the deployment cycle, when compared to other RPA software that tends to run into real problems.
Our qualitative research also suggests that some RPA tools are not easily scalable, especially those based on a recording capability, or requiring a lot of IT development. This occurs because some RPA tools are not designed as configurable service delivery platforms that can be integrated with other existing systems. These also need a lot more management involvement than clients and their vendors often expect. Many clients, moreover, do not put in place the necessary IT, project and program governance (rules and constitution, who does what, roles and responsibilities), and often do not use built-in tools that contain technical governance.
This, of course, is not the whole story. An RPA and cognitive skills shortage is already upon us. This means that retained capability and in-house teams are sometimes not strong enough – a situation not helped by sometimes skeptical senior management under-resourcing automation initiatives and not taking a strategic approach. Consultants are also hit by skills shortages and cannot always provide the support necessary — this is also true with business services outsourcing providers. We are also finding that clients often do not give enough attention to stakeholder buy-in and change management. Given these emerging challenges, the Blue Prism client satisfaction level are very notable indeed.
To download the report, click here.
Leslie Willcocks is Professor in the Department of Management at the London School of Economics, and co-author, with Mary Lacity, John Hindle and Shaji Khan, of the Robotic Process Automation: Benchmarking The Client Experience (Knowledge Capital Partners, London).
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Applications and use cases for the Internet of Things (IoT) extend into almost every major industry vertical, and is already being exploited to great benefit by enterprise firms the world over, most notably in industrial, automotive, and manufacturing industries.
Telecoms Intelligence recently ran a comprehensive survey to gain a more thorough understanding of the IoT opportunity for operators today. Just short of 1,000 respondents participated in the questionnaire, covering four comprehensive areas of concern: Information security, networking challenges, cloud and big data, and industrial IoT.
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Enterprise customers value software providers on factors beyond cost, benefit and ROI, a new IDC study shows.
Issues such as ease of doing business, license compliance, application management and cloud support make a difference to enterprise customers in selecting a preferred vendor, according to IDC data from a survey sponsored by Flexera, a provider of licensing, compliance and application installation tools and solutions.
The study, referred to by the sponsors as the “Customer Choice Awards” for rivals in the enterprise software market, asked 147 participants to rate vendors on eight different factors–criteria that “vendors should take note of and be aware of as they develop, launch and support their products,” IDC and Flexera said. The vendor for each category landing the most “Strongly Agree” or “Agree” responses won the “Customer Choice Award” for that question.
Competitors included Adobe (ADB), CA (CA), Citrix (CTRX), EMC (EMC), HP (HPQ), IBM (IBM), Microsoft (MSFT), Oracle (ORCL), SAP (SAP), Salesforce (CRM), Symantec (SYMC) and VMware (VMW), which taken together command about 50 percent of the market, or $200 billion in software spend.
“Applications require ongoing effort and cost to manage, support and maintain throughout the lifecycle of the license,” said Amy Konary, IDC Software Licensing and Provisioning research vice president. “The ease with which organizations can support those applications, and partner with their application providers during the process has a dramatic impact on vendors’ favorability ratings.”
Keeping in mind that anecdotal data is just that, basically the respondent’s opinion, here are the winners and losers:
- Easiest vendor to work with? EMC. 91 percent of the survey’s respondents said so. Who scored the lowest? Oracle, at 43 percent.
- Vendor’s apps easiest to manage, patch, maintain and upgrade? VMware. 91 percent said so. Who scored the lowest? Oracle again at 35 percent.
- Vendor’s licensing policies easiest to understand? HP at 89.8 percent. Citrix came in a close second at 89.6 percent. Yet again Oracle scored the lowest at 42.9 percent.
- Vendor’s usage and spend stats easy to understand? VMware at 93 percent. Poor Oracle, last again at 31 percent.
- Vendor’s mobile, virtualization and cloud licensing rules help with migration? Citrix at 88 percent. Who lost? You guessed it, Oracle at 45 percent.
- Vendor rarely issues license compliance audits? Citrix at 94 percent. Do we say Oracle lost at 35 percent or did you already know?
- Vendor rarely forces license compliance true-up fees? HP wins at 93 percent with Oracle losing at 29 percent.
- Vendor’s app prices reasonable and offer good ROI? Citrix at 87 percent with Oracle scoring the lowest at 44 percent.
“Building great products that deliver ROI is and should be the primary driver for every software vendor,” said Richard Northing, Flexera Products and Services senior vice president. “However, this report suggests that software companies must also look downstream and optimize the customer experience across a wide range of value criteria,” he said.
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More than half of survey respondents have no plans to deploy the open source analytics platform
Gartner research shows that more than half of companies have no current plans to adopt Hadoop-based data analytics, despite large firms like British Airways and Marks & Spencer being big fans of the technology.
Gartner’s 2015 Hadoop Adoption Study has found that investment remains “tentative” in the face of “sizable challenges around business value and skills”. The survey, which was conducted in February and March 2015 among 284 Gartner Research Circle members, found that only 125 respondents had already invested in Hadoop or had plans to do so within the next two years.
The Gartner Research Circle is a Gartner-managed panel composed of IT and business leaders. “Despite considerable hype and reported successes for early adopters, 54 percent of survey respondents report no plans to invest at this time, while only 18 percent have plans to invest in Hadoop over the next two years,” said Nick Heudecker, an analyst at Gartner.
“Furthermore,” he said, “the early adopters don’t appear to be championing for substantial Hadoop adoption over the next 24 months; in fact, there are fewer who plan to begin in the next two years than already have.”
Hadoop is an open source framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using simple programming models. It is designed to scale up from single servers to thousands of machines, each offering local computation and storage.
According to the Gartner research, only 26 percent of respondents claim to be either deploying, piloting or experimenting with Hadoop, while 11 percent plan to invest within 12 months and seven percent are planning investment in 24 months.
Responses pointed to two interesting reasons for the lack of intent, said the analyst. First, several responded that Hadoop was simply “not a priority”. The second was that Hadoop was “overkill” for the problems the business faced, “implying the opportunity costs of implementing Hadoop were too high relative to the expected benefit”, said Gartner.
Gartner analyst Merv Adrian said: “Future demand for Hadoop looks fairly anaemic over at least the next 24 months. Moreover, the lack of near-term plans for Hadoop adoption suggest that despite continuing enthusiasm for the big data phenomenon, demand for Hadoop specifically is not accelerating.
“The best hope for revenue growth for providers would appear to be in moving to larger deployments within their existing customer base.”
Skills gaps were a major adoption inhibitor for 57 percent of respondents, while figuring out how to get value from Hadoop was cited by 49 percent. “The absence of skills has long been a key blocker,” the analyst said. “Tooling vendors claim their products also address the skills gap. While tools are improving, they primarily support highly skilled users rather than elevate the skills already available in most enterprises,” Gartner said.
Gartner estimates it will take “two to three years” for the Hadoop skills challenge to be addressed.