So it’s taken seven years since HFS introduced RPA to the world, lots of blown investor cash, many failed careers, so many great parties and declarations of death for the industry that is, in reality, White Collar Automation and AI, to find a rhythm and a real sense of purpose.
While we can argue the oddities and vagaries of what is essentially attended desktop automation (which isn’t really robotic as you need someone there to keep it functioning), plus the original concept that was real back office unattended robotic process automation, we can celebrate the fact that “RPA” is a $4bn industry today, that has helped drive a further $9.6bn in incremental internal and external expenditure on what we are terming “Intelligent Process Automation”. IPA caters for the process transformation, discovery, mining, data ingestion, computer vision, NLP etc that truly supports that broader automation and AI strategy across business silos:
Ultimately, what we are talking about here is the whole digitization, automation and self-learning data intelligence that is changing how white collar employees conduct their jobs. So how is this burgeoning white collar automation and AI market redefining itself?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA): RPA is inherently capable of recognizing and adapting to deviations in data or exceptions when confronted by large volumes of data. In effect, it can be intelligently trained to analyze large amounts of data from software processes and translate them to triggers for new actions, responses, and communication with other systems. RPA describes a software development toolkit that allows non-engineers to quickly create software robots (known commonly as “bots”) to automate rules-driven business processes. This includes Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) which is essentially surface automation, where desktop screens (whether desktop-based, web-based, cloud-based) are “scraped”, scripted and re-programmed to create the automation of data across systems. A well-designed RDA solution can automate workflows on several levels, specifically: application layer; storage layer; OS layer and network layer.
Intelligent Process Automation: is the use of technology to allow a business function or part of the operation of a process workflow work automatically that is not enabled by RPA technology. It includes the use of process mining and discovery, BPM suites, data ingestion, machine reasoning, cognitive machine reading, automated chatbots, OCR, IVR, document process automation, and related technologies.
IPA comprises of two core elements:
- i) External professional services: Relates to all external spending focused on developing business process automation strategies / roadmaps and the use/ implementation of automation with business functions.
- ii) Internal operational spend: Includes internal and external spending on automation – change management, IT and operational teams focused on process automation and automation use as part of existing business process management initiatives.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): refers to the simulation of human thought processes across enterprise operations, where the system makes autonomous decisions, using high-level policies, constantly monitoring and optimizing its performance and automatically adapting itself to changing conditions and evolving business rules and dynamics. It involves self-learning systems that use data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to mimic the way the human brain works, without continuous manual intervention. It includes cognitive (digital) assistants, AI Watson-type reasoning apps, Natural Language Processing, Machine Learning and Computer Vision.
The Bottom-line: RPA has opened the gateway for augmenting White Collar roles, now we’re progressing far beyond that
C’mon folks, it’s time to quite the ‘bot for every desktop’ claptrap and focus on the real what next. With firms like Microsoft, SAP, Appian, and co now offering RPA and much cheaper prices, the value is shifting firmly to the broader automation driven transformation that is enterprise-grade, involves both business and IT leaders, scalable in the cloud, and truly capable of augmenting human workers. Yes, RPA provided a gateway to many new possibilities… and now the gate is firmly open, the horses are bolting! Now catch them, tame them and ride them to the AI promised land =)