What are the key Robotic Process Automation (RPA) developments and trends to look out for in 2021? Simon Perks, Head of Robotics and AI at Agilisys shares his predictions for the year ahead.

1. The way RPA is licensed will transform

Perhaps the most important trend I think we’ll see in 2021 is a change to the license model used by RPA vendors. Although some already claim to offer a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, their pricing doesn’t necessarily reflect that. Customers, recognising the benefits of SaaS such as lower cost of entry, scalability and easier proof-of-concept testing, will be on the lookout for this licensing model, meaning as we move through they year we’ll see more vendors truly re-evaluating their pricing structures.

2. Augmented capabilities will add to the business case for RPA

I expect to see RPA mature further, with augmented capabilities enhanced. By that, I mean closer alignment to services like chatbots and process mining capability. Some vendors already have this capability, but not all do, and therefore it’s probably going to require a few iterations before augmented reality becomes the norm.

This is going to be a key product set that helps the software write its own process definitions, which adds to the business case for RPA, because it will make for easier creation of metrics and happy paths – default scenarios featuring no exceptional or error conditions. This in turn means getting minimum viable products in place a lot faster.

3. RPA will become ubiquitous – which is good news for end-users

2021 is the year RPA will become ubiquitous, that it just becomes a thing, which will make it more accessible for end-users. What I mean by this is that there is going to be so many different types of repositories, that it’s then just a question of pulling down what’s needed. That, I think, will result in greater focus on outcomes – the discussion will be more about how you foster the available RPA tools to make people’s lives easier.

This ties into my earlier prediction about licensing models. Rather than the ‘I’m charging everyone for everything to be developed freshly’ approach, which is certainly what some consultancies have been doing, the cost and ease of entry can be driven down by making RPA processes accessible, repeatable and scalable. It’s like what coders do with GitHub – repositories are updated and maintained by users, which will encourage adoption on a grander scale.

4. RPA will become commonplace in data and risk management

As RPA becomes more ubiquitous, I expect widespread adoption of the technology by more business functions than the bedrock of finance, HR and IT that we’ve typically witnessed up to now. I think, because of the need for additional information governance, I imagine that data and risk management will become a core driver of RPA.

Where you can use the ability of bots to not do anything unexpected it really plays to that compliance and audit aspect. Because they’re not going to deviate or do anything other than what they’re expected to there’s a direct risk mitigation aspect to their role and I expect to see organisations move some tasks that could be deemed risky, and where human error could come into play, to RPA.

5. Smart use of robotics will deliver enhanced value

For me, orchestration will be a key broadening of the RPA lens. This is one of the essential factors that significantly reduces the overhead and maintenance of robots; by moving away from unintelligent schedules towards smart, predictive trend analysis that factors in when jobs can take place, filling up the robotic capacity in a more sophisticated way to drive greater return on investment. Some RPA vendors already allow for this and I expect more to follow over the coming months.

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