Here’s our perspective on certain elements of the Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Robotic Process Automation Software report.
Gartner recently released their Magic Quadrant for Robotic Process Automation Software (report available to Gartner subcribers).*
After reviewing the report, I believe that many of Gartner’s findings are in sync with what we have encountered with current and prospective customers in this space.
The following is my perspective on certain elements of the report, and how they align, or not, with what Gartner has uncovered.
(For ease of reading, I have broken down my comments by category; Support, Pricing, General, etc.)
As defined by Gartner, “Robotic process automation (RPA) is a digital enablement technology that predominantly leverages a combination of user interface (UI) and surface-level features to create scripts that automate routine, predictable data transcription work.
RPA tools link applications, eliminating keying errors, speeding up processes and cutting costs. As a market, RPA is still relatively small, with a total revenue of slightly less than $850 million in 2018. However, RPA is the fastest-growing software subsegment officially tracked by Gartner, with year-over-year growth of more than 63% in 2018.”
“RPA involves developing integration scripts that get information in and out of other systems. These are easy to build; however, they are not equivalent to humans, who can interpret and adapt as needed,” says the report.
From my findings, vendors will tell you that automations are easy to build and that anyone, business, IT, end-users, can build them. I would agree that with the right amount of training and knowledge of the product, anyone could build a “bot” but that does not make it a good, working, scalable product.
As with most tools, one can be “dangerous” as they begin to build things out but there still needs to be a level of technical acumen required to build effective automations. There needs to be a technical design skillset and mentality as one develops a bot.
The flow of the automation should be such that it is easy to maintain and support and is not just being created to get “something to run.”
Ideally, if an organization takes the direction of placing an RPA toolset in an end-user’s hands, they should be prepared to ensure that the end-user is spending as much time in creating automations as they are working through the existing manual process. Taking the time and effort to train someone in the technology is not worthwhile if they are still to be end-user first, technologist second.
Nowhere in the report are specific pricing models provided. As the breadth and width of these models are so diverse and with so many vendors being evaluated, I believe the report would be exponentially that much larger.
Centric Consulting is tool-agnostic and will work with our customers to help purchase and utilize the tool that works best for their organization; financially and functionally.
Many of us have heard the saying, “build it and they will come,” from the movie, “Field of Dreams.” I think that saying aptly applies to the RPA space as well.
Once companies build their first bot, their Proof of Concept or Proof of Value, they want more.
As the report states, “RPA has effectively bypassed the traditional IT buyer, appealing directly to business users, with its emphasis on resource reduction, easy efficiency and accessibility of the scripting environments. During the years, businesses have paid for an expensive patchwork quilt of applications and systems. Given the rapid evolution of the prevailing business climate, business executives are finding it increasingly difficult to understand why they need to wait for IT to integrate their existing technology solutions. The net result is a tremendous pent-up demand to democratize process automation and data integration.”
But are organizations getting what they truly want? Are they seeing the benefits that the tool, and the vendors, have promised them?
Most vendors are reaching out and appealing to the business side of the shop versus IT, promising resource reduction, speed to market, turnkey solutions, and the list goes on.
The report also notes that “Customers should not confuse in their minds the cost of an employee and the cost of a set of integration scripts. The claimed head count reduction rarely happens, because employees are normally refocused toward more value-adding work.”
But is that necessarily a bad thing? Yes, I believe that most companies go into the RPA space in the hope of saving resource dollars but what we have seen with our RPA customers is a re-allocation of headcount.
According to the report, “Many executives interpret efficiency as an opportunity for head count reduction. However, the reality is that those human resources are usually redirected by their managers toward more-value-adding work. Given the costs associated with most RPA tools, executives can struggle to see the value in the initiative. The beginnings of a customer backlash are starting to appear. In the words of an executive at a global NGO, ‘We were sold a bag of goods!’ The head count reduction never happened, which is what the business case was founded on.”
I would argue that there are other tangible and intangible benefits that must be considered when determining ROI for RPA at both the process and program level. Some of those benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Headcount Re-allocation
- Hiring Avoidance for New Processes
- Productivity Returned to Line-of-Business
- Recruiting, Training, Facilities Cost Avoidance
- Process Metrics
- Increased Revenue
- Data Quality
- Customer Experience
- Lower Customer Turnover Rates
- Increased Revenue Opportunities
- Faster Time To Market
- Compliance and Security
- Fraud Reduction
- Industry Regulation Compliance
- Replace/Supplement Traditional IT Lifecycle
- Leverage Existing Infrastructure
- Intermediary Processes
- Employee Satisfaction
In my view, there is very little mention about training and accessibility to the products in the report. I believe access to free training and a free product can help prospective customers decide on the direction they want to take or if they even want to pursue something in the RPA space.
In my experience, many vendors will try to sell their RPA product as the “be all and end all” product when in fact it is just a small portion in the automation continuum. RPA is a great tool to use when you need to automate specific tasks within a larger process but typically, we do not see customers automating entire processes.
That is where a BPMS (Business Process Management System) comes into play. We are seeing many of the RPA vendors working with BPMS vendors to integrate their products (although licensing, and the associated costs, for both products is still required; at least for the time-being).
Cloud-based solutions are also an open area of concern though there is more discussion from the major vendors that they are moving in that direction. The more customers that we speak with, especially some of the smaller companies, a cloud-based solution is necessary for this to be cost-effective and manageable. With the amount of money being invested with RPA vendors though, I am confident that a cloud solution is just around the corner for many of them.
Lastly, although it is not tool specific and would not necessarily be found in this report, I believe it is important that organizations looking to automate their processes must first look at the processes themselves to see if they can be improved. I have spoken with many organizations where they have decided to “automate everything” first and then use the findings from the automations to improve the processes. The problem; they never go back and fix their process, so they are just running the process faster but getting the same poor results (definition of insanity?).
Conversely, I have seen organizations do just the opposite, first looking to improve before automating. Some have found that by improving the process, there is not a need for automation and/or, the improved process now provides a better business case for automation.
I learned from a colleague, a teacher at Ohio State University, the chant: USA, USA.
I believe Gartner has once again supplied a fair assessment of the RPA market and the vendors that support it, including their strengths and weaknesses.
Before making any choices on vendors or how to start your RPA program, I believe it is important that other factors are taken into consideration including engaging those who have been through the process.
*Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Robotic Process Automation Software, Derek Miers, et al, 8 July 2019