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Robotic Process Automation (RPA): What’s in Store for 2020?

RPA Moving Towards Widespread Integration in Enterprise Technology

2020 is already well underway and RPA technology is making great strides across the business and IT arena. Business professionals are continually searching for ways to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their organizations, and they are turning to RPA technology for many of the answers. As a subset of Artificial Intelligence (AI), RPA technology allows IT personnel to program bots (computer robots) to perform routine, repetitive, and mundane tasks, duties, and actions.

The widespread applications of RPA technology make it particularly exciting to watch this year.  As far as IT manager resource kits go, RPA technology is right up there with the best of them. RPA is highly effective across the spectrum. It can deliver enhanced results on a technical, operational, financial, governance and design level. Many powerful systems abound, such as Kryon RPA software which is capable of transforming business functionality through enhanced efficiency of operations. This technology can automatically perform repetitive tasks via pre-set rules.

Interest and Implementation in RPA Technology Coming Together

 Various reports lend credence to the interest in RPA technology. Gartner studies show that expenditure on robotic process automation software is expected to top $1.3 billion + in 2020, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41% +. Provided these technologies are tailored to expectations, fully scalable, and compatible with legacy systems, their implementation is all but assured. Studies indicate that RPA technology is hot on the agenda for IT groups across the board, with some 70% of surveyed professionals (Institute for Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence Survey) indicating that they plan to allocate substantially more towards RPA technology.

Truth be told, this powerful technology is already well-known in the business world. There is widespread interest in designing, developing, and implementing RPA technology at multiple levels across organizational frameworks, with investment in RPA tech growing at a steady clip. The inherent power of RPA technology to transform organizational operations, improve efficiency, and increase profitability are well-known. As more companies build automation strategies, it becomes clear that RPA is not a panacea for automating all processes.

However, RPA bots are likely to be deployed across many more sectors, across different industries in 2020 and beyond. Anywhere that mundane, repetitive tasks, duties, and activities are performed, RPA can certainly help. The current trends reflect a new reality: in the past there was tremendous interest in RPA technology, but adoption levels were low. Now, interest in and implementation of RPA technology is moving much closer together. This is evidenced by the expenditure on RPA technology which has increased dramatically in recent years.

New Trends with RPA Technology and the Workforce

 With RPA technology and automation, we can expect greater collaboration and joint focus between HR personnel and IT managers. There is a palpable fear within the workforce that RPA technology will lead to the redundancy of scores of employees. While technological advancements can certainly have the undesirable effect of replacing human personnel with bots and machines, the fact of the matter is that humans are better suited to problem-solving positions than monotonous activities.

By reassigning human workers to jobs, duties, and responsibilities that are better suited to their reasoning and problem-solving abilities, companies will be able to maximize the benefit from the technology and human workers. Provided effective leadership is in place, it is entirely possible to maximize yield from RPA and the workforce. To get there, work will have to be redistributed, responsibilities reassigned, and new roles created.

Massive Increase in RPA Spending

While Gartner anticipates $1.3 billion in RPA spending in 2020, Forrester is expecting even more at $2.9 billion by 2021. The actual figure probably lies somewhere in between, and is significant nonetheless. Industry-leading experts have weighed in on RPA trends in 2020 with some interesting insights regarding what processes will benefit from RPA technology and which processes won’t. For the most part, RPA technology is highly effective with computer-based processing of routine tasks.

This is true because RPA bots can mimic human behavior when responding to emails, processing invoices, managing inventories, customer service functions, et al. The efficiency of RPA technology is perhaps as good as the IT personnel configuring the workflow automation. The bots are only capable of performing functions for which they have been programmed; if anomalies occur, this could impact the workflow and disrupt the entire process of automated tasks.

 AI, RPA, and Intelligent Automation

On a similar track, greater emphasis will be focused on the differences between Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). There are many who believe that AI and RPA are synonymous, but the latter is a subset of the former. RPA cannot think for itself; it simply uses its pre-programmed, rules-based structure and framework to carry out actions. On the other hand, AI technology is fully capable of self-populating with data, learning from the environment and interactions, with attendant processes and constructs to ‘think’ for itself.

AI technology is configured in such a way that it makes decisions on its own. This naturally lends to another potential trend in 2020 and beyond: RPA technology blended with AI technology to create intelligent automation. While currently in vogue, the term ‘intelligent automation’ is certainly worth considering. If RPA is brought up to speed with machine learning capabilities, it may develop into cognitive automation which is eons ahead of rules-based RPA. That it appears, is a longer-term trend several years into the future…