Enterprise investment in robotic process automation (RPA) is set to soar in Australia and New Zealand, according to new research from analyst firm Telsyte.
Based on insights provided by 302 CIOs and IT decision makers, the Telsyte ANZ Robotic Process Automation Study 2017 predicts the ANZ RPA market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45 percent from AU$216 million in 2016 to AU$870 million in 2020.
The analyst firm said RPA -- which enables software robots to replicate the actions of human workers for routine tasks -- is now being used or investigated by six out of 10 ANZ organisations with more than 20 employees.
Additionally, 38 percent of organisations with more than 500 employees have active RPA programs in place.
The finance and insurance industries are expected to be the fastest adopters of RPA in the short term, according to Telsyte, although RPA can also be applied to industries with large customer support and request processing requirements, such as telecommunications and government.
Telsyte managing director Foad Fadaghi said RPA is not just about cutting overhead costs; it can also change the way organisations operate.
"A proof of concept is important for organisations to first understand the nature of processes that can be best solved through RPA, before progressing to an enterprise-wide strategy," Fadaghi suggested.
"Equally important is the use of pilot programs to understand the change management requirements before a further rollout."
Telsyte also recommended that organisations assess the processes they would like to automate by their level of complexity.
"Complexity has a positive correlation with automation costs, and targeting lower-complexity processes initially can result in better initial returns," Telsyte said.
Fellow analyst firm Gartner has previously referred to RPA tools as "gateway technologies" or "surface tools", because they simply skim the surface of the larger intelligent automation services market.
"The attraction is the RPA tool just sits on top of the legacy system" such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), and there is no need for any special integration, Gartner research vice president and analyst at Frances Karamouzis told ZDNet.
"They're also easy to use and have a relatively low cost. For all those reasons [RPA] has by far the highest adoption of automation tools that we've seen," Karamouzis added.
With the increase in enterprise investment in RPA, DXC Technology, a New York Stock Exchange-listed IT services company, announced the introduction of 60 new RPA experts in Australia and New Zealand.
"Organisations are looking for a way to bridge the gap between large funded digital transformation projects and the long tail of business processes attached to aging systems. RPA can achieve this with a virtual workforce that streamlines existing processes, lays the foundation for intelligent automation, and frees up employees for more engaging work," said Seelan Nayagam, managing director at DXC Technology ANZ.
The IT services company is now actively expanding in the ANZ region to guide clients implementing RPA.
"We are seeing a shift in our client's focus from cost reduction and labour arbitrage, offered by more traditional outsourcing models, to driving business value through innovation," Nayagam said. "This includes RPA, and as a case in point, we have implemented RPA within DXC for automating our own shared service processes."
While organisations in the ANZ region are believed to be at the "basic stages of adoption", a 2016 Deloitte report indicates that enterprises internationally have begun to employ RPA together with cognitive technologies such as speech recognition, natural language processing, and machine learning to automate perceptual and judgement-based tasks once reserved for humans.
"The integration of cognitive technologies with RPA makes it possible to extend automation to processes that require perception or judgement," David Schatsky, managing director at Deloitte, previously said. "With the addition of natural language processing, chatbot technology, speech recognition, and computer vision technology, for instance, bots can extract and structure information from speech audio, text, or images and pass that structured information to the next step of the process."
Additionally, machine learning can identify patterns and make predictions about process outcomes, helping RPA prioritise actions.
"Cognitive RPA has the potential to go beyond basic automation to deliver business outcomes such as greater customer satisfaction, lower churn, and increased revenues," Schatsky said.