Well what a week that was in the world that is automation software… while 11 automation leaders at the HFS New York Summit pretty much all agreed that the world that was called RPA is stuck in the mire of making legacy tasks work better, we then were treated to Automation Anywhere’s launch of its new platform upgrade A2019 right afterward at the Nasdaq center, where CEO Mihir Shukla declared he wanted a “Digital Assistant for Every Worker”. A2019 claims its ease-of-use in the cloud, its new plug-ins into Microsoft Word and Excel, and its ability to be run from a mobile device make it the best task support tool in the business. Oh, the timing! Will UiPath stay safe with its status as the “developers favorite”, will Blue Prism stay true to its “friend of the business pro”, or will AA’s focus on bridging a solution for both business and IT with the day?
So all eyes now turn to UiPath’s flagship Forward III event in Vegas next week, where CEO Daniel Dines and his team are under intense pressure to drive an even more powerful narrative for the industry to keep itself at the forefront of robotic software. The onus is on the UiPath leadership, more than ever, to seize the initiative, especially as their noisy competitors are unlikely to keep the brakes off the PR Newswire next week… (Oh and HFS mega analyst Elena Christopher is there speaking, who co-authored the now-infamous “RPA is Dead, Long Live Intelligent Automation” blog. And Kudos to the UiPath folks for having the courage to bring in an untethered analyst viewpoint after some of the recent utter mush we’ve been subjected to at these things. Oh and a woman too, thank God!
Here are the 25 key tenets where UiPath, AA and Blue Prism must draw battle as they look to cross that chasm from RPA to a true digital workforce
Consultants, fellow analysts, here’s everything you need to advise your clients… steal away as HFS is just giving it allll away….
1. Stop counting customers. Start counting and showcasing growth with accounts/scale… 40% of engagements are still in pilot mode, so these cannot be considered long term clients until they get into some form of live usage.
2. Stop hiring armies of salespeople who have no idea what they are selling. Sorry, but we really needed to say that one…
3. Stop amassing as many partners as possible. Prioritize quality not quantity (which would require well thought out partner programs).
4. Stop referring to SaaS as cloud. Seriously just stop. Now.
5. Make the gap between unattended and attended seamless because customers don’t actually want to decide what flavor of automation they need, they just want automation.
6. Start addressing governance and meaningful management of bots in the context of broader workflow. Don’t let massive attended automation and freedom to automate shift from democratization to chaos. address how attended is managed in a way that does not make the IT shops in all of their clients want to abort mission
7. Bring IT and business visions together as one integrated approach. Education must focus for technical and non-technical resources – into communities and educational institutions globally.
8. Shift focus to an integrated automation roadmap – expansion of functionality beyond RPA/RDA to AI and smart analytics. Badging everything as RPA is definitionally incorrect and fails to give clients a roadmap to follow to advance beyond (legacy) repetitive task automation, desktop and document automation.
9. Provide proven scale and depth of professional service to support the SI/advisor channel. This is the battleground where the winners and losers will be decided… if you have the support available to train the channel and your major direct clients, you will get your clients into double-bot figures.
10. You must drive digital change management to help enterprises grapple with transformation with its services investments. Relying purely on Big 4 advisors and service providers for change management will cost clients a fortune and drive many away. This is a key area UiPath needs to take the lead on.
11. Prove it has the lowest-code capabilities of all the bot players. The shift from low-code to no-code is on… proving real no-code abilities is becoming increasingly critical as frustration build with the ease-of development of some of these solutions. This is the real key to proving “one bot for every employee” is truly possible.
12. Really demonstrate you can win in the cloud. This is the impressive push from AA that UiPath and Blue Prism needs to counter… the ability to create public, private and containerized solutions for large automation is one of the main avenues to moving out of pilot mode into a fully industrialized approach.
13. Have the most mobile-enabled bot solution. Moving bot development into the hands of code-hating business professionals is key and having really cool mobile interfaces is becoming increasingly important.
14. The developer ecosystem must be expanded to extend functionality, libraries etc. Commit to specific goals for how much of their codebase will be available on Github et al to build an industry solution skewed against technology-vendor lock-in. Much of this RPA functionality is not rocket science or any trade secret.
