Robotic process automation software spend set to hit $680m this year

Analysts say companies see RPA as a "quick fix" to automate mundane tasks.

Spending on robotic process automation (RPA) software is estimated to reach $680 million in 2018, according to tech analyst Gartner as companies look for ways to automate basic business tasks.

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This is an increase of 57 percent year over year; according to Gartner, RPA software spending is on pace to total $2.4 billion in 2022.

RPA uses software to understand how people process transactions in an attempt to then use those rules to build an automated systems that can perform those roles instead.

"End-user organizations adopt RPA technology as a quick and easy fix to automate manual tasks," said Gartner VP, Cathy Tornbohm. "Some employees will continue to execute mundane tasks that require them to cut, paste and change data manually. But when RPA tools perform those activities, the error-margin shrinks and data quality increases."

Among the biggest adopters of RPA today are banks, insurance firms, utilities and telecommunications companies, Tornbohm said. "Typically, these organizations struggle to knit together the different elements of their accounting and HR systems, and are turning to RPA solutions to automate an existing manual task or process, or automate the functionality of legacy systems," she said.

In separate research, the Australia and New Zealand analyst firm, Telsyte, said that RPA spend is set to hit AU4870m by 2020.

Gartner estimates that 60 per cent of organizations with a revenue of more than $1 billion will have deployed RPA tools by the end of the year and by the end of 2022, 85 per cent of large and very large organizations will have deployed "some form of RPA".

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"The growth in adoption will be driven by average RPA prices decreasing by approximately 10 percent to 15 percent by 2019, but also because organizations expect to achieve better business outcomes with the technology, such as reduced costs, increased accuracy and improved compliance," added Tornbohm.

But she also warned that RPA is not a one-size-fits-all technology and that there are cases where alternative automation achieves better results: "RPA solutions perform best when an organization needs structured data to automate existing tasks or processes, add automated functionality to legacy systems and links to external systems that can't be connected through other IT options."

In order to make an RPA project a success, leaders must first evaluate the possible use cases for RPA in their organization and also focus on revenue-generating activities.

"Do not just focus on RPA to reduce labor costs," Tornbohm said. "Set clear expectations of what the tools can do and how your organization can use them to support digital transformation as part of an automation strategy."

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