RPA Trends and Predictions
The pandemic saw industries around the world suddenly pivot to remote workforces to protect employees. While that transition brought about several challenges, it also offered some unique opportunities.
Many companies took stock of their workflows and realized that the time to incorporate robotic process automation (RPA) to optimize their processes was right. When we look at RPA statistics, 2020 saw a massive increase in RPA investments worldwide —including pilot programs and full implementation of new automated workflows.
As more companies put their money into this technology, recognizing RPA trends will be important for businesses that want to get the best bang for their buck.
The Biggest Trends: 2020
Before we can look to the future, we have to see where we are. RPA industry trends from this past year can tell us a lot about where the technology is headed — especially after so many companies adopted it in 2020.
Generally speaking, RPA usage has increased to the point that it is almost a standard practice in some business world sectors. Often, RPA implementation will start in Accounts Payable and Human Resources departments.
But that’s generally speaking. Here are deeper dives into specific RPA trends:
Most Common Use Cases
The robots, or “bots,” of RPA are most heavily used in “swivel chair” heavy use cases. Swivel chair tasks are those that require repetitive processing.
These tasks do not always require high mental bandwidth from workers but often require significant labor hours to complete. Processing invoices for AP and simplifying the hire-to-retire process for HR are common tasks for RPA.
RPA trends in healthcare have also seen an increased reliance on RPA to optimize several system-based workflows, such as verifying insurance eligibility and credentialing physicians.
Focus on Implementation
For many companies in 2020, the focus of RPA efforts has been on implementation. As companies scrambled to change how they operated in the face of the pandemic, the need for RPA became apparent.
However, because they were so focused on implementation, many companies have not gone from pilot programs to full-scale adoption of RPA.
This means that, for many companies, the value of RPA is still being measured. Those companies may not have collected enough data to effectively measure ROI as of yet.
While the pandemic brought on a surge in the adoption of RPA, many companies did not adequately prepare for implementation.
RPA is a technology that takes specific labor-intensive, repetitive, and time-consuming processes and automates them — increasing productivity for your human team members and allowing them to focus on tasks that require critical thinking and human ingenuity.
When a company does not correctly assess the processes that they intend to automate or factor in every step in those processes, they run into problems.
Additionally, if a company’s RPA was not implemented with effective architecture, it will have trouble scaling, and frequent break/fix cycles could become the norm.
RPA Trends: 2021
Building on the knowledge gained and lessons learned in 2020, RPA predictions for 2021 and beyond are looking positive.
Even though not every company has had a flawless rollout of RPA, those hiccups have shown how the technology can be better utilized and improved in the near-term. So after considering the most significant trends of last year, here are some of the RPA latest trends.
Incorporating Best Practices
One of the reasons some companies struggled with their RPA implementation is that they did not do enough to incorporate best practices recommended by experts in the field.
For those companies, a refocus on process and architecture will help get their RPA on track. Implementing a robust RPA governance model and establishing an RPA center of excellence is also recommended.
To that end, many industry leaders have already hired dedicated automation architects. Bringing an automation architect on board will add a voice of experience to your team and ensure that your automation implementation goes smoothly.
Capitalizing on a bot’s ability to navigate large data sets from multiple applications, many companies are looking to RPA to optimize customer interaction.
By examining the workflows and processes that go into customer interactions, RPA can be programmed to take in relevant information from customers and direct them to the correct responses. This is essentially how RPA works in data entry — the difference here is that you will have customers entering data instead of employees.
Similarly, by breaking down processes in other business areas, more automation opportunities via RPA will become apparent. With each new use case, the team members that had previously been tied up in time-consuming processes will be able to focus on higher-level tasks.
Some experts in RPA even believe that, by integrating bots with artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, automation can itself be automated.
Focus on Security
As use cases expand outward from pilot programs and RPA is utilized in both inward- and outward-facing processes, security must be made a high priority.
Increased optimization through RPA will mean that robust data sets to glean key insights will be available to businesses. Keep in mind that this data must be protected.
Whether ensuring confidentiality in industries such as healthcare or protecting customer data from hackers and identity thieves, the security framework around your processes absolutely must meet the highest industry standards.
There is a fear from some employees that automation automatically means fewer jobs for humans. That is not the case. RPA job trends show that, while many tasks will not require even a fraction of the human attention they once did, business is still fueled by people.
In fact, the great benefit of RPA is that it frees teams to focus on higher-level tasks and to bring their brainpower to jobs that require critical thinking and outside-the-box approaches.
When you take the repetitive tasks that can fill a person’s day off the table, you free that person to prove that when you say you hire “the best and brightest,” you aren’t just spouting hyperbole.
While 2020 saw an embrace of RPA, 2021 will likely see RPA integrate more thoroughly with AI and machine-learning tools.
A distinction between bots as software and digital workers will become more evident. RPA bots will focus on tasks based on recorded, rules-based processes. Meanwhile, AI that mimics human action will help accomplish more complex tasks.
This will also help connect automation islands and help achieve smoother process automation and interconnectivity between departments within a company.
Additionally, cognitive AI augmentation of RPA will prevent logjams that can spring up if there is a UI change that is not immediately programmed into the rules a bot follows to accomplish its purpose.
Looking at the RPA latest trends, it’s clear that any business that has resisted embracing automation up to this point is behind the times. RPA is a key to getting the most out of your team and optimizing processes across an increasing number of business areas.
Even though some companies had slightly bumpy roads with their implementation of RPA, the availability of knowledgeable and competitive RPA vendors is expanding.
And as more companies adopt industry best practices, the kinds of issues some people had incorporating automation last year will essentially be a thing of the past.
Cloud-based applications and RPA
As RPA scales and its usage expands into more cloud-based applications, the complexity of RPA workloads will increase. It will not be out of the ordinary to see bot workload sharing across platforms and multi-RPA vendor orchestration.
The ROI of RPA will continue to rise as more companies increase RPA uptime to get the most value out of their bots. Maximizing the use you can get out of RPA is the definition of working smarter, and the benefits will be clear.
Robotic Process Automation is here to stay. The latest RPA trends show that not only is it not going anywhere, but it will also become more widely adopted in more and more use cases.
Innovations in AI and machine learning are already making RPA more effective and better equipped to handle minor issues that may have triggered a break/fix cycle in the past.
2020 saw the embrace of RPA. 2021 is the year RPA becomes indispensable. Be prepared for 2022 by getting ahead of the curve with your RPA and make your processes work for you.