Robotic process automation predictions for 2018 are realistically optimistic. Many recent articles have suggested that 2018 will not only continue the rise of RPA, but that RPA will spread across industry types, expand into operations, logistics, contact centres, etc. and begin to broaden its reach to medium and smaller companies. As we wrote in a previous article, RPA is becoming more than a ‘viable alternative’, turning into a necessary step that businesses must take in order to remain competitive.
This is by no means mere wishful thinking, it is a realistic perspective because it is supported by empirical data about the evolving perception of automation. For instance, over 70% of the business leaders questioned by the Institute for Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence Survey said that they plan to invest more in the implementation and development of RPA in 2018.
It seems that people are slowly but surely getting over the mythical fear that “robots will steal our jobs” - this fear being the main stumbling block for the extension of RPA use across industry sectors and geographical regions. Although most likely some reserves of this kind will remain, the fact of the matter is that the world population is aging, meaning the workforce is shrinking, so we must find some other ways of getting our jobs done. And we must do this rather fast, before we become to old to do it or to enjoy its benefits.
In the current demographic context, business leaders ought to leverage the speed, efficiency and high productivity promised by automation. Therefore, in the near future, the integration of RPA will mean adjustments to the workforce. This is a great opportunity to better use the human creative potential, both as designers of RPA and as decision makers in non-repetitive jobs.
Besides encouraging statistics about managers’ view of the topic, the ease of using robotic process automation, in particular - the fact that it does not depend on coders or programmers, increases the likelihood to be adopted by many in the near future.
In order to substantiate the bright forecast alluded to above, let us spell out some robotic process automation predictions for this year.
1. Keep moving forward, but play it safe
Alain Penel, the Regional Vice President for Middle East at Fortinet, refers to robotic process automation in terms of ‘digital transformation’. He claims that the use of software robots will continue to exert strong mastery in the realm of business in 2018.
The crux of the argument is the foreseen increase in cyber criminality, which is expected to leverage the latest technological developments in automation and machine learning. But if this is the case, then businesses have no other means to ensure digital security but to use a comparable machinery. In other words, in 2018 RPA will become a must for well-guarded enterprises. As we also argued here, the scalability of automated processes makes them better able to stay safe from security risks.
2. Leveraging success stories about ROI
In 2017, one important reason for the advance of RPA was its ability to speed up return on investments. More and more CEOs have become aware of this and therefore automation has become more visible and has built a very good reputation.
2018 is expected to take this recognition to a novel dimension because more and more real-world examples of RPA will become available and facilitate an even better understanding of its benefits. These examples will also simplify decision as to where in a company’s workflow it fits best.
3. Down to earth enthusiasm based on learning from concrete examples
The use cases will also contribute to substantiating optimistic views about the development of automation. Consequently, it is justified to expect that the extensive publicity from previous years will be backed by knowledge of concrete applications in the real world of business. More and more business leaders will have access to specific illustrations of the utility of RPA, and thus they will be more likely to actually take action for its implementation.
4. Automation as a client-centered approach to business
Another foreseen trend that is envisaged to contribute to making 2018 “the year of digital dominance” is the focus of robotic process automation on the “customer journey”. This is a change of emphasis compared with the early days of RPA, when just a small part of this journey, the user interface, used to be under the spotlight.
In 2018 back office processes will be just as much a concern; their impact on customer’s overall contentment with the automated services cannot be left out of the picture. The idea that led to this switch is that customer satisfaction should be approached more extensively, from end to end, without setting aside the visibility of any process, be that front- or back-office.
5. Self-determination as much as possible
Not many business CEOs are also AI experts. In fact, such cases are merely exceptions and certainly not the rule. Because of this and despite the “gold mine” of AI features for RPA, Rajesh Kamath, head of Financial Services Solutions and Incubation at Incedo Inc., predicts that throughout 2018, the instances of RPA implementation will make little appeal to AI.
This is part of a “minimalist” trend, where much effort is invested in simplifying the use of software robots, so that business teams themselves can track the automated processes more easily. To this end, RPA vendors will provide bots with built-in monitoring tools.
6. Joining hands with other technological advances
It is expected that 2018 will witness the transfer of a good part of RPA technology in cloud. This prognosis brings many business leaders on cloud nine, because it minimizes reliance on the IT staff for proper functioning of automated processes.
So this prospect aligns well with point (5) above. Because cloud offers the opportunity of shared infrastructure and hence reduced costs for RPA implementation, the move to cloud is particularly relevant for small and medium businesses.
7. Autonomy, not independence from IT sectors
The development of robotic process automation in 2018 will contribute to improving the relationship between executive functions and the IT department of your enterprise. Autonomy from the IT team that we referred to in (5) and (6) is not to be understood as ‘independence’.
The intended meaning is rather that of working together in the attempt to attain shared objectives, or collaboration according to a wise division of labour. This means that aspects such as cyber security or data availability will remain the territory of chief information officers.
8. Utilization in compliance pays off
In 2018 the enterprises that have used RPA for compliance modernisation will start to notice the benefits: error-free reports that nicely integrate all the necessary data and compare it with the ever-changing compliance regulations. As a consequence, these companies will have an easier time dealing with audit challenges.
9. Need for experts
Robotic process automation predictions for 2018 are not buoyant for all and all the way. The flip side of the impressive growth that we discussed so far is what may be labeled “human skill bottleneck”. The need for automation specialists is significantly rising. After so much automation progress, it is probable that the existing skilled workers will be no longer able to cope with the large number of technical improvements.
Isn’t it ironic, since RPA was meant to free human potential from the trap of dull, repetitive tasks, and allow them to engage in high-value work? Well it is, but some software robot providers, such as UiPath, have envisaged the irony and have planned accordingly. UiPath Academy is one example of academic setting meant to train highly skilled professionals, who should ensure the continuation of the ascending trend of RPA.
Unlike previous technological leaps forward, RPA promises to offer more democratic access, with shrinking costs making businesses of all sizes, from both developed and developing countries, able to benefit from it.
Consistently, robotic process automation predictions for 2018 focus on concrete improvements that must be made to implementation strategies so that the technology can actually be made full use of. The forecast for this year is not driven by abstract excitement, on the contrary: predictions envisage realistic tendencies.
Well aligned with other technological developments, RPA frees the human mind from tedious jobs. Automation allows it to concentrate on innovating and on ensuring best treatment of other persons, the customers.