Over the past few years, businesses have rushed to adopt robotic process automation (RPA) tools at an unprecedented rate, all with an eye toward cutting costs, increasing productivity, and enabling employees to do more meaningful work.
With many experts predicting spending on RPA will surpass $13.4 billion by 2030, Blueprint Software Systems surveyed 400 automation leaders from around the world to get a better fix on the current state of the automation market and where we can expect RPA to go next. That research revealed five key trends that are continuing to drive automation growth.
Trend #1: Automation estates are far beyond the adoption phase. While organizations participating in the survey had 120 automation processes in production on average, the top 10 percent of respondents reported they were running more than 250 automations. This suggests that companies are well beyond the adoption phase of their automation journeys and have reached a level of maturity where they are keen on improving their current estates.
While scale remains a primary objective for survey participants, the next stage of their automation lifecycle appears not to be about ramping up automation delivery. Rather, most organizations are looking to increase their return on investment, enable intelligent automation, and ease the technical complexity of automation design and delivery in order to facilitate scale.
Trend #2: Next-generation automation platforms are the most used because they offer better capabilities and are more cost-effective. The most common automation platform used by survey respondents was Microsoft Power Automate. The simplest explanation for this phenomenon is that even though Microsoft is a relatively new entrant in the automation software segment, it offers a very cost-effective solution. Microsoft also offers a free version of Power Automate in Windows 10, although scheduling and orchestrating automated processes is a paid add-on.
Beyond reducing the total cost of ownership, survey participants noted that Microsoft offers a number of out-of-the-box connectors which make it easy to automate processes that interact with the rest of the company’s suite of products. Because Power Automate offers an intuitive drag-and-drop user experience to design and develop automations, it is also more accessible to the average business user.
Trend #3: A high percentage of organizations are using multiple automation platforms in their RPA programs. Forty percent of those surveyed reported using more than one automation platform to design and deploy automated processes. This is primarily because: (1) specialized automation tools are used for specific use cases; (2) different business units adopted automation at different times and had their own unique preferences; and (3) different tools offer better compatibility with the existing enterprise architecture.
With newer generation cloud native automation platforms becoming more readily available and offering additional capabilities, the research also shows that an increasing number of organizations are entertaining multi-platform strategies despite added expense and seeming inefficiencies.
Trend #4: The desire to re-platform automation estates and switch tools is very strong. More than a quarter of all those surveyed reported that they had already switched from their original automation platforms. Of the remaining research participants, 74 percent indicated they were in the process of – or at least considering – changing automation technology providers.
The primary reasons prompting organizations to re-platform include the length of time the current platform takes to deliver automations, underwhelming returns on investment, overly complex platforms, and an inability to upgrade to new versions of the current platform.
Trend #5: The cost of ownership for automation is still high. The average annual spend on RPA among survey participants is $480,000. Thirteen percent of respondents, however, reported spending more than $1 million annually on RPA. Most of these respondents represent enterprise organizations with 10,000 or more employees.
High costs and rising operational expenses represent the main reasons why many organizations are looking for more cost-effective options that will yield high quality automations.
Given these five trends, what does the future hold for RPA? With growing automation estates and a desire to consolidate automation practices, organizations appear to be increasingly focused on three key areas: improving RPA governance; automating more complex, end-to-end processes; and applying RPA more broadly across the business and achieving scale. In addition, more than 20 percent of survey participants cited RPA re-platforming as a primary objective as they look to modernize their automation estates from legacy client-based platforms to new generation, cloud-based solutions.
Looking farther into the future, a move beyond task-based automation to complete, end-to-end intelligent automation would seem to be next on the horizon as machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate decision-based business processes become more commonplace. By automating routine tasks, analyzing large amounts of data, and enhancing user interfaces, machine learning and AI will be able to automate nearly half of the work of certain jobs, allowing employees to focus on higher-value work that technology cannot easily handle.
Tony Higgins is the Chief Product Officer at Blueprint Software Systems and is responsible for the vision and evolution of Blueprint’s Business Transformation Platform, a powerful solution that helps large enterprises understand how work is getting done today, so that they can improve it as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. Tony has a broad base of software delivery skills and experience ranging from start-ups to global enterprises, and is passionate about building technology that helps organizations consolidate all of their process information in one place, allowing them to optimize and automate their business processes. For more information, visit https://www.blueprintsys.com/out ti