Anyone failing to escape the swirl of intense hype threatening to destroy everything great about RPA is probably thinking that these cute products are going to solve all their artificial intelligence needs and deliver them with a “digital workforce” that will go way beyond scraping screens, producing scripts and running unattended recorded process loops.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I LOVE RPA… jeez, I bloody helped create the space when I first wrote about it in 2012. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but this space probably never have would have got off the ground if we hadn’t been curious enough to get deep into it and articulate its value to the world. And no one’s paid me a billion dollars (well not yet, anyway).
RPA creates a genuine experience, where the underlying fabric of decades-old processes can finally be altered
When we released the first “Intelligent Automation Continuum” in 2015, we made it very clear that RPA was clearly the first step in a much broader roadmap to achieve beautifully-automated intelligence across your enterprise. And today, this gateway philosophy has never been closer to reality. RPA, when executed well, delivers a digitally-transformative experience to business operations executives, where they can – for the first time – fundamentally change how a process is designed to process data much, much faster. Suddenly, firms have the chance to make fundamental changes to how they design workflows, instead of persisting with doing things the same old way, but with lower cost people and more efficient delivery models. Isn’t that enough for now? Why does the hype take it to a place where it’s only going to disappoint? If IBM’s leadership already thinks these firms are massively overpriced, are there really others out there which will take the plunge?
When I see executives who previously stared at excel sheets all day (while beating up BPO providers for overcharging for insurance clerks in Delhi) actually getting trained to redesign workflows using scripts and GUIs, it warms the soul. We are actually trying to do thing better... not just cheaper! So why can’t we be content with making this actually work before we get too carried away?
Time for a reality check: RPA is firmly on the radar, but let’s see it become properly industrialized and scaled before we get too carried away
The vast majority of these initiatives are project-based, not scaled – only 13% of RPA adopters are currently scaled up and industrialized, according to new data from 590 enterprises worldwide. Most RPA adopters are still tinkering with projects and not rushing towards enterprise scale adoption:
Suddenly, the whole RPA value proposition, which has carefully matured from the “Oh my God, a robot’s going to take my job” to “OK, I get it now, RPA actually frees up time and fixes process breakages and staves off costly investments” has been injected with some serious hype-steroids, where suddenly these firms are worth billions of dollars, some are actually declaring they are going to deliver their own consulting services (really) and quickly move up the continuum to offer real cognitive and AI capabilities. I’m sorry, but when were the RPA firms going to compete with Google and Microsoft? Am I missing something here?
The Bottom-Line: Enjoy that RPA high a bit longer before you graduate onto the harder stuff…
The real data shows just how not-ready we are to declare some kind of robo-victory – executives must evaluate how all intelligent automation technologies can work together to take us to the promised land. RPA provides a terrific first stop for executives to make real underlying changes to their processes. Once processes are digitized, there is so much more we can do with the data being produced, which is where other automation and AI tech comes into play, such as Machine Learning and predictive analytics and sophisticated cognitive computing.
Now it’s always critical to focus on the “what next”, and in the case of RPA the possibilities are limitless, but only when you have mastered how to digitize your underlying mess that has plagued your organization since before the days COBOL was the next big thing. Then it’s about how you reel in the analytics and AI possibilities that truly take your business to a new level of data heaven. But let’s get past the gateway first… let’s not get ahead of reality and mess this one up, folks.