More than half of the companies in Germany are already using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate processes – five percent more than in 2019. This is a key finding of the “Robotic Process Automation 2020” study that IDG Research Services created. This is not a surprise for providers of such solutions. They have been seeing increasing acceptance of RPA and the associated “discipline” process mining for some time: “This shows that companies not only accept these technologies, but also recognize their advantages,” says Walter Obermeier, managing director of UiPath GmbH in Munich, a provider of RPA solutions.
And advantages are offered by software robots based on RPA, as well as process automation in several areas. The study confirms this. 54 percent of the companies that use these technologies have achieved higher customer satisfaction. 43 percent each could speed up processes and improve the quality of products and services. Another effect: More than half of the users notice an increase in the motivation of their employees when RPA and process mining are used.
This may be due to the fact that process automation can show its strengths especially in time-consuming and error-prone activities: “RPA has its classic fields of application wherever employees routinely transfer data between applications, documents and data stores, often in connection with data transformation and plausibility checks “explains Robert Kreher, Chief Technologist Cloud & Automotive at Micro Focus. As examples, he cites that sales specialists often still have to manually transfer order lists to order systems or that employees in offshore centers check credit card contracts for validity.
- Mark Sturzenegger, Automation Anywhere
Today RPA is also used in the front office. This means that every employee has his or her own digital assistant who can perform frequently recurring tasks at the push of a button.
- Ricardo Ullbrich, Blue Prism
Many SAP systems will have to be converted to S / 4HANA in the near future. Automation can save up to 35 percent of the time required here.
- Martin Berg, metafinanz
At RPA, the lack of know-how often prevents successful implementation. Many companies want to use RPA, but do not know how the individual tools differ in terms of functions, scope and handling.
- Oliver Ehrmann, Microfocus
Often, a tool is simply installed in RPA projects, and already, you do RPA. That’s not how it works.
- Robert Kreher, Microfocus
RPA has its classic fields of application wherever employees routinely transfer data between applications, documents and data carriers, often in connection with data transformation and plausibility checks.
- Walter Obermeier, UiPath
In the coming years, AI and neural networks on a carrier platform will be able to network many systems that are still working independently today. Customers and suppliers of a company can then also be integrated into automated processes.
One trend is that robotic process automation is moving closer to the user from the “machine room”, ie the back office: “RPA has been used in this area for years, for example in the finance and human resources department,” says Mark Sturzenegger, Regional Sales Manager DACH from Automation Anywhere. “Today there is also an assignment in the front office. This means that every employee has his or her own digital assistant who can perform frequently recurring tasks at the push of a button.”
But that does not mean that RPA and process mining are retreating in the back office. On the contrary: Such solutions support companies in areas such as document processing (“Intelligent Document Processing”) and migration projects, emphasizes Ricardo Ullbrich, Digital Workforce Manager at BluePrism: “Just think about how many SAP systems will open in the near future S / 4HANA have to be converted. Automation can save up to 35 percent of the time. “
However, extensive automation of such tasks requires that RPA and process mining tools become “smarter”. It is therefore foreseeable that they will be increasingly linked to technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). According to the study by IDG Research Services, the integration of AI functions is currently only an important selection criterion for an RPA solution for 14 percent of users.
The reason: companies want, or have to gain experience with Robotic Process Automation first. However, it is foreseeable that AI and ML will significantly expand the range of applications of the technology. “With self-learning speech and text recognition, the number of processes for which software robots are available is growing,” says Martin Berg, Principal Project Lead at metafinanz, for example.
Companies from all industries have recognized this potential. According to BluePrism, they currently use Robotic Process Automation primarily in service centers and in the financial sector. The human resources and IT departments as well as purchasing are also among the specialist areas that deal intensively with the topics of process automation and RPA.
No provider of such solutions has “dampened” these activities due to the corona crisis – on the contrary: “We see a higher demand today than before Corona,” says Mark Kurzenegger from Automation Anywhere. “In a number of cases, RPA helped companies get jobs done faster during the crisis, such as entering short-time reports or processing loan applications.”
Robert Kreher from Micro Focus comes to the same assessment: “The past few months have shown how quickly there are delays in order processing, controlling or purchasing when colleagues are not in the office or do not have access to secure applications from home can.” Due to the crisis, quickly implementable process automation by software robots has become more important, up to the management level.
