RPA 2023: Where Are We Going?!
After a somewhat turbulent stretch from 2017-2022, the same question can be asked of RPA, IPA, AI and anything related to transformational automation technologies.
The ascension, awareness, and significant early adoption of automation technology in 2017-2019 era fueled significant growth within the industry. Like any early adopter technology there were more failures than successes. Shortly after, between 2020 and early 2022, COVID slashed transformation budgets, increased turnover, created a hiring crunch and forced businesses to do whatever they could stay above water from a continuity standpoint.
The second half of 2022 and early 2023 represent the accumulated headwinds of the past few years: companies getting serious about automation at scale. Recently, both Johnson & Johnson and AT&T shared the successes they are experiencing with their enterprise adoption of RPA, AI and Intelligent Document Understanding. This proves that the technology does scale if its implemented and supported properly.
With this in mind, I would like to make some predictions for what is in store for 2023:
1. Task Mining, Process Mining, and Task Capture will become imperative to scale and define an enterprise Automation initiative. With flexible time at a premium for most employees, or a shortage of staff in general, trying to identify and quantify automation opportunities can’t be done without some systematic approach. Traditionally, these bot ideas have been captured using the interview and scope approach. This can be problematic as the right information is not often communicated effectively and it’s very labor intensive. That being said, this is fine for companies that want to build a few bots but aren’t ready to scale across the enterprise.
Task Mining can be deployed amongst multiple workgroups and in different parts of the business. This can help identify workflows that may not necessarily be communicated or realized they existed, especially at high volumes. There has been some hesitancy around the reliability of the tech but with the improvements coming in Q1 of 2023, Task Mining should be ready to fly and meet the expectations of today’s enterprise customers.
Process Mining, especially within UiPath’s enterprise cloud is an excellent Business Process Management solution to clearly identify automation opportunities within the system. This system can be whatever is defined as a high transaction area in various industries, examples being bank transactions, and insurance claims (healthcare or elsewhere).
2. Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) expansion and wide usage will be the #1 use case for 2023. There have been solutions that “worked” but required a lot of support to maintain and didn’t fully live up to their promise. I am happy to report that today there are solid solutions for structured (Amazon Textract, Google OCR), semi-structured (ABBYY, UiPath Document Understanding) and for unstructured data, (IndicoData). While they are all at different price points, you can rest assured that high reliability can be achieved at scale depending on the need.
This is all very exciting since there are no shortages of documents that need to be read, indexed, categorized, and/or archived in every major industry. The only limitation thus far has been the ability to actually achieve this at scale. That is no longer the case.
3. Automation Managed Services will become the way to support and scale RPA, AI and IDP. I am fairly partial to this since my company, CampTek Software, has had this model since day one. As I have written many times, you really can’t be serious about scaling an automation practice without planning for Support. All these Bots need to have support in mind before the first line of code is written, regardless of which RPA tool or add on tools are used. With labor being a primary problem, companies should seriously consider having the traditional Center of Excellence (COE) run their initiative. It’s not realistic to find a team of properly qualified individuals to stand up a COE of 30-50 people all of whom are trained appropriately to maintain the COE’s functionality.
4. Citizen Development will, and has already started to, become a real option for companies in various industries. Part of the lack of growth in this area is due to lack of strategy and once again a misunderstanding of the technology. We developed a Citizen Developer as a Service program that can make the initiative work successfully. A cohesive roll out of Citizen Development isn’t impossible but understanding the nuances of governance, activity creation and sharing, as well as employee interest and buy-in are all concepts that aren’t covered in traditional training.
5. AI use cases will become more pronounced and pervasive. AI adoption has more than doubled since 2017, but only 10% of organizations report seeing significant ROI. In the simplest of terms, the reason is because the data is too complicated and needs to be cleaned. AI will increase and improve as it gets easier to create models and harness good data to inform its intelligence. Data scientists are still needed at scale but companies like Data Robot, Data Bricks, Google and Microsoft are making significant improvements to their offerings that will move the needle this year.
6. Automation will become the #1 priority for most organizations. Don’t Wait, Automate! I think it would be irresponsible for any company, regardless of size, to not have automation on their roadmap at this point. It’s getting close to “last call” for organizations to develop a plan to attain this goal and, depending on the size, at scale!!
I am very excited to see where 2023 ultimately ends up but I am of the opinion this will be a watershed year in the automation space. Finally, the vision of technology working for humans will be realized vs. humans working for technology will be realized at scale.
Written by Peter Camp, CTO & Founder, CampTek Software