As information technology professionals prepare to leave a tumultuous 2020 behind and focus on the hope and promise of a new year, many of them keep an eye out for innovative applications and hot new automation trends. New technologies can help IT professionals fine-tune their organizations and improve overall business performance.
Unsurprisingly, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are on the radars of many IT people. New advances in AI and RPA trends have ve guaranteed that the technology will stay in the limelight for the foreseeable future. However, AI also has distinctive subsets, and one of them, robotic process automation (RPA), is gaining traction in the world of results-focused AI implementation. RPA is one of the most exciting opportunities and intriguing automation trends in artificial intelligence and will continue to attract more attention in 2021.
What Exactly Is RPA?
Robotic process automation is a subset of artificial intelligence that enables IT groups to configure software "robots" to capture data and perform routine tasks. Put another way, RPA is a technology application that is governed by structured inputs and business logic to automate business processes.
RPA bots are typically easy to implement and aren’t costly since they don’t rely on deep systems integration or require custom software. Considering the yields in efficiency and cost-effectiveness, RPA is quite a bargain—and why we expect to see these RPA trends to continue in 2021.
Uses for RPA
Robotic process automation helps businesses streamline their operation by reducing human error and staffing costs. Using RPA tools, companies can program bots to manipulate data, capture and interpret transaction-processing applications, communicate with other digital systems, and trigger responses based on pre-set criteria. RPA solutions appear in many business sectors, including financial services, healthcare, human resources, and retail.
These automated tasks range from simple jobs such as sending out automated email replies to automating multiple jobs in an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Additionally, by combining RPA with cognitive technologies like machine learning, natural language processing, and speech recognition, businesses can take their automated tasks to the next level, having them perform work that in the past depended on human perceptual and judgment capabilities.
Now that we see how great robotic process automation is, it’s time to focus on the top RPA trends we can expect to see in the coming year.
RPA Will Become a Larger Billion-dollar Industry
RPA will continue to be a hot market, earning a place in IT managers’ toolkits as an easy way to streamline different business operations and make better use of raw data. According to Forrester, the RPA industry will expand from $250 million in 2016 to $2.9 billion in 2021. Grandview research predicts the RPA automation market will be worth $25.56 billion by 2027!
Companies like UiPath and Blue Prism lead the charge in these RPA trends with scalable solutions that companies can leverage across their organizations. Meanwhile, 53 percent of business leaders surveyed have begun implementing and developing RPA, according to the Deloitte Global RPA Survey. If the implementation rate remains consistent, that number will increase to 72 percent, illustrating the strategic value RPA has for today’s enterprises.
RPA Will Become an Amalgam of Manual and Digital Efforts
Although RPA handles many of the boring, repetitive tasks that human employees would usually get stuck with, the automation process still requires flesh and blood intervention. Contrary to the nightmarish scenarios that play out in dystopian fiction, such as automation replacing people, RPA's future will be a partnership between people and machines. The latter takes the menial, repetitive tasks, freeing the former to deal with higher cognitive work.
Granted, the RPA revolution will probably result in the elimination of specific jobs. However, the new career opportunities that RPA presents will offset much of this loss.
RPA Demand Will Spike Thanks to COVID-19
Although several promising COVID-19 vaccines are on the horizon, and we can finally see an end to the pandemic that has plagued our world, it will take time before everything returns to normal. In the meantime, COVID restrictions have forced companies to function with smaller staff, institute remote office conditions (e.g., work from home), and cut employee hours. Affected businesses have been turning to technology to help mitigate the pandemic’s effects, and RPA has demonstrated its usefulness in helping companies and organizations adapt to the new temporary reality.
And just because the pandemic ends, that doesn’t mean the option of working from home will go away for everyone. Many enterprises had been exploring work-from-home opportunities even before COVID hit. The pandemic has provided a way to show that employees can work at home for extended periods. Fortunately, RPA is there to help with work-from-home robots.
RPA offers efficiency, accuracy, and automation, which in these uncertain days can be the difference between a business weathering the pandemic and shutting its doors permanently. Don’t be surprised if RPA plays an instrumental role in helping companies survive the last months of the pandemic, then rides a high wave of popularity and goodwill once things return to normal.
Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) Goes Mainstream
Although artificial intelligence is delivering some promising capabilities to today’s businesses, its full potential has yet to be realized. Fortunately, there is a new resource that will take RPA to a new level. This RPA trend, called intelligent process automation (or IPA), will blend the rules-based automation capabilities of robotic process automation together with the power and potential of artificial intelligence. This new technology also fuses RPA with machine learning and fundamental process redesign, which means the automation process can learn and improve over time.
As the adoption of RPA is expected to grow in the next few years, the intelligent process automation market will correspondingly increase. After all, people will want their RPA processes to work smarter! Enterprise investments in intelligent process automation and other similar technologies will reach $232 billion by 2025, according to KPMG estimates, which is quite a boost over the $12.4 billion spent in 2018. Much of that increase is expected to come from large scale IPA adoption across several industries.
Say “Hello” to Hyper Automation
Hyper Automation is a smarter, faster, and more sophisticated variant of RPA, and it’s on the verge of becoming a widely used resource across many large-scale enterprises. Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and existing RPA trends, hyper automation is designed to process vast volumes of data seamlessly to optimize business processes across many diverse areas. Since more businesses will increasingly adopt automation at much higher volumes within the next few years, it will boost the need to automate more complex tasks.
Hyper Automation lets businesses automate entire processes such as integration, DevOps, monitoring, and management, which were previously compartmentalized by traditional RPA into one process. This integration further boosts productivity and efficiency at a much larger scale than ever seen before, automating end-to-end workflows to benefit businesses of all sizes.
RPA Will Grow Beyond Its Information Technology Bubble
It never fails. Once word leaks out that you have a good thing, everyone else wants in on it. Respected research firms such as Deloitte and Gartner, Inc. predict that RPA’s adoption rate is poised to increase as more business users worldwide become increasingly aware of the technology. RPA is losing its “new technology” label as more organizations have turned to it for many different functions. We’re living in the Digital Information Age, and nothing stays hidden for long. Hence, as more business processes and departments experience the benefits of RPA technology, word gets out. RPA will likely be adopted into more areas that are not explicitly IT-related.
For instance, RPA technology is being used in high-level business operations. CFOs and COOs are starting to see the benefits of automation in their quest to improve the accuracy and efficiency of different business processes. Gartner, Inc. forecasts that slightly less than half of RPA adoptions will be initiated by departments outside of the information technology domain by 2024.
The collection of the above prognostications, statistics, and surveys show how robotic process automation can be a potentially excellent career path to take. As more industries of all types and sizes adopt RPA processes to streamline their operations, there will arise a greater need for professionals who know how to work with this new technology.
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