The rise of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is still hurtling along. Analyst firm Gartner’s latest report released this week predicts RPA software revenue will reach $1.3 billion in 2019 with the market having grown 63% in 2018. That officially crowns RPA the fastest growing market in enterprise software. Alongside RPA's colossal growth, change is afoot.
“The RPA market has grown since our last forecast, driven by digital business demands as organisations look for straight-through processing,” said Fabrizio Biscotti, research vice president at Gartner. “Competition is intense, with nine of the top 10 vendors changing marketshare position in 2018.”
However, it's unlikely the RPA market will continue growing in the same direction. Gartner expects the RPA software market to look very different three years from now.
"Large software companies, such as IBM, Microsoft and SAP, are partnering with, or acquiring, RPA software providers, which means they are increasing the awareness and traction of RPA software in their sizable customer bases. At the same time, new vendors are seizing the opportunity to adapt traditional RPA capabilities for digital business demands, such as event stream processing and real-time analytics," says Gartner.
As a result, RPA will begin to merge with other intelligent automation (IA) technology. “This is an exciting time for RPA vendors,” said Mr. Biscotti. “However, the current top players will face increasing competition, as new entrants will continue to enter a market whose fast evolution is blurring the lines distinguishing RPA from other automation technologies, such as optical character recognition and artificial intelligence," it adds.
The evolution of the RPA market
Other analysts have also signalled shifts in the evolution of the RPA market due to the maturation of technologies and products within the ecosystem. The opportunity for automation is widened by new technology and greater levels of adoption.
IT and business services analyst, Bryan Bergin from Cowen, said in its latest equity research: "Consider average RPA deployments yield 20-40% cost savings and this is largely being applied to low-hanging process areas of major global companies. The addressable activities will widen with new enterprise client uptake and the ability for more complex process is supported by evolution of RPA products and the intelligent automation ecosystem around them - as the potential for true platforms become more feasible.
Bergin puts emphasis on the growing IA ecosystem as key to driving growth in the RPA market; RPA vendors are pushing for more open environments through a rhetoric of "democratisation" against a tide of cultural and organisational issues that business clients are facing.
"A key theme across product announcement is the push for democratisation across a larger user base. Each appears to be stressing a more open environment and the reduction of friction points that make these products simpler to use, to deploy and sell. This is being done through the reduction of coding requirements/technical capacity and more intuitive user interfaces, community editions for business, schools, and developers, and more open ecosystems which include storefronts or partnerships."
The report adds: "Conversations with enterprise buyers reflect labor as the biggest cost in the TCO (total cost of ownership) of automations, this includes both external and internal resources and we noted an average split around 80/20 labour/software, consistent with prior events where the services multiplier on license cost was 3-4x.
"And lastly, stall points remain prevalent but are most often due to organisational issues within the client (change management & control) or use case selection," writes Bergin.
Ultimately, industry experts acknowledge that the larger IA ecosystem will elevate RPA's potential as the market grows.
Can RPA drive digital transformation?
“Only a small portion of ‘RPA’ today is actually process automation. Most RPA engagements are attended desktop automation deployments – a loop of human and bot interplay to complete tasks (not processes)," write Elena Christopher, Research Vice President, and Phil Fersht, CEO, at HFS Research, ‘Why you need an integrated automation focus to drive growth’ report this month. The report includes research from a study of 590 major global enterprises.
HFS Research believe, therefore, the RPA market will “fizzle out if it doesn’t have a radical overhaul”. The integrated automation platform is HFS's emerging solution – integrated across automation, analytics, AI, people, process and technology.
RPA needs service orchestration
RPA alone cannot drive digital transformation. The industry is looking to the wider ecosystem to integrate technology, people and processes.
Case in point: Garner's top three RPA vendors in its latest report recognise the need to manage humans and bots to scale RPA: all three of them have partnered with Enate to utilise service orchestration.
By partnering with Enate, RPA vendors can provide an integrated automation platform. RPA can no longer act alone. Enate orchestrates work across a workforce of humans and bots, and any other IA technology. It handles tasks according to the right worker for the right task at the right time – regardless of the type of worker.
The integration automation platform (as HFS Research coins it) will be powered by service orchestration to knit old and new technologies – and people – into a simplified end-to-end process. Enate's service orchestration platform opens up RPA so customers can deploy robots, digital workers and bots from different vendors.