I frequently attend BWG Strategy group conference calls which focus on various industries, segments and sub-segments in the technology industry. Attending these sessions is an invaluable way to learn what other industry practitioners are experiencing. Within the past couple of years, BWG has organized regular calls on RPA and the low code market. I was on a recent call where a panelist from a fairly large automation COE (which administers hundreds of unattended robots) offered some answers to the moderator’s questions that astounded me.
The question asked was, “Based on your projections, how many robots will you add to your stack next year?”
His answer, “We will actually decrease the number of bots. We created bots that should have never been developed in the first place and there are only so many “unattended” bots that can be created”.
The answer astonished me and it really got me thinking. I have been developing RPA automation applications and solutions for almost 20 years and the focus has always been on the back office. This includes finding high-value use cases that can return immediate ROI. Up until this point, I never conceived there being a “ceiling” on the number of unattended automations one could create.
After pondering this, the answer makes so much sense. It gives me, as the CTO and Founder of CampTek Software, deep insight on the struggles we experience when selling this technology and convincing companies to adopt it. Unattended RPA Bots are pricey and can be risky. Without a solid strategy and a good RPA Partner you basically have no chance to get the tech to work. Even with more price competition in the RPA Software space you can’t escape the development and support costs. CampTek has done a good job educating the market about why this is so important. However, we frequently see RPA projects fail because the customer tried to go a cheaper route. The phrase, “you get what you pay for” rings true when implementing RPA solutions.
So, what does this mean?
Quite a bit. Frankly, it marks a period of RPA coming of age and potentially delivering on the promise of a “robot for every human”. This phrase has frequently been pushed to the market since 2018. While I am not stating Unattended Automations are a lost cause, I think we as Automation Solution providers need to recognize the limitations of truly unattended automations. Some processes are 100% “set them and forget them” types. But these are not as common as one might imagine. More commonly, the need for a “human in the loop” is required for the automated process to reach its natural conclusion. This means that regardless of how many business rules you teach the bot, there is always something a human needs to make the decision based on the knowledge in their mind.
As I look back, this has frequently been a limiting factor in what I believe to be a wide scale adoption of RPA in its many forms.
In conclusion, unattended automations will never go away because of their power to do the job efficiently, accurately and consistently. The sweet spot in RPA is the Attended Automation space, leveraging the stack of technology we have now. Developing an infinite number of bots/apps/assistants/widgets or whatever you want to call them to answer the need of the end user. Design-in-place applications are here to stay. I believe we’ve arrived at the point where technology works for us instead of us working to make the technology work.
Written by: Peter Camp, CTO & Founder, CampTek Software