15. Commit specific sums to meaningful partner relationships with leading service providers and consultants, including opensource partner technical support systems, events, education resources, and people to help the industry grow
16. Commit to funding local academies (building on their online academies) especially in blighted neighborhoods near its biggest offices to bring young coders and potential customers together with employees for on the job real-world training
17. Must get focused on core business processes by industry, such as supply chain in manufacturing, core banking in BFS, underwriting in insurance, billing in telecom etc
18. Revisit its client engagement model to ensure it is best serving its customer base – its rapid growth in salespeople may expand capacity, but if sales lacks vision, then clients may not be well served (as per comments in our recent survey above)
19. Commits to drawing down technical debt (Every SW company has it, some more than others). As illustrated above, our customer surveys point out which elements of their platforms and solution are known to need immediate re-engineering and investment
20. Identify and subsidize hands-on automation industry experts and influencers whose independent thinking deserves funding and not just focus on checking boxes with legacy analysts. The automation industry is being impacted by many unique stakeholders.
21. Kick off an enduring and sustainable initiative modeled after Salesforce’s 1-1-1 program
22. Invest in cross-technology customer events that will expand overall value creation, for example partnering more aggressively with the likes of Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, Google etc.
23. Spearhead an Automation Industry Technology/Business Roadmap that shows a clear path for enterprise clients to progress from basic robotic task automation through to integrated automation and then to achieving genuine AI value
24. Provide sensible RPA pricing options. A “bot” is not a standard unit of measure. It is an abstract measure and a UiPath bot is different than AA and not the same as Blue prism. Yet most continue to price RPA as some of the function of “bots”
25. Focus on actual business transformation. We are using RPA to run ineffective processes cheaper and faster. That is not transformation and is a short term game.
True leadership will come from those who make the most advancements in these versus fancy rhetorical statements and press events. If you want to be a leader…. then bloody act like one!
Posted in : Artificial Intelligence, intelligent-automation, Robotic Process Automation, robotic-transformation-software
Totally agree with you Phil. I have personally seen many of these problems in multiple RPA implementations I was responsible for. At Skan our belief is that due to the “invisible enterprise” the past is being “bot”. A more holistic approach is the need of the hour.
Phil , some fine stuff here again, you are the new Christopher Hitchens of this space… Quick on the draw and on target. Here is an additional salvo, perhaps a twenty sixth addition to your list.
26. Plot before you bot : Stop pedaling blind automation – to keep your automaton “pipeline” afloat – without deep process discovery , optimization and data driven simulation of business processes.
It’s very clear that we – as in “we, the Intelligent Automation community” – have to bridge the gap between automating tasks and unlocking true business value.
The answer, of course, is in an IA design philosophy that re-thinks level 1 processes such as Order to Cash, Hire to Retire, Procure to Pay, Record to Report, etc.
There is ample precedent in this kind of revolutionary, top-down “phase change”. We have seen several in the last 20 years: one single, integrated ERP; large-scale outsourcing; cloud; mobile-first. I think INtelligent Automation is potentially the largest of these phase changes, and certainly the one with the most potential.
“We” are still missing the boat on this radical re-thinking. Clients are asking for this leadership. It is critical that we pave the way.
Good stuff Phil. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. RPA is not a platform for Intelligent Automation. It’s backwards. No “C” suite exec is buying into this fluff. RPA has it”s place within IA platforms but screen scraping will NEVER be a platform. Ever. God help us otherwise 🙂
The underlying technology for sending data into and out of windows screens is limited solely by the architecture of windows (not the RPA vendors). There are a plethora of applications and frameworks compiled to run on windows and trust me, they do NOT all behave the same and often easy to automate. These simple windows automation technologies, is why there are (almost overnight in tech terms) 65+ RPA vendors and even some SI’s and BPO’s are using this “open source” windows automation technology to build their own RPA! Out on our own as OpenSpan, we started the RPA Attended movement back in 2005 with hundreds of thousands of bots live in the worlds largest accounts today. We did not choose to use this open source automation technology because it does not work in Attended mode at all well. A human kicking off and/or watching an Unattended RPA bot is NOT an RPA Attended bot. It is slow and fragile and even the user moving the mouse will often kill it. It’s why we didn’t use it. Welcome to the great RPA Attended CON and whilst nice to be copied, the windows system is not so easily fooled and this open RPA technology does NOT work.
Keep up the good fight Phil.
Phil, very well articulated. That is a true and power packed list. The important thing to note is we should not be shifting cost structures. Your list addresses the reasons to avoid that mistake. LC/NC capabilities, business involvement, complete digital transformation – and not just band aids.
There seems to be a gap in really understanding enterprise requirements across many of the vendors. Customers need multiple pieces to make a full solution. I liked your suggestion about demonstrating how to expand the core services available and exposing them through open source. This area is ripe for more developer advocacy.
“8. Shift focus to an integrated automation roadmap – expansion of functionality beyond RPA/RDA to AI and smart analytics.” – Spot on.
The highest value automations are for complex processes that can’t be solved with rules-based processes alone, but also need AI.
