Making Sense out of the RPA Market
The robotic process automation (RPA) market is growing rapidly, and new uses are being identified throughout enterprises continually. Hundreds of vendors around the world have entered the RPA segment, coming from many existing IT sectors such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), contact center infrastructure, workforce optimization, as well as dozens of start-ups that want to take advantage of the massive market opportunity. Unfortunately, as is often the case with a new IT segment, there is a great deal of confusion regarding what RPA is, how it should be used, where it should be applied, and how it differs from other IT segments, such as intelligent virtual agents (IVAs). To bring clarity to this sector, DMG Consulting has drafted and issued definitions for these solutions. We have tried to make the definitions broad enough to make sense out of a market that is quickly innovating and empowering companies to make significant changes and enhancements in their operations; at the same time, we want to differentiate RPA solutions and eliminate confusion.
DMG defines RPA as:
Software that leverages artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, workflow and other technologies to automate the processing of repetitive tasks, initiate actions, and communicate with other systems or employees. RPA emulates the processes performed by human workers and can be trained to adapt to changing conditions, anomalies and new situations.
There are two primary categories of RPA solutions, attended and unattended. Attended robotic process automation runs on the user’s local workstation (desktop) and is invoked by a user via context-based screen triggers, an embedded screen button or hot key, etc. An attended RPA application “works” alongside agents. It provides employees with real-time process guidance and automates routine activities associated with the process in a faster and more accurate manner.
Unattended robotic process automation can run on a dedicated workstation, server, web or mainframe. Once programmed, unattended RPA solutions do not require human intervention; they replace work performed manually by employees with a fully automated process. Unattended RPA applications can be invoked by a schedule or timer; a trigger such as an email, file or queue task; be called up by another application; or can run on-demand. A major driver in the adoption of unattended RPA is that it does not require vacation, breaks, raises, schedule changes, etc. However, these solutions do require someone to program them and oversee their performance. A well-designed unattended RPA will include an exception handling process, which requires human intervention, and the more sophisticated ones will use machine learning to improve automation rates, based on feedback from administrators.
RPA vs. IVA
Currently, there are significant differences between the RPA and IVA segments; however, DMG predicts that these two distinct markets will begin to merge in a few years, as the purpose of both is conceptually similar – to improve productivity, quality, and employee and customer engagement. DMG defines IVA as:
A system that utilizes artificial intelligence, machine learning, advanced speech technologies (including natural language understanding (NLU)/natural language processing (NLP)/and natural language generation (NLG)) to simulate live and unstructured cognitive conversations for voice, text and digital interactions via a digital persona.
Powered by speech technologies, AI, machine learning, analytics and more, IVAs are being leveraged to usher in a new standard of voice and digital self-service, in a channel-optimized format. They are also being utilized to provide agents/employees with context-aware guided support and information that is relevant to each individual customer interaction for agent-assisted or escalated self-service interactions.
Organizations are already realizing great benefits from both RPA and IVA solutions. DMG recommends that companies include both of these solutions in their 5-year technology roadmap, as both of these IT segments deliver significant and quantifiable benefits to many different departments in organizations. DMG has just released the 2019 Intelligent Virtual Agent Product and Market Report for contact centers, and we are going to release a report on RPA for contact centers in Q3 2019.
DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.