Robotic process automation (RPA) or Software Robotics is an evolving technology that is used in automating processes and manual tasks. Blue Prism is one of the leading companies in this area, providing technology for Robotic process automation. We interviewed Alex Bentley, Director of Corporate Development at Blue Prism to find out if this technology is just a step in between or here to stay.

Alex Bentley, Director of Corporate Development, Blue Prism

How widely adopted will Robotic Process automation be in 2020? What kind of businesses or functions will use it?

The growth of robotic process automation tools has been exponential in the last 3,5 years. RPA will be as mainstream in 2020 as CRM is today.

There are no restrictions in the use of Robotic process automation. It certainly suits organisations who need to cope with regulation, rapid change, high volume or inorganic growth. It can also work in smaller organisations, providing that there is critical mass and it is approached strategically.

Will there be a difference in how RPA technology is utilised in the UK and Scandinavia by 2020?

I don’t think so. There is no correlation between geographic location and rate of adoption of RPA technology. It is more important to have the right organisational culture.

What kind of RPA products will be in use in 2020? Will we still be talking about RPA?

Yes, we will still be talking about RPA. The likelihood is that Robotic process automation will be widespread, and the focus will be on using RPA as the foundation upon which to leverage specific Artificial Intelligence technologies such as voice recognition, intelligent routing and machine learning.

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What will Blue Prism products look like in 2020? What new functions will be in use?

Our vision is for Blue Prism to become the Operating System for the Digital Workforce. A lot of AI technologies are very niche-like and specialised, they come and go. We are creating an ecosystem that enables companies to use these technologies and supplementary services with ease, akin to plug and play. We have already integrated with Watson and Microsoft cognitive capabilities and our vision is for a self-managing workforce with Blue Prism robots. This workforce will automatically manage demand peaks by optimizing available capacity in line with business demand.

How will the business software market, for example ERP vendors, react to RPA?

The IT community is just starting to understand where Robotic Process Automation fits. It is complementary, although in some cases there can be a small amount of overlap. For core business processes that are both high volume and mission critical, you will always use the ERP platform – that won’t change. Sometimes you will have the choice to customise your ERP or use RPA instead. Using RPA gives flexibility, by allowing you to retain a standard ERP upgrade path, and when business priorities change it is very quick and agile to update. In many cases, business problems will still be addressed using ERP, but RPA gives you another powerful lever that enables you to digitise the business.

ERP enables process standardisation and RPA can be applied in conjunction to customise the process journey for a specific purpose, industry or customer segment. When the business changes, it gives you the ability to respond much faster.

How will companies take RPA into account when developing IT architecture and business processes?

A large proportion of Fortune 500 organisations are now evaluating RPA as a strategic technology, although only a fraction have delivered at scale so far. Organisations that have been using RPA for a while, such as Bank of New York and American Express share a number of characteristics. Firstly, they have senior sponsorship from both business and IT. Secondly, there is a governance board in place with representatives from across the organisation. In a functioning RPA governance board, business and IT collaborate to decide how and where RPA should be applied versus other solutions or technologies. As organisations mature they will become more effective in deciding which processes are right for RPA.

How will RPA effect the IT industry / IT consulting?

It presents a huge opportunity. It opens the door to digital transformation and allows the latent potential of Artificial intelligence technologies to be more effectively harnessed. There is huge opportunity to re-architect, and re-image entire business processes.

Takeaways

  • Are you evaluating RPA as a strategic enabler? Treat it as a complementary tool that could enable your organisation to harness the potential of AI.
  • RPA could be a huge opportunity for re-architecting and re-imagining entire business processes.

The author is Mikko Mikkola.

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