Also linked to “1. Stop counting customers. Start counting and showcasing growth with accounts/scale”. Having 10,000 customers is great, but a lot of these are just PoCs or a few bots according to every survey. 1 high value automation might deliver ROI of $10-100m, justifying the whole initiative.
Good article Phil. The 25th one would probably be my pick of the lot. But that would need a more strategic thinking mindset from buyers/CFOs/program sponsors, greater collaboration between RPA vendors and service providers, and a longer term view of automation initiatives at organizations.
Phil Fersht – Great list. How about another – “Plot the processes in greater detail before you bot the processes?” One reason for lower efficacy is not illuminating the underlying process variants, which in turn leads to long lead times to hardening the automation journey.
Phil – great write up. Thanks for sharing. A few additional inputs:
1. Deeper integration with cognitive services, specifically computer vision and NLP. Integration with cognitive services allows higher value-creation for most enterprises.
2. Integrate “ideation” to “deployment” pipeline within the framework. Without this, most enterprises struggle to manage their idea pipeline, prioritization process, approval process, audit process and benefits measurement process.
3. Create programs within the framework that drive an “automation first” culture. Without reshaping the culture, many enterprises will struggle to build critical mass with RPA.
Some valid points here, although after years in automation space I sense that there’s an overall sentiment that RPA didn’t deliver as a technlogy. Companies burned some cash on PoC and Pilots but they’ve rarely seen materialization of business case promises. I’ve seen multiple consulting partners promising 30-40% ROI, now these people are gone onto the next thing, as margins in RPA got thinner due to commoditization.
The whole RPA industry failed to establish itself as a transformation lever that’s relelvant to CxO level, it remained a topic for operational management and IT, and given the fact that we’re talking about purely transactional stuff this might be a right place for this technology.
I think we’re all wanted it to be the next hot thing but it’s clear that big cats that you mentioned in point #22 are not that interested in it, or decide to buy some small players and develop it internally (via SAP). And do you remember the visions painted in 2018 of combining RPA with AI? Never happened, these players are simply too small to pull it off.
I like the breakdown here, particularly the roadmap for enterprise clients. That needs to be clearer and more vision shown. There is always a focus on how it doesn’t work in forums but it really does. Big wins for relatively low investment – hard to spin that negatively. No technology is a magic bullet. Technology is a tool and a saw isn’t good at good at digging a hole. It’s how you apply your knowledge and capabilities to solve broader business problems. Any transformation is a larger sum of multiple parts. The best technical solutions use combinations of approaches.
“RPA is stuck in the mire of making legacy tasks work better” is very true statement but I think as teams get accustomed to the capabilities that focus changes focus to “Use your bots to tackle your business problems”. That’s where we’ve seen success. The virtual employee aspect of this is still relevant. “How can I improve sales revenue by x% using, people, RPA, process and core system improvements?”
Phil, great post.
As integrated/intelligent automation becomes ‘consumerized’, there are additional issues that need attention.
You correctly cautioned that business transformation is not achieved by simply using RPA to automate ineffective processes. I would add there is a huge risk of consumer-driven automation resulting in inefficient and unmaintainable automations. Think of the analogy of ‘spaghetti-code’ dilemma that software engineers have faced. Merely putting the technology in the hands of neophyte consumers will amplify this problem – and none of the vendors have a solution for this.
Another issue that is currently being ignored is the issue of business continuity and disaster recovery. As integrated/intelligent automation proliferates, there is little attention being given to the availability and resiliency of the ecosystem when disaster occurs. Woe to the firm that encounters a disaster and tries to recover without proper preparations. More to follow on this.
Keep up the great work!
How about profitability? Why is profitability not mentioned as a key tenet? I don’t believe any of these companies are profitable. The only public company is Blue Prism and their financials speak for themselves. The others may be worse. Will they be around when times get difficult if they are not making money? And more importantly, what will be the impact on their customers? Aren’t we overlooking the fact that unless companies are profitable they won’t be around very long.
The 25 points are really good. Do you plan to measure against these points for all top 10 RPA vendors and create a report in Q1 2020?
It would be good to see that. Might be better than quadrant and wave reports if you do this.
Focus on Quality than Quantity is good
Great points Phil. One point I would add is the opportunity to provide RPA and IA as a managed service. As these technologies and integration methodologies go mainstream, SMB initiatives are bound to fail at higher rates because they don’t have the infrastructure and discipline to implement them in a resilient manner. The only the way many SMBs will be able to benefit from the tech is if they partner with service providers who not only consult on how to design and build, but just as important, maintain and expand in production, which is where most initiatives fail. This point dovetails nicely with a number of points you articulated in your piece (specifically; 2, 3, 5, 6 and 9) . Thanks for the article.
Phil, very thoughtful piece and well written!