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The robots are rising, and as robotic process automation (RPA) rapidly matures it is gaining popularity as a way to make workers more productive, allowing them to spend more time on higher-value tasks. Many more software companies and outsourcing firms see the opportunity and have joined the RPA party.
For the uninitiated, an RPA software robot is typically taught by example how to respond to various triggers and carry out a process. For example, an employee might submit a change of address form to the HR department, and a software robot could be triggered to update the appropriate records in payroll, benefits systems, expense reporting, and accounts payable, just as a clerical worker might do.
As shown in Figure 2 from our full report, Robotic Process Automation Adoption Trends and Customer Experience, 20% of all organizations have adopted RPA in 2021. That is up from the 13% adoption rate in 2020. In 2019 the adoption rate was 12%. Regarding investments, the percentage of organizations making new investments in RPA is 26%, up from 24% in 2020 and 21% in 2019.
Why is RPA growing? Because people are the greatest cost in most companies. Making workers more productive can do wonders for the bottom line. As use-cases build, we expect the majority of companies, especially large organizations, will find value in automating at least some tasks. RPA is also gaining popularity with business process outsourcing providers, which see it as a way to lower their overall cost of service delivery.
“As with most new technologies, the earliest adoption will be at large companies with many repeatable business processes,” said Tom Dunlap, director of research for Computer Economics, a service of Avasant Research, based in Los Angeles. “But as the technology matures, we’d expect smaller companies to find RPA very attractive as a labor multiplier.”
In recent years, RPA is often incorporated into the larger concept of intelligent automation, which combines RPA, business process management, and artificial intelligence into a more comprehensive set of tools for automating business processes across the enterprise, not simply the automation of discrete tasks.
Our full report provides an overview of RPA adoption and investment trends, providing data on how many organizations have solutions in place, how many are in the process of implementing it, and how many are expanding implementations. We also look at the ROI experience, TCO experience, and considered or planned uses for new RPA investment. We conclude with important principles to apply in planning and implementing RPA solutions.