4 Robotic Process Automation (RPA) trends to look out for in 2019
The PEX Network run a lot of surveys through the year, and while we're always interested in where people are, we also like to find out where people think they are going. With a technology like RPA (which is either emerging or maturing, depending on who you ask) we were keen to find out what to expect when we roll the dice in 2019, so we looked at the surveys and asked around for an expert opinion. 'Making predictions is a mug's game,' said Guy Kirkwood of UiPath - which may turn out to be true, though he agreed to be drawn on some of the trends we spotted in the data. Check back on this page when we are approaching 2020!
1 It's going to be much more common
Lots of the research from the year says that businesses are at the early and pilot stages of RPA implementation. By the time 2019 rolls around, RPA projects wil be making returns as they mature.
For Guy, it's not so much the robots taking over, as the robots learning their place, and we should see an end to the 'robots are taking our jobs' stories as the job-generating power of technology takes hold: 'Attended will accelerate past unattended RPA implementations,' he told us. 'At UiPath, we're nearly there now. In 2017 the ratio between unattended to attended was 70:30. Today it's 54:46.'
There is also the oportunity for RPA to make the public sector work much more smoothly: 'Governments have woken up to the value of RPA both in terms of doing more for less and improved citizen-centric services.' If you find dealing with government departments getting easier, more intuitive and (here comes the holy grail) faster, RPA may be responsible.
The power of RPA often becomes most apparent when you see how it is used in conjunction with other technologies. This cross-polination enables businesses to figure out a tech solution that fits in with their business needs and works very differently from other companies.
The big technology for Guy is AI. 'AI will (slowly) move into the mainstream. AI is two years behind RPA in terms of adoption but AI will be where RPA is now in 12-18 months.'
Bold prediction: a new technology will emerge that will partner with RPA and create a scaling oportunity for a small business that will see them blow a well-established competitor out of the water.
3 Diversity of ownership
RPA is no longer going to be the preserve of operations; expect the rest of the leadership team to take a keen interest in the technology, and begin to ask how it can be used elsewhere. It's likely that the ability to perform large numbers of tasks, at speed, with accuracy, and with full oversight will impact on de-centralized business models. 'Outsourcing will die,' says Guy. '2019 will see a catastrophic reduction in new deals and anyone anywhere near a break clause will use it.'
Bold prediction: expect the threat of job losses to have a major impact on middle classes in cities that rely on outsourcing: political instability and affluent migration may be part of the picture.
Employee engagement means survival, as engaged employees are the ones who will take care of customers, and be at the coal face when it comes to spotting and fixing problems within a business. As businesses demand their operations to become more agile in the coming year, employee engagement will play a big role in making this a reality.
Can RPA be about engagement when it has a reputation for reducing headcount? 'This is more tentative but employee engagement is how automation implementations should be measured. Happier employees means happier customers - who spend more.'