Robotic process automation

RPA software has been around for some time and is forecast by Gartner to be an almost $2 billion market in 2021. Vendors like Blue Prism and UiPath have established sizable beachheads in organizations looking to automate rote, repeatable elements of business processes, such as approving a mortgage or identifying fraudulent insurance claims.

With pressing imperatives to reduce costs and de-risk process execution against exogenous interruptions (such as the COVID-19 pandemic), however, the adoption of RPA (and the next iterations of RPA that will have machine-learning approaches baked into them) is set to increase markedly in the next few years; Gartner projects enterprises will triple their use of RPA in the year ahead.

Although, as with AI, it’s subject to hype and supply-side exaggeration, RPA is a technology (and approach) of great promise — predicated, as it is, on the fact that so much activity within large organizations is potentially automatable. A huge amount of white-collar work undertaken in cubicles (and now at kitchen tables and converted bedrooms) around the world is standardized and “if-this-then-that” in nature; that this type of work hasn’t been automated so far is typically a failure of imagination and middle management’s ability to see beyond short-term business-as-usual.

So much activity within large organizations is potentially automatable.