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Competition is fierce in the robotic process automation market. It’s a market that has more than tripled in revenue during the last two years, perhaps due to the buzz around artificial intelligence (AI). However, robotic process automation isn’t quite the same as AI.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is the use of software robots to perform simple, repetitive tasks, such as data entry or certain employee onboarding tasks. Unlike AI, RPA cannot make judgments about future scenarios.

Organizations often deploy RPA bots in place of an ERP system or use them in conjunction with an existing ERP system. While ERP systems automate many business processes, they don’t automate all processes. This is where bots become useful. Usually, a bot does not have to be directly integrated into an ERP system to interface with it.

When RPA technology came on the market, it was primarily adopted by the financial services industry. Now, it is popular across all industries, and organizations have a variety of software vendors from which to choose.

Three software startups rule the RPA market: Blue Prism Group, UiPath and Automation Anywhere. These three companies were all founded in 2005 or earlier, but they didn’t become successful until they entered the RPA market.

Why is the RPA Market Growing so Quickly?

Using bots to complete repetitive tasks saves organizations time and money and reduces errors. Bots also allow employees to focus on higher-level work instead of mundane tasks. In other words, the return on investment is huge.

Strategic marketing has also contributed to the growth of the RPA market. Blue Prism Group popularized the use of the word “robotic” in conjunction with “process automation” as it invoked the concept of AI. Taking advantage of the popularity of AI, the RPA market skyrocketed.

Another reason for the market’s growth is the fact that RPA technology is relatively low cost, and the initial implementation typically doesn’t require extensive customization or deep systems integration.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

RPA Implementation Challenges

The RPA market continues to grow despite rampant implementation failures. You may have heard that RPA implementations are quick and easy, but the only reason this rumor has spread is because organizations are rushing through implementation. While this may seem like a good idea, this leaves no time for proper planning or developing a long-term roadmap. Organizations soon find that RPA technology is difficult to maintain as their organization grows and business processes evolve.

If you know where your business is headed in the next five to ten years, you can configure your bots to fit your future business model. When evaluating RPA vendors, look for a flexible solution that aligns with your culture of continuous improvement.

The Future of RPA

RPA technology will likely become more sophisticated as software companies move beyond the automation of simple tasks and begin automating more advanced processes. Eventually, more ERP vendors may acquire RPA (soon to be AI) companies to extend their own AI functionality.

In the meantime, organizations implementing RPA are getting creative. They’re integrating RPA with cognitive technologies, such as machine learning, speech recognition and natural language processing, so they can automate processes previously requiring human judgment. Many organizations are putting this type of automation, known as intelligent automation, on their strategic agendas for the next year.

While the future of RPA is bright, will the future it creates be just as idyllic? Automation technology has eliminated jobs in the past, so its reasonable to expect that more advanced automation will eliminate just as many, if not more, jobs. In response to this fear, organizations are developing reskilling plans, so they can maximize employee retention even as entire roles and job descriptions are eliminated.

Should You Consider RPA?

In this digital era, organizations want to redefine the way they work. While the need for new technology is urgent, you should first focus on aligning your people and processes with your digital strategy. Your RPA implementation should be part of a holistic digital transformation initiative.

If you build this strong foundation, your organization can realize numerous benefits from RPA technology, including cost savings, reduced cycle time and improved customer service.

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