Robotic Process Automation forecasted to grow by double digits over the next four years


Gartner said that COVID-19 economic woes haven’t slowed the growth of RPA, which is expected to reach nearly $2 billion in revenue by 2021.

Image: Olivier Le Moal, Getty Images/iStockphoto

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t slowed the growth of robotic process automation (RPA) software, which Gartner predicts will have a revenue of $1.58 billion in 2020, and a growth of 19% in 2021, placing it at nearly $2 million in revenue. 

RPA involves the use of simple software bots to carry out mundane tasks, like transcription, updating data across platforms, generating invoices, and the like. RPA bots are typically trained by humans and then repeat the processes their trainers taught them with minimal human intervention. 

Gartner not only predicts revenue growth in the RPA industry, but also corresponding decreases in price: “Through 2020, average RPA prices are expected to decrease 10% to 15%, with annual 5% to 10% decreases expected in 2021 and 2022, creating strong downward pricing pressure.” Decreased prices means that the 19% growth expected in 2021 will be even larger than it appears, with Gartner further predicting that 90% of large organizations will have adopted RPA in some form by 2022.

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RPA growth has also continued despite economic pressure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and may have even accelerated it. Cathy Tornbohm, research vice president at Gartner, said that RPA providers will likely use the pandemic and its impact on business productivity to push RPA as a solution. 

“The decreased dependency on a human workforce for routine, digital processes will be more attractive to end users not only for cost reduction benefits, but also for insuring their business against future impacts like this pandemic,” Tornbohm said.

Much of the predicted growth in RPA will come from large organizations that already use RPA, but are expanding it, said Gartner research vice president Fabrizio Biscotti. Businesses that fall into this category are expected to triple the capacity of their existing RPA portfolios by 2024.

“This trend is a natural reflection of the increasing demands being placed on an organization’s ‘everywhere’ infrastructure,” Biscotti said.

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COVID-19 is pushing much of the current RPA adoption trend, Biscotti said, but the current movement in the industry is likely only to accelerate as word gets out about the benefits of RPA. “Enterprises can quickly make headway on their digital optimization initiatives by investing in RPA software, and the trend isn’t going away anytime soon,” Biscotti said.

Many new RPA clients in the future will come from outside IT departments, Gartner predicts, with nearly half of all new RPA purchases coming from business buyers outside of IT by 2024. 

“Leading RPA software vendors have successfully targeted chief financial officers (CFOs) and chief operating officers (COOs), instead of IT alone,” Biscotti said, adding that non-IT professionals like the low/no-code environments of RPA tools, making them easy to use for the staff that needs to train bots to perform their tasks.

As the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, RPA tools and other automation initiatives are only likely to accelerate, leading Forrester research to predict a “jobless recovery” in which many jobs, like sales, admin, support, and other RPA-vulnerable positions, will never return. 

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