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COVID upheaval propels the rise of RPA software

Date published: 10 May 2021

Shared from the 5/10/2021 Financial Review eEdition

The age of automation has arrived, with technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) playing a key role in enabling many onceresistant organisations to navigate the uncertainty of COVID-19.

“The pandemic has created unique circumstances, with organisations needing automation solutions that offer scalability and rapid deployment,” notes Deloitte’s latest global intelligent automation survey. “For some, their pandemic response allowed them to reimagine work. For others, automation enabled them to maintain core services during workforce disruption.”

About 75 percent of survey respondents used automation to deal with the impact of COVID-19, and one-third accelerated investment in cloud-hosted automation as part of their pandemic response. The acceleration in demand for intelligent automation has propelled the global market in automation to grow at a 40.6 percent estimated compound annual growth rate, and it is predicted to reach $US25.66 billion by 2027.

“The key driver for RPA projects is their ability to improve process quality, speed and productivity, each of which is increasingly important as organisations try to meet the demands of cost reduction during COVID-19,” said Fabrizio Biscotti, research vice-president at Gartner, of the firm’s RPA market forecast. “Enterprises can quickly make headway on their digital optimisation initiatives by investing in RPA software, and the trend isn’t going away any time soon.”

Australia is home to a boutique but growing ecosystem of automation companies that punches well above its weight. Local revenue from robotic process automation software is expected to hit $90.4 million in 2021, an increase of 120.8 percent from 2020, according to research firm Gartner. In a reflection of the industry’s growing maturity the Australian founded, global automation company Reveal Group has been crowned global leader in research firm Forrester’s inaugural survey of midsize RPA providers. The report said Reveal Group was unique among RPA service firms for focusing on making automation simpler and cheaper.

“I keep saying we haven’t done badly for a little company that started in Melbourne,’’ says Ian Crouch, Reveal Group co-founder and CEO. “We work with numerous Australian companies that are all doing well globally and we’re constantly trying to improve. We learn, we collaborate. That’s our culture.”

COVID-19 has accelerated the implementation of automation in Australia, Crouch says, as concerns over workforce adaptation and job losses vanish in the face of rapid uptake.

“Prior to COVID-19, we were still doing proof of concepts, still proving to clients that this is a truly transformative technology. These clients were concerned about the maturity of the technology and the ability of organisations to adopt it.”

But those concerns are waning after the rapid digitisation many organisations have undergone in the past 12 months. Automation has also played a key role in combatting the health crisis directly. UiPath bots monitored centralised health inboxes for high-priority COVID-19 cases, while the European Medicines Agency deployed automation in three separate tasks within its enhanced EU monitoring system, designed to prevent supply shortages in hospitals treating patients with COVID-19.

For organisations ready to embark on their automation journey, Crouch recommends not launching straight into the most complex or broken processes.

Instead, time should be spent nurturing C-suite buy-in, aligning with strategy and ensuring standards and best practices are in place.

“You need to set yourself up for success. Pick a process that’s well-suited to being automated, about medium-level complexity. It’s enough to demonstrate what the technology can do, but you also want something that can be developed and put into production quickly and start giving a payback. Ideally, we want to have an automation implemented within six to eight weeks.”

From there, an automation culture can start to develop, as key people see the return on investment, and everybody starts creating their own ideas for automating processes.

“It should be fundamental to the way the company operates. You want a push model, where the customer-facing people can see the problems, as well as how these technologies can help, and how they can improve.”

Reveal Group is the first and only partner to achieve double platinum certification with RPA specialists Blue Prism and has also achieved diamond global business partner level with enterprise automation software company UiPath. The Forrester survey highlighted Reveal Group’s RoboSuite in particular, a collection of tools designed to accelerate the ability of teams to automate at scale through design, code-check and managing automation creation and deployment.

“A lot of people said the ‘citizen developer’ concept wouldn’t work,” Crouch says, referring to the idea that anybody in a workplace can identify processes to automate in their own daily work tasks. “But if you have the right standards, and if it’s built to the right quality, we can build these exciting new frameworks. I think it’s going to open up a massive amount of new automation in the next few years.”

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