Advanced use of Robotic Process Automation to double by 2020

28 June 2018 5 min. read
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Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is set to revolutionise the customer experience by 2020, according to new research. RPA is a simple form of rules-based automation, which can be used to improve the quality, speed and efficiency of client-facing functions.

The early adopters of RPA are already beginning to witness the benefits of the technology, while those who lag behind are realising that now is the time to act to avoid being left behind. A number of reports have already outlined the potential rewards to be reaped, which include improving operational efficiencies, reducing human error risk and increasing the proportion of time that staff are now able to focus on value add activities, however according to a new study from Information Services Group (ISG), the best is still to come.

The dossier from the technology consultancy found that businesses reported a 9% increase in RPA budgets in the last year, as many firms look to tap into the massive potential of the technology, a trend which will see 92% of European companies having deployed RPA by 2020. RPA is a simple form of rules-based automation, which can be used to improve the quality, speed and efficiency of client-facing functions, and its use can free staff to apply their talents to more important aspects of business, improving productivity and value added in the process.

Customer engagement and controlling functions will be most affected by RPA

According to ISG, while this is occurring across all facets of global business, customer services will be most impacted by RPA. The benefits of the automation of aspects of work such as administration, data entry and minute taking have long been talked about as benefitting the financial, treasury and auditing functions, as well as the increasingly complex procurement, logistics and supply chain arena, executives polled by ISG said they most expected the customer services and order processing functions to benefit most from RPA. 43% of participants asked which three aspects of their business would change over the next two years thanks to the technology answered with the customer focused aspect of business, followed narrowly by financial aspects at 42% and supply chain aspects at 40%.

Not surprisingly, due to the potential benefits of RPA, firms are currently committing to heavy spending campaigns to boost their capacity for it. According to ISG’s analysis, budgets across Europe increased by an average of 9% year-on-year, while companies exhibiting such increases, a quarter saw RPA spending grow between 11-20%.

Three-quarters of European companies increased RPA budgets from 2017 to 2018

Less than a fifth of respondents stated there had been no change in RPA spending, suggesting that relatively few firms feel they are even approaching maturity in terms of automation, and feel the need to ramp up their budgets to hasten their development. Reinforcing this, only 5% of companies polled said their spend on RPA decreased in 2018.

Indeed, the method of upping spending in order to speed a firm’s approach to maturity seems to be paying dividends in many cases. According to ISG’s research, as a result of growing spending, maturity in RPA will have seen 28% of companies deploy RPA in more than 25 business processes, while the current 17% of firms still to deploy a single RPA solution will fall to just 7% by 2020. As a result, the number of firms which boast an advanced stage of RPA adoption will have doubled in the next two years, rising from 27% now to 54% by 2020.

Most European businesses are still early in their RPA adoption journey –but that is set to change

It is most likely to be the CIO or Head of IT who takes responsibility for this decision. 80% of participants listed the CIO as being in some way accountable for the buying of RPA, and while this is unsurprising, CIOs are closely followed by the 71% who said the Chief Finance Officer was in some way accountable for it. Automation Programme Managers were listed as the third most likely, at 65%.

According to ISG, this fits with a broader trend, which has seen finance and auditing (F&A) organisations at the forefront of driving RPA into an organisation. The technology is seen by members of the F&A team as a means by which the operations of a company can be transformed to find efficiency savings and profitability boosts.

The CIO, CFO and Automation Program Manager are overwhelmingly responsible or accountable for RPA buying decisions

Commenting on the findings, Andreas Lueth, Partner at ISG, said, “Robotic Process Automation is delivering improved outcomes for enterprises across Europe and our research shows many more businesses will be taking advantage of the technology by 2020 as adoption accelerates. The increasing prominence of RPA in organisations is borne out in the fact that many businesses are now choosing to appoint Heads of Automation – a role that has appeared only in the past two years.”

Caution is still needed, however, and Lueth added that while RPA could revolutionise customer service and back-office functions alike, organisations should be wary of falling into an ‘RPA trap’. He concluded, “The decision to deploy RPA should be treated as a strategic business initiative, with defined objectives and measures. Without this, the chance of failure is high.”

Related: Organisations are struggling to deliver the full benefits of RPA technology.