In a previous post, we discussed our observations from 2018 based on our time entrenched in RPA initiatives and the broader intelligent automation space. In this post, we will outline our key predictions that we believe will evolve in 2019 and beyond. In the spirit of continuous improvement, we also discuss how Ashling Partners will focus our time to contribute to meaningful work for our clients, our employees, and society. Here are our predictions:
1. Business Model Evolution:
Outsourcing is reducing, automation is increasing, and the 3 year trend according to HfS Research & KPMG is towards centralization with the model most likely to be adopted being functional shared services, not necessarily global business services. Next Generation Business Operations will increasingly be a buzz word to describe the transformational state that allows us to reinvent how we can work smarter, not just more efficiently.
2. RPA Consumption Model:
Many experts believe that RPA software vendors will respond to the market by offering consumption-based pricing much like Microsoft Azure or AWS in order to scale quickly with clients and provide more reoccurring revenue. This should make utilization tracking and reusable components much more important features. The consumer will benefit as the focus shifts away from the number of bots deployed, and towards how we are using orchestrated intelligent automation to achieve business outcomes.
3. The Year of Hybrid RPA:
Those that have spent any time in the RPA space knows that there are several different flavors, namely attended and unattended RPA. We call this Hybrid RPA at Ashling Partners. To take on increasingly complex operational processes and to extract more value out of automation, we need to extend processes, not just automate the current state. For example, customer experience will increasingly intersect with operational efficiency objectives. We need to provide more value to our customers quicker, with less cost, in a personalized way. No More ‘Customer 360’ programs that operate autonomous from ‘Cost Optimization’ or ‘Process Improvement’ programs. Orchestrating these extended processes with BOTH unattended and attended RPA will deliver on more of the original promise.
4. Orchestration continues beyond Fundamental RPA:
Connecting automation capabilities will continue to expand. This includes not only Attended and Unattended RPA orchestration, but also a disciplined approach to process discovery, and meshing other technologies like OCR (e.g. ABBYY) or BPM (e.g. K2) Isolated RPA pilots are great for ‘test and learns’ and can showcase the potential ROI, but to truly enable an agile, continuous improvement mindset (see Amazon flywheel), an orchestrated approach to both process discovery and process automation will enable ongoing process improvement.
5. Market Consolidation:
Because of the value that can be unlocked from a more orchestrated approach to intelligent automation, look for acquisitions of complimentary, adjacent technologies to take place. Remember that the ‘Big 3’ RPA platforms are well-funded and in an arm’s race. Not all of those dollars will likely go towards sales & marketing and internal product development.
6. Business Cases:
Companies will look beyond short-term FTE reduction in 2019. Organizations have focused initial business cases on FTE reduction in order to fund initial automations, but the market will shift to look at more revenue-generation opportunities rather than just cost savings. Those organizations that are growing have an easier track- grow revenue faster than headcount. Those organizations that are not growing will need to think about reinvention of both their business and their Automation Metrics.
7. Security and Internal Controls:
As our internal stakeholders become educated on what RPA can and cannot do, standards will continue to develop around internal audit policies and security standards. This evolution should help with development cycle times as IC and IT Security is increasingly included upfront in RPA methodologies.
8. Future of Work:
We will begin to see more meat on the bones of the ‘Reskilling’ conversation. 2018 was about proving out the technology and testing out new roles for our people. 2019 will be about building a sound foundation for training programs that align with company needs and ‘future of work’ trends. Bespoke, STEM-like training will emerge at organizations looking to fend off digital native competitors with emerging technologies like RPA, Machine Learning and AI. More time and budget will be dedicated to this ‘Future of Work’ bucket as these emerges as a competitive advantage in the era of lifelong learning.
In order to help address challenges and opportunities for scaling Intelligent Automation and embracing the future of work, Ashling Partners has outlined a key set of principles that we use with our clients and with our internal team. We have also designed educational blogs that we will share throughout the course of 2019. The 2 tracks are highlighted in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Ashling 2019 Blog Series Tracks
Our Social Contract around Intelligent Automation & the Future of Work
Based on our experiences in establishing programs, building bots, and formalizing Intelligent Automation CoEs, we have come to the humbling conclusion that we don’t have all the answers on how to reskill employees that may be displaced by automation. We are passionate about the fact that the mundane data entry tasks being automated are not what humankind was put on this planet to do. We also are pessimistic optimists looking to balance healthy debate with embracing change. We have begun to develop our vision for the ‘Future of work’ that we will share in a new thought leadership series (sign up here). Our social contract to anyone that has an interest is to reach out, and we can provide some direction on training programs and how we keep our employees’ skillset current and our culture focused on lifelong learning. We are all in this together. It’s that simple.