As the market for RPA solutions continues to grow and evolve at a hyperbolic rate, several themes emerge. We’ve included 5 simple ones here, of relevance to all customers whether initially embarking upon the enterprise automation journey, or scaling an existing RPA solution.
RPA adoption via a systematic and informed approach
In the frenzy to adopt RPA solutions, many enterprises have moved forward after spending only a limited amount of time evaluating which software tools work best considering infrastructure constraints or IT policy. Furthermore, adoption has not taken place in parallel with building a systematic program, or Center of Excellence, around RPA to guide process selection, robot development, and robot management. These tangential considerations are just as, and even more important than automating processes themselves. It is critical to consider whether buy-in has been obtained across the organization from relevant stakeholders. There should be a framework in place for moving from automation concept to full implementation. The initial time spent upfront creating a robust governance model around RPA positions enterprise customers to scale effectively.
Increase in RPA providers
What began as a small group of pure-play RPA providers has exploded into an M&A frenzy, not to mention partnerships and collaborations ready to take a piece of the RPA market. While these “marriages of convenience” can consolidate the market and drive down costs, it causes more confusion when evaluating various RPA solutions. Thankfully, the trend to providing a holistic solution (not just a point task-automation tool) that incorporates RPA as a part of an automation toolkit will allow customers to tailor to their needs.
Here are some questions you might want to ask a potential RPA vendor:
- What is your product roadmap?
- How are you moving from point RPA focus to holistic automation solution?
And what happens if your chosen vendor gets acquired by another organization? This leads us into the next hurdle when evaluating RPA.
Compare licensing models
The licensing model most vendors adopt is a ‘per bot’ or ‘per component’ model, where customers are charged an annual fee for each robot in operation. However, there will be a shift to more ‘flexible’ licensing models that allow customers to pay for their usage as measured by indicators such as time, transaction volume, etc. Although this is a more intuitive and efficient model for the end customer, the journey there will cause confusion among procurement shops who will have to wrap their heads around comparing licensing models that are as diverse as the companies offering them. It won’t be easy to compare licensing arrangements side by side as each RPA vendor will have their unique approach to pricing. Most important will be understanding how exactly each model works and projected expenses considering volume of processes to be executed. Over time, this will simplify as M&A activity consolidates the pool of vendors.
Why RPA alone might not be enough for process automation
While RPA provides automation of manual tasks, it alone may not be enough. For a proof-of-concept, a simple task-automation capability may meet the mark. However, as an enterprise scales and applies automation to more business processes, it will naturally become evident that RPA alone is not sufficient to get things done. For example, what if the process you need to automate relies on various data formats? What if multiple ingestion channels need to be supported? Is there active hand-off that needs to take place between people and automation? These all suggest the need to pair RPA with complementary capabilities such as capture, BPM, and analytics. Taking a holistic approach to bundling these capabilities together in order to automate business processes is called Intelligent Automation. An Intelligent Automation focus lens from day one is critical to avoiding the trap of trying to apply RPA to all processes and subsequently realizing (post investment) that it wasn’t the right thing to do.
Finance and accounting departments can be ideal candidates for “intelligent automation,” as repetitive tasks and unstructured data are the norm. The procure-to-pay process, particularly invoice automation, can benefit from these two types of automation. You can use RPA to extract invoice data from e-invoicing web portals. Next, an advanced Intelligent OCR capability recognizes the document and extracts and perfects the information into a digital format, and RPA completes the process by moving these images into your ERP.
Tailored to fit; why scalability is critical
Finding the right automation solution takes deliberate focus and involvement of the right stakeholders. Unfortunately, making the wrong decision here can lead to lost investment, disappointment, and a pivot away from RPA even though it could have driven ROI. Most important for an enterprise customer is adopting a platform that supports scale. The landscape is RPA with RPA vendors who are trying to bolster their scalability message via outside partners and alliances to fill technology gaps. Leading software providers offer an intelligent automation platform, which bundles RPA and complementary smart automation technologies together on an integrated platform, customizable for your needs today and in the future.