Symphony are practitioners in Robotic Process Automation, so it is in our interest that information about RPA is presented in a clear and informative manner. Unfortunately not everyone seems to share that ideal. Partly due to the sector’s newness, but also due to the excesses of marketing hyperbole combined with a smattering of ignorance, much of what is written and published on RPA only serves to confuse and complicate matters. We firmly believe, if this technology is going to realise its full potential, it must be presented to everyone clearly and pragmatically. We wanted to find out if you agreed with us so we conducted an RPA survey during the first quarter of 2016. This article presents a summary of those results - a more comprehensive analysis will be published in the next issue of Professional Outsourcing Magazine, and you can download the graphs from the results using the form at the bottom.
We had over 100 responses from buyers and users of RPA software. Our respondents were a diverse group of people - they had 17 different job roles in 6 different industry sectors from 18 countries around the world. Their levels of experience of RPA, both personally and corporately, were similarly wide ranging, from ‘I’ve read or heard some stuff about RPA’ to ‘I’ve led an RPA project’. We felt confident then that the results from the survey would reflect the wide community of people with an interest in Robotic Process Automation.
Firstly, we looked at why people are interested in, or are implementing, RPA. We asked respondents to rate the key benefits of RPA in order of importance for their organisation. Unsurprisingly, Cost Reduction came out on top: 94% of respondents rated it as Extremely or Very Important to their organisations. This was followed very closely by Error Reduction (89%). All of the RPA benefits, apart from BPO Dependency Reduction, were rated as Extremely or Very Important by over 70% of respondents, demonstrating RPA’s broad capabilities and advantages.
With regard to RPA's relationship with Business Process Outsourcing, most respondents (65%) saw RPA as an enhancement rather than a replacement to BPO. As RPA matures we expect this number to flip, as corporates look to automate first then outsource.
Next we wanted to know people’s views on RPAs place in business, and in particular how mature they thought the RPA market is. The majority (58%) thought that RPA was mature or ‘had arrived’. However 42% thought that it was still immature or very immature. In our view this two data points shows it is clearly the ‘end of the beginning’ for RPA.
We then wanted to know when people thought RPA would reach its ‘tipping point’ i.e. when will the technology be seen as ‘business as usual’? Whilst some (23%) thought it would be 2016, the biggest percentage (40%) thought it would be 2017. The remainder (37%) hedged their bets and said that it would be within 5 years. No-one thought it would take longer than that.
We then wanted to understand how RPA was being marketed right now and through this year: we asked respondents what their experience of RPA marketing has been so far. Most (48%) thought the marketing was ’pretty reliable’ but a significant amount (42%) thought there was still ‘lots of hype’. Depressingly, only 2% thought the general RPA marketing they had seen was ‘reliable and trustworthy’. Encouragingly though, for the rest of 2016, 60% thought it would be ‘a little bit more credible’ and 31% thought it would be ‘much more credible’. Only 9% thought it would still be mainly hype by the end of the year.
Finally, we wanted to get people’s views on what they saw as important for RPA in 2016. Most people (over 60% of all respondents) want practical advice on how to implement RPA, how to integrate it with their existing systems and how to adapt their organisations to manage RPA. They are also keen to know how to select and assess RPA software and vendors (here's a good starting point). The important success factors for RPA in 2016 were given as the development of automation standards (Symphony is actually working with other RPA firms and the IEEE to develop these), the need for credible and independent service providers and ensuring security was maintained.
From the results of our survey, a number of things are clear. RPA is understood by most people to provide a wide range of important benefits to businesses, despite the excessive hype that has dominated the market over the last few years. This year, and the next, will be the time at which RPA matures to become ‘business as usual’ for many leading organisations, but the timing of this will depend on how pragmatic and independent the messaging and advice is from the RPA vendors and service providers. The demand is definitely there from users, it is up to the RPA providers like Symphony to meet the challenge.
Anyone that has worked with us or read our blog will understand that Symphony is already taking the lead on providing practical and pragmatic advice to its clients and the market. We believe the only way for RPA to prove its worth and provide the benefits that it is so capable of delivering is for providers to move from focusing on hype to focusing on reality. Therefore we will only ever provide uncomplicated and informative advice and tools to our clients and the market, based on our deep experience of implementing RPA in large organisations around the world. Crucially, we will continue to remain independent of all software vendors so that we can provide appropriate and valuable advice and solutions to our clients. We will continue to explore new technologies and services that represent the future of work, such as Artificial Intelligence, but only where they will be able to deliver tangible and meaningful benefits to our clients.
We hope you found the results of our survey as fascinating as we did.