A wise person once said, “start with the end in mind”. Today, the RPA industry resembles a Tower of Babel, with according to Forrester Research, more than 40+ vendors, jockeying for position. Everyone understands that a land grab is on but often times the boastful claims being made have nothing to do with customer success.
These claims for credibility include number of “bots” deployed or downloaded, how many offices and employees added worldwide, low code or no code capabilities, cash raised, IPO or possible acquisition target.
This hype reminds me of the Oprah Winfrey Show where everyone in the studio audience gets a gift—you get a bot, and you get a bot, everyone gets a bot, and the hysteria goes through the roof. The message is simple and easy to understand. It also tells the market we plan to sell a S**T load of software.
But what’s missing is the understanding that automation is not an end in itself but a means to one. The RPA market is littered with failed Proof of Concept (PoC) automation projects. This is all part of a hype cycle that leads to what Gartner calls the, “trough of disillusionment”.
A way to cut through this noise starts with understanding where to begin your RPA journey and which processes to choose first. Once the green light is given to proceed, get everyone at the table early (both business and IT leaders) and develop some clear KPIs such as hours back to the business, shorter time to market for new services, increased customer and employee satisfaction, etc. Start small and scale quickly and get some early wins under your belt. Be sure not to overlook employee concerns and the cultural shift ahead. We have an entire playbook here. Automation makes business sense on so many levels, but results matter more “bot” deployments. Think things through and apply a thorough methodology. You get the picture.
So, what lies ahead? My guess is that the market will undergo a serious transformation in the next 24 months. But let’s clear up some misconceptions about RPA, first. It is more than “digital duct tape”. It is more than a mop and pail for failed outsourcing projects. It won’t kill the need for human ingenuity, and it is definitely not a race to the bottom as some observers have indicated.
Those RPA vendors that can build an intelligent automation platform through an ecosystem of technology partners stand the best chances of being a breakout success. We are seeing vendors already take this approach, and Blue Prism is no different with its Technology Alliance Program (TAP) and Digital Exchange (DX) marketplace. Tapping into and extending automation via AI, machine learning and cognitive capabilities enables vendors to move upstream and access to broader and more lucrative opportunities.
But no single vendor can do it all. The market is simply moving too fast. Think of J. R. R. Tolkien's story of one ring to rule them all, which had disastrous consequences. You’ll need to partner and work with third parties to help scale your RPA deployment. Look at how the cloud market has evolved—AWS, MS, Google and IBM all support multi-cloud environments. People love having options and multiple paths to a successful automation project exist. You just need to find out what’s right for your organization by applying the criteria we discussed above. And lastly, capabilities and features such as OCR, intelligent data extraction, chat bot integration, etc. will be incorporated into bigger and more encompassing solutions (this goes back to offering a platform with more options).
One thing is for certain, the quest for RPA world domination won’t end anytime soon. We are definitely crossing the chasm with RPA. Blue Prism remains focused on bringing these automation capabilities to the world while building a viable and sustainable long-term business, after all we “invented RPA”. Please let me know what you think on Twitter @afuochi.