RPA/AI User Conference Draws Standing Room Only Crowd
By Warren Lederer, COO, Madison Advisors
So many people attended Automation Anywhere’s Imagine user conference, held in New York City on April 16-17, that a second room was opened up to accommodate the crowd, and even the caterer was hard-pressed to keep pace with the traffic. The whole RPA (robotic process automation) and AI (artificial intelligence) marketplace is rapidly developing, and we’re seeing a lot of enthusiasm and interest. In fact, RPA platform provider, Automation Anywhere, is ramping up its 36 offices and doubling its 1,500-person workforce this year to satisfy the exploding demand.
What’s driving this interest?
Often, when people think of robotics and artificial intelligence, their first thought is of reduced head counts and pushing manual workers off the payroll. While there may be some truth to this in industries like manufacturing, most people at the Imagine conference were in enterprise IT and finance and they are grabbing onto RPA/AI to make their lives and jobs easier. This is in line with the more realistic and positive message that Automation Anywhere tries to convey, which is to say, “What we’re really providing you is a digital worker.” I think it would be even more realistic to call it a “digital co-worker.”
RPA actually works alongside human beings so that instead of having to spend two or three hours on a Monday morning manually building a spreadsheet from a variety of reports drawn from a number of different sources, humans can hand those repetitive, mundane tasks over to robotics process automation so they can start their workday with more meaningful projects where they’re using their unique cognitive knowledge ability.
Currently within enterprises using RPA, 50% of the robotic processes are initially deployed within the finance department, because finance is still using multiple spreadsheets that have to be updated on a regular basis. Without RPA, humans are doing this, spending hours each day just collecting and integrating this data before then can even begin to analyze it usefully. An unattended RPA basically self-starts, pulls up the spreadsheet, goes to Excel, goes to a system, copies the information from that system, puts it in Excel, goes to a website, adds that data—and it cycles through all this in milliseconds.
RPA also can do automatic look-ups. For instance, when you get new data and have to verify it using the Internet every day. An RPA can do that for you. This is where AI comes into play, because as things change, you don’t necessarily have to reprogram the RPA. The AI component automatically recognizes a new form by comparing it to something similar it’s encountered before, and then adapts the RPA process. In the service provider market, this can eliminate all manual intervention.
From my perspective, RPA is having a huge impact in the customer communications management (CCM) marketplace, because CCM providers and enterprises are using RPA and AI to eliminate the repetitive tasks that are currently being done manually. It’s making enterprises more efficient. And this should be a wake-up call to CCM service providers that it’s time they think about getting involved with RPA/AI processing if they aren’t already. Automation Anywhere, along with developers UiPath and Blue Prism, offer RPA as a standalone product. These are technology solution providers (TSPs) to watch—and all TSPs in this market will find the first to be adopted wins. Once an RPA/AI solution is adopted by an organization, there will be no reason for IT to swap one out for the other.
One message from the conference that stayed with me is that many of the service providers who are using RPA are using it internally. They’re not waiting for a customer to pay for it. They’re doing it so they can eliminate inefficiency and speed their processing from an operations perspective. This drives a stronger bottom line for those service providers, but it also makes for potentially lower prices for their enterprise customers. In addition, one of the larger capture software providers also has developed RPA and is using it to leverage its installed software for capture. They have an interesting advantage here, in that they’re able to build it into their core software products.
Another interesting and important benefit of RPA/AI was pointed out by conference keynoter Garry Kasparov. Kasparov is a World Chess Champion who’s famous for playing chess against he lost to the IBM supercomputer, Deep Blue. In this duel between human intelligence versus artificial intelligence, Kasparov won the first match, but lost the second. He noted that chess isn’t about being perfect, it’s about making fewer mistakes. This parallels RPA/AI in that, though they may not always deliver perfection, they will deliver fewer errors than a human. Where robotics will eliminate 90% of errors, your human only has to check that last 10%. That’s a significant improvement over what we’re doing today.
The RPA/AI race will be very interesting to watch.