Disclaimer: The following content is solely the observations and opinion of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the perspective of Ashling Partners the company.
Both the weather and the spirit at the #UiPath Forward conference last week was sunny and optimistic. While I strive to always take a pessimistically optimistic POV when it comes to all things RPA and Intelligent Automation, I couldn’t help buying into some of the vision that CEO Daniel Dines laid out. The numbers that were presented were outright gaudy (see point #3). Anyone with a pulse would likely have a similar reaction (or maybe it’s just me). There was plenty to be excited about for technology partners like Google and Microsoft, as well for business process and intelligent automation service partners like Ashling Partners. Most importantly, the customers both big and small, have plenty of thoughts to bring home and digest before they decide the relevance and impact on their own organizations. For those that couldn’t make the event but find the news from one of the top RPA partners of value, I have highlighted key topics that resurfaced several times throughout the week with some personal perspective on the implications to the enterprise customer:
- Automate first and Accelerate: This was the battle cry of the event. We have been thru many eras in technology: ERP-first, BI-first, outsource-first, SOA-first, mobile-first, cloud-first. All these eras have led to more data, more siloed processes, and more legacy systems to digitize if we are to meet our customers in real-time on their terms. The message from UiPath in leveraging RPA fully was clear:
- Accelerate digital transformation
- Accelerate your path to AI
- Accelerate your business
- One Bot for every employee: The vision of CEO Daniel Dines was also clear- every employee in corporate America should have a digital assistant in the form of a bot. It is a bold vision, and one that needs to be considered by anyone planning to deploy or scale RPA. Traditional RPA deployments have either been front office or back office. The beginnings of the current craze around RPA technology is rooted in shared services/BPO, mainly unassisted RPA, so it’s not a surprise that assisted RPA has been neglected. As the possibilities of RPA become realities, assisted and unassisted RPA will help this vision to become more likely.
- Growth is historical: At this time last year, UiPath had reoccurring revenue estimated around $20-30 million. That revenue has seen over 5x growth in 2018. The employee and customer counts had a similar ‘Awe’ effect with a 500% increase in headcount. They have also added over 1,500 new enterprise customers in one year. The claim that UiPath is now the fastest growing enterprise software company has some legitimacy.
- “The largest competitor is conventional thinking”: This well-stated quote comes from Bobby Patrick, UiPath’s CMO. Although the growth and buzz is currently high, there is still much more room to climb. We heard constantly that silos within the enterprise are corroding value. And we have seen this time and time again with our clients. When your platform’s value is connecting processes that extend beyond a group or business unit and people don’t communicate, that is going to impact value. Interconnectedness across people, process and technology is still needed. That is a need that will never go away.
- The RPA Partner ecosystem is integral: We can agree that we all need a little help from others. The rocket-ship growth of UiPath and other RPA platforms combined with the untapped market potential across the broader intelligent automation space is leading to fragmentation at many enterprise clients. The technology is not the issue. It’s the people and the processes. That’s exactly where companies like UiPath need help from their RPA partners. If they are going to mature and scale, the partners helping support the journey need to focus on the actual problems. This is precisely why we at Ashling Partners developed our holistic ‘Advanced Process Intelligence’ Below are actual comments that we have heard from clients on a consistent basis, and certainly heard during cocktail hour at the event. Most of these are ‘people’ or ‘process’ bottlenecks:
“We bought the technology but do not have the technical expertise to deploy it.”
“We have trained a couple of people on development on UiPath, but they don’t know how to ensure the automation is orchestrated across an end-to-end process.”
“We have completed a successful pilot, but scaling the program across enterprise standards in security, architecture, compliance, and a variety of use cases is proving difficult”
“We didn’t focus enough on our operating model or change management. Now we have a proliferation of tools, platforms, and “owners” of the automation CoE”
“We should have spent more time on our business case process to ensure unbiased prioritization and a consistent intake process”
“We didn’t incorporate other technologies like Intelligent OCR, Enterprise Workflow, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence into our strategic roadmap”
“We don’t have an intelligent automation roadmap”
- The Bot Marketplace is the next battleground: UiPath announced their UiPath GO! Marketplace. This is designed to be a ‘plug-and-play’ ecosystem of frequently used bots for partners and customers to post frequently used workflows, activities, connectors, etc. This is similar to the marketplaces announced by Automation Anywhere and BluePrism. To make the “One bot for every employee” vision a reality, a marketplace will need to be available for the common employee to use. Putting automation in the hands of the business is key to scaling adoption.
- More clarity around AI and OCR partnerships: Google and Microsoft were all over this event. And both companies did a stellar job in explaining how their Cloud AI and ML services plug into the UiPath architecture. Ready-to-use ML services is the way of the future for the enterprise, at least in the near term. These pre-built cloud models come with the tenants needed to make machine learning effective: Good models, unlimited computation power, and large datasets beyond your own processes. Data Capture partners like ABBYY and process management solutions like K2 are also providing pre-built, cloud-based options that enables further extension of processes that will drive more value to your business. The architecture for intelligent automation is becoming finally becoming clearer after years of ‘us too’.
This summarizes my experience at the conference. There are surely exciting times ahead. The RPA market is shifting into the next gear. Our advice is to automate and accelerate….but do so holistically and with BUSINESS objectives in mind.
To contact Ashling Partners, please visit us here.
Disclosure Statement: Ashling Partners is a partner of many of the technology companies mentioned in this article.