However, this does not mean that companies should only resort to RPA and process mining when the pressure increases – as in times of pandemics and the associated economic crises. “The question for companies is not ‘RPA or no RPA’, but how they can optimize processes,” Martin Berg from metafinanz warns. The pandemic actually increased the pressure to act. It is positive that customers now place more value on thorough analysis and a valid business case for RPA pr
Finding suitable use cases is a key success factor for projects in the field of process automation. This is also shown by the study by IDG Research. Cardinal errors include, above all, overly ambitious projects and high expectations on the part of the management, the IT specialists and the departments. “Many companies fail with RPA projects because they make the same classic mistakes as with automation projects in IT,” criticizes Oliver Ehrmann, Account Chief Technologist at Micro Focus: “A tool is simply installed, and already, you do RPA . That’s not how it works.” If the hoped-for success does not materialize, this can lead to the issue of RPA disappearing again in the drawer.
Ehrmann also advises to develop viable use cases. It is also helpful to set up a Center of Excellence (CoE). It can bundle ideas for application scenarios, evaluate them, prioritize them and then implement them step by step. “The first use cases should therefore be less complex, allow rapid automation and also have a certain visibility,” emphasizes Robert Krehner from Micro Focus. “Then a first success and a positive ‘floor discussion’ quickly set in, which leads to further projects.”
But not only correctly dimensioned projects and a good “marketing” of success is important for Robotic Process Automation to work in a company. “The biggest challenge when introducing appropriate solutions is incomplete or missing documentation of processes,” says Walter Obermeier from UiPath. That applies to companies of all sizes. His advice: The IT department should take stock of the processes before starting an RPA project, if necessary with the help of external experts.
Another cliff that has to be avoided is the lack of specialist knowledge, as Martin Berg from metafinanz states: “Every new technology has to be understood and established. RPA’s lack of know-how often prevents successful implementation. Many companies want to Use RPA, but do not know how the individual tools differ in terms of functions, scope and handling. “
But on the way to RPA and process optimization, not only technical hurdles have to be overcome. It is also important to take the “people” with you, the employees. One point: the fear that software robots will cost jobs. “Indeed, we see the biggest obstacle to the introduction of RPA in fear of job cuts,” said Micro Focus’s Robert Kreher. This applies not only to the employees, but also to their bosses. They would fear that experienced employees would leave the company and take valuable knowledge with them. Therefore, management, IT specialists and department heads must clearly communicate that process optimization is not about reducing jobs, but about relieving employees of less attractive tasks.
Ricardo Ullbrich of BluePrism shares the same opinion: “The use of new technologies often leads to discomfort. The reason is that there is a lack of clear communication.” In his view, it is important that everyone involved can see what an RPA solution actually does, how it can support employees and what this ultimately means for the employees themselves, but also for customers, partners and the company itself.
In order to increase the acceptance of robotic process automation and at the same time achieve the optimal success of corresponding projects, according to Automation Anywhere another factor has to be taken into account: “Employees should be able to create and automate processes themselves. This increases satisfaction” , says Mark Sturzenegger. Another advantage of such a procedure is that the users of process automation tools know best which processes can be improved or made less time-consuming. This corporate knowledge should flow into RPA and process mining projects.
Finally, a look at trends that are emerging in the field of RPA and process mining. “In the coming years, you will be able to use AI and neural networks on a carrier platform to network many systems that still work independently,” predicts Walter Obermeier from UiPath. Not only departments within a company should be connected in this way, but also the suppliers and their raw material suppliers with each other and with their customers. Customers of a company can also be involved in such automated processes. The result: “Suddenly you do something in a day that would have taken three weeks earlier.”
Click here for the study “Robotic Process Automation 2020”
Editor: COMPUTERWOCHE, CIO, TecChannel and ChannelPartner
Gold partner: Automation Anywhere GmbH; Blue Prism GmbH; metafinanz Informationssysteme GmbH; Micro Focus GmbH; UiPath GmbH
Population: Top (IT) managers of companies in the D-A-CH region: strategic (IT) decision-makers in the C-level area and in the specialist areas (LoBs), IT decision-makers and IT specialists from the IT area
Generation of participants: Sampling in the IT decision maker database of IDG Business Media; personal email invitations to the survey
Overall sample: 345 completed and qualified interviews
Investigation period: April 8-16, 2020
Method: Online survey (CAWI)
Questionnaire development: IDG Research Services in coordination with the study partners
Execution: IDG Research Services