As part of an ongoing research program on intelligent automation at Knowledge Capital Partners (KCP), we wanted to understand how this choice played out. We found a clear division in outcomes between the 85% who played it safe and the 15% who went bold.
1) The potential of robotic process automation, even as a stand-alone technology, is vast and largely unexploited. Our studies of early adopters found examples of return on investment (ROI) between 30-200% in the first 18 months, as well as ‘triple-win’ shareholder, customer and employee benefits, many unanticipated. Yet by 2021, the market is as small as $3.5 billion USD, though estimated to grow at around 40% per annum for the next five years.
2) Looking across the 54+ RPA supplier portfolios, most clients have between one and 50 ‘robots.’ Few (13%) have scaled to 51-100, let alone a higher number. This has been changing in the last year, but reflects challenges in scaling, strategic investment, and benefits aspiration.
3) The typical organization gets caught in Phase 1. Initial outlays are small and local. Efficiency returns are frequently good, but further investment looks expensive, and the benefits look less clear. With some vendor products, enterprise RPA is harder to scale architecturally, and maintenance and support is costly.
4) Other organizations are managing RPA more imaginatively. Experiencing “triple-win” benefits, they scale their RPA deployments to the enterprise level, and across back-office, mid-office and customer facing activities. They grasp the potential of extending RPA to create ‘intelligent automations’ and integrate RPA with advanced cognitive technologies that can manage, for example, unstructured data, analytics, and probabilistic decision-making. RPA becomes the critical execution platform for creating value.
Reviewing case studies, surveys, interviews and advisory work, we came to a stark conclusion: with RPA, cognitive and AI technologies, an enormous amount of business value is being left on the table. A great deal more value (at least 200%) could be extracted simply by hunkering down and applying these technologies more widely for efficiency purposes. Still, more value (the initial indications are 500% or more) could be gained by looking for applications that increase business effectiveness.