Where Does RPA’s Future Lie?
by Jim Sinur
Robotic process automation (RPA) has been a sector set ablaze. In order to continue this momentum in the coming months and years, some things need to change and unfold. There will be a shift from a focus on just labor reduction to one more of a business outcome-driven approach.
Listed below are the changes I see coming in RPA’s future. Make no mistake that automation will continue to be a major focal point, but additional factors are needed to maintain the momentum at a fever pitch.
RPA Must Focus on Multiple Outcomes
Traditionally, RPA has done a great job of reducing labor costs while adding accuracy and moving dull labor to automated bots. Mimicking human actions will continue, but there are other business outcomes that need servicing by RPA.
As bots as a whole grow in capability, they can act as a listening post for patterns of interest, bid on available work, and serve as a digital assistant to customers. Additionally, bots need to be goal-driven to adjust to changing business needs.
RPA Marketplaces Must Develop
Today, bots are mainly built in-house, but in the future, businesses will want to buy or rent bots to shorten time to results. This will probably happen vendor by vendor, but eventually, these bots will have to be supportive across vendor lines as standards and universal catalogs emerge.
RPA Must Grow Smarter
Bots today are rather simple and single-function in orientation. Over time, these bots will grow to leverage algorithms, statistical models, and multiple forms of AI, and extend their functional impact and reach. As they get smarter, they will become more autonomous and start to bid on tasks.
RPA Has to be Governed Everywhere
Autonomous bots will live on the edge and act with high levels of freedom. This brings the challenge of setting up governance boundaries and constraints. Swarming agents/bots will likely be goal-driven and bidding to win business, so dynamic governance will rise in importance.
RPA Must Broaden Its Scope of Impact
While RPA can replace humans on happy paths to create straight-through processes, there is much more to address. Bots must grow from structured screens and data to knowledge-rich cases or dynamic processes that are emergent in nature. Bots should be able to sense events and recognize patterns, assist decisions, and suggest or take actions.
RPA Must Support the Human Experience
Bots should not only assist employees and other labor-focused resources, but customers as well. These bots should sense the personas and behave in context to assist people on either their work or consumer journeys.
RPA Needs to Embrace Adjacent Tech
RPA vendors should seek to partner with process vendors, process mining vendors, and digital assistant providers at a minimum. Additionally, RPA providers should leverage and partner AI and algorithm providers to expand their future.
RPA is invaluable, but it needs to set its sights on a broader and deeper set of impacts. To keep this roaring fire of momentum going, I expect many of the seven categories above to be leveraged. It is a big set of tasks for these vendors, but the outcomes will be valuable to all.