Top Trends in RPA for 2019

As IT groups ramp up for a prosperous 2019, many are on the lookout for innovative new applications that can help them fine tune their organizations and improve business performance. AI is certainly on everyone’s radar, but more specifically, robotic process automation (RPA) – the subset of AI that enables IT groups to configure software “robots” to capture data and perform routine tasks – is gaining traction as an attractive place to begin with results-focused AI implementations. RPA will be one of the most exciting opportunities in the AI space in 2019; here are some of the key things to look out for in the coming year.

RPA Will Become a Billion-dollar Industry  

RPA will continue to be a hot market, earning a place in IT managers’ toolkits to streamline business operations and make better use of raw data. According to Gartner, spending on RPA software is projected to reach $1 billion by 2020 with a compound annual growth rate of 41 percent. Companies like UiPath and Blue Prism are leading the charge with scalable RPA solutions that companies can leverage across their organizations. Meanwhile, over 70 percent of business leaders said that they plan to invest more in the implementation and development of RPA, according to the Institute for Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence Survey, illustrating the strategic value RPA has for the enterprise.

RPA Will Emerge as a Complementary Technology

A key benefit of robotic process automation is that it plays well with other existing technologies, and in fact will continue to fill the role of a complementary application for already-installed processes and data science foundations. RPA won’t replace back office applications like financial processing, procurement and IT automation, but rather enhance them by lightening the load for the people that manage those critical ops. Almost 53 percent of finance professionals in a Deloitte study say they are planning RPA-driven digital controllership improvements in the year ahead, including accounting process automation and financial analysis. Accounting processes don’t have to change, but they can be performed faster by RPA bots that are designed to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances and automatically manage the right response. 

Concern for Job Losses Will Wane

For many years, prognosticators have foreseen a future with robots and intelligent entities running the world at the expense of human workers. Job losses, they predicted, would be inevitable as AI did things faster, smarter and with fewer HR headaches. But a recent HBR report that studied the impact of various RPA implementations showed that replacing administrative employees was neither the primary objective nor a common outcome in 47 percent of the projects they studied.

In fact, only a handful of those RPA projects led to reductions in headcount, and in most cases, the tasks had already been shifted to outside workers. RPA bots can work hand-in-hand with their human counterparts to add value to business operations and reduce the monotony of the more mundane aspects of their jobs.

RPA Will Be an ROI-positive Investment

Robotic process automation has been found to reduce the cost of transactional processes by 50 to 75 percent, across everything from back office operations like accounting and procurement to front office processes like customer service and marketing analytics. When one technology can provide such a huge financial benefit, especially when the cost benefits outweigh the dollar investment, it will rapidly gain traction with the executive suite. In fact, according to a PWC study, companies expect to be ROI positive in fewer than 14 months of implementation of their RPA projects, making RPA the intelligent business investment companies have been looking for.

Customers Will Interact with RPA, and They Might Not Even Know It

Many progressive enterprises are already using RPA to deal directly with their customer bases, especially in the field of customer service. In the travel business, for example, American Express is automating the process of canceling airline tickets and issuing refunds, a task usually performed by human employees. The RPA-driven process is able to manage the interaction with a customer online and process the transaction, and the consumer might not even know he or she is dealing with a smart bot.

Companies Will Dip Their Toes in AI with RPA

It’s not always easy for an established corporate culture to turn operations on their head by implementing AI. It’s usually more than they can wrap their arms around, given the esoteric nature of some cognitive AI technologies. And that’s where RPA comes into play. RPA has been shown to be the least expensive and easiest to implement of the cognitive technologies, according to an HBR study. RPA is more easily implemented as a complementary technology to traditional processes, and it can be a great way for companies interested in AI to “dip their toes” in the water.

RPA is poised for a big year in 2019. If you’re looking for a relatively easy way to transform your organization into a more intelligent enterprise, look no further than RPA.

About the Author

Stuart RauchStuart Rauch

Stuart Rauch is a 25-year product marketing veteran and president of ContentBox Marketing Inc. He has run marketing organizations at several enterprise software companies, including NetSuite, Oracle, PeopleSoft, EVault and Secure Computing. Stuart is a specialist in content development and brings a unique blend of creativity, linguistic acumen and product knowledge to his clients in the technology space.

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