What a difference a year makes. In 2018, robotic process automation, along with machine learning and artificial intelligence emerged as the biggest trends to watch—not just in technology, but in business, regardless of industry or company size. Over the course of the past 12 months, we’ve seen our customers and partners go beyond talking about these technologies and trends in the abstract to engaging in meaningful plans to put them into action.
Each month in 2018, we highlighted news and insights from our partners and from the trade, technology and business press to track the challenges, opportunities and real world use cases for how RPA is transforming the way we do business.
Here are just a few highlights of the trends we saw in 2018, and a glimpse of what 2019 may hold.
Process automation is nothing new, and one of the concerns a skeptic might have about RPA is that it’s just software-driven automation with a new coat of paint. While many of the use cases for RPA are processes that are well known and well understood across industries, like accounts payable or sales order processing, the technology approach has evolved, and benefit from some truly revolutionary new technology approaches.
While leveraging RPA for things like sorting invoices, entering data into ERP ECM systems and handling tasks like matching and duplicate detection isn’t sexy or even revolutionary, the fact that companies can now implement these systems quickly, without a ton of IT or professional service overhead, is a really big deal. By creating systems that are flexible enough and adaptable enough not to break when you have to upgrade your ERP, or when you onboard a new vendor with a whole new invoice format means than companies can implement once, achieve ROI quickly and continue to profit and benefit for years to come based on what is available and possible right now.
If you read anything about AI or RPA this year, chances are you learned what RPA is, what potential it presents and what potential threats it presents to employees and disruption to their jobs Often, the biggest challenges that companies trying to implement RPA cite as limiting factors is not software or systems, but people and culture. Read between the lines, and people are saying that they are finding it difficult to embrace change, scared of losing their jobs to automation and challenged to think differently about how to get things done in a world where many tasks we took for granted as part of our work is being automation. Key takeaway: tasks are not work. Big opportunity: using RPA tool to automate the routing but ALSO to help workers to develop their skills and adapt to roles where they can do more meaningful work.
At the beginning of the year, the dialog in the trade and business press shifted from digital transformation to RPA and AI. By the end of the year, the RPA discussion began to morph into conversations about other “PA”s—like Digital Process Automation (DPA) and Intelligent Process Automation (IPA). Why the distinction(s)? Because RPA has become so prevalent, both in plans, discussions and applications, vendors, partners, analysts and end users have needed to come up with newer terminology to describe all the ways you can use RPA to automate a process. In 2019, expect to hear more discussion about intelligent process automation (IPA), where machine learning and increasing application of AI leads to even more adaptability for tools that can automate business processes. In other words, where RPA has done a GREAT job of automating the routine, IPA will not only further refine and simplify that process—it will interact and learn from human operators and from other knowledge sources, to handle more exceptions more easily.
No doubt, 2019 will produce some surprises when it comes to process automation and innovation. One thing is certain: gone are the days of business as usual. More companies will embrace and adopt RPA for routine processes like back office invoices and sales orders. Companies that have already reaped the rewards of some initial projects or processes will apply those same tools to more complex and challenging processes.
Some companies will succeed as they adapt to a world where the conversation shifts from managing data and documents to owning and improving processes. Employers and employees will continue down a path of minimizing tasks that don’t add value and create pressure to elevate the role and contribution of workers to do things better, faster and cheaper by embracing new tools and technologies.
Exciting times, indeed. The Artsyl team is looking forward to every minute of it.
To explore how Intelligent Process Automation and data capture can help automate and accelerate operations for your back office and throughout your enterprise, contact your Artsyl Technologies representative.