What Is Happening?
Based on research findings, customer case studies, and participant feedback from ISG’s inaugural European Automation Summit in London, robotic process automation (RPA) is beginning to hit the enterprise mainstream across Europe, with mainstream cognitive automation just around the corner.
Why Is It Happening?
While ISG research indicates that global enterprise RPA adoption stands at around 23 percent today, growth is expected to double over the next 24 months, as we demonstrated in our 2017 Automation and AI Report. The London event reinforced how broad enterprise interest really is, and how much mission-critical implementation activity is occurring in Western Europe today.
Key London Summit conversations included the following:
- RPA is being used not only as a lever to avoid cost, but also to increase productivity, improve quality, and drive compliance. Customer examples of RPA implementation were consistent with our long-standing research indications (e.g., the ISG Automation Index) that enterprises are automating tasks, not entire roles.
- We experienced great interest from event attendees in the cognitive automation sessions. Our position is that cognitive automation is quickly becoming the next logical step along the RPA journey. Business support leaders are looking to extend RPA capabilities beyond deterministic processes that use structured data, and into those that require decision-making or require unstructured data inputs.
- Attendees ran the RPA maturity gamut: some are running pilot projects on two or three business processes, others are looking to build out automation centers of excellence to extend and scale hundreds of robots already in production. Nearly all were business support leaders; we saw very little representation from IT, which is to be expected, given that RPA fills the “long tail” of interface gaps that IT systems are generally too expensive or take too much time to automate.
Session highlights included the following:
- In the “Great Westminster Automation Debate,” leaders from the “big three” RPA providers squared off in a feisty debate. Represented were Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere and UIPath, as well as cognitive technology vendor IPsoft. There was disagreement in the true definition of a robot, with Blue Prism reinforcing the need for server-based, enterprise grade technology, Automation Anywhere focusing on solving business problems no matter the technology, and UIPath playing it down the middle.
- Vice President of Operations for Western Union, Šarūnas šuipis, shared his real-world, practitioner viewpoint on lessons learned from using RPA to move customers’ money at the 166-year-old financial services company. In his view, RPA myths include: all work can be automated with RPA, RPA is primarily used to cut costs, and RPA can be implemented without support from the CIO.
- And finally, ISG experts faced off in an exciting, real-time speed contest with a RPA robot. Not surprisingly, the robot won. Easily.
Based on what we learned from this event, and from the Automation Summit we held in New York earlier this summer, it is clear that there is a genuine feeling that enterprise support functions are on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation transformation. The concept of a company supported by a digital workforce, brought to life with RPA today and cognitive IT tomorrow, will likely become a board-level discussion in the near future. The ability to move at the speed required by digital business will require an entirely new operating model – one that defaults to solving bottom-line challenges with technology, rather than humans.
This will continue to drive strong growth for the leading RPA technology vendors, as will continue to drive significant partnering activity (e.g., Automation Anywhere’s recent link up with IBM) amongst the technology vendors and service providers, who themselves are working to build out their digital workforce, in order to meet their client’s needs for dramatic cost reduction and increased speed.