This week, leading RPA company UiPath announced they have raised $225Mn in Series E investment, as their valuation surges to $10.2Bn. With their ARR currently sitting at over $400Mn (rising from $100Mn in the last 24 months) UiPath is currently one of the most rapidly-expanding enterprise software firms out there.
In the current climate, RPA software and automation is experiencing soaring interest and demand. However, growth in this area has been on the rise for some time. Prior to the outbreak, RPA, AI and automation technologies were already regarded as a key, strategic investment, a productivity-boosting method of empowering workers to turn their attention to more human-touch, value-added tasks. Last year, Gartner data revealed that RPA software revenue grew by 63.1% in 2018 to $846Mn, making this segment the fastest-growing in its sector. In fact, the Everest Group predicts this segment could reach up to $2.5Bn this year.
Commenting on the news, UiPath co-founder and CEO Daniel Dines said the funding would allow the company to “accelerate our platform ambitions to meet mounting customer demands and scale the tremendous opportunity to bring automation to one billion citizen developers – resulting in every business finally becoming a software business.” He added that the outbreak of COVID-19 has ramped up the need to “address challenges and create value in days and weeks, not months and years.”
Undoubtedly, automation will have a tremendous impact on the ability to reboot and rebuild in the new normal. But what value does RPA specifically add? And what challenges does it uniquely address?
A Robot For Every Person
UiPath have made it their intention to provide “a robot for every person” as part of their “next wave of personal productivity.” In this exciting initiative, UiPath pledged to help businesses automate tedious tasks and “delegate drudgery to a digital helper” by connecting a robot to any desktop application through their UiPath Assistants. This allows for various automations to be running in the background of other operations, so users can multitask while they work. “If a digital assistant saves an employee just 20 minutes a day,” UiPath writes, “that’s more than two workweeks a year.”
As part of the announcement, UiPath also highlighted their collaborative and personalized platform, UiPath StudioX. User-friendly and intuitive, this tech allows users to drag-and-drop their own skills and automations based on what tasks they feel they need automated most. Under remote work, self-motivation is key. Tech solutions such as StudioX allow employees a sense of customizable agency over their own productivity levels and daily activities, leading to increased morale and motivation.
Adaptable to legacy processes
One of the critical advantages of RPA is that it can be used in combination with existing software and processes. As Gartner VP Fabrizio Biscotti said in 2019, “the ability to integrate legacy systems is the key driver for RPA projects. By using this technology, organizations can quickly accelerate their digital transformation initiatives, while unlocking the value associated with past technology investments."
In this way, RPA makes use of companies’ current operating systems, streamlining or driving them to higher levels of efficiency rather than doing away with such infrastructures entirely. In a time when companies need to automate and digitalize fast, this aspect of RPA enterprise software is a massive strategic advantage. UiPath robots, for example, are ultra-compatible and are used alongside everything from SAP, Salesforce and Oracle as well as office apps like Microsoft Office.
Similarly, in an economic downturn, RPA is an attractive solution for organizations looking for a cost-effective way to build on technological investments they’ve already made. Rather than starting again from the ground-up when it comes to their company-wide software, RPA offers a way to automate to efficiency, free-up company time and boost job satisfaction