Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been talked about for the past couple of years as one of the hot trends that is about to change how companies in all industries undertake their business processes. The trend has never quite taken off as predicted, but I believe that 2018 will see the importance of RPA acknowledged by many more executives and IT professionals.
There are several important reasons why I think that companies will be ready to explore RPA now:
1. The systems are ready to buy; RPA doesn’t need a team of scientists and researchers. Technology experts have already built systems that are ready to be installed and configured. Look at how IBM has deployed their Watson system in a number of different industries. Tools like WorkFusion and UIPath are also making it simple to purchase the technology – all you need is to integrate the system into your workflow.
2. Case studies now exist; RPA is no longer a technology of the future. A quick online search will give information on many well-known companies using RPA to reduce the effort required inside their business processes. Insurance giant Zurich has found that they can issue standard insurance contracts to customers using RPA, with humans focusing on non-standard policies. Royal Bank of Canada has been using intelligent bots to assist with their customer service process. Just search and you are likely to find relevant case studies that reflect your own business and industry.
3. Machine Learning reinforces the value of RPA; RPA becomes even more valuable when it can shape and improve processes because of experience and learning. For example, in a customer service environment it is possible to teach the chatbot about how every problem ever encountered by a customer was resolved. And as new customer problems are fixed, the system learns more. Every time a customer asks a bot a question, the system has access to every question (and answer) a customer has faced in the past. Machine Learning allows the RPA system to continuously improve.
It’s very important to note these three changes in the RPA marketplace. Before 2015, hardly anyone was talking about RPA. RPA has often been dismissed as one of those ‘coming soon’ technologies, yet in 2018 it can be demonstrated that it is now a tool that is demonstrably offering value to well known organisations. I believe that as the case studies increase and the tools become easier to purchase and integrate, we will see an explosion in the use and importance of RPA. 2018 really will be the year that the robots are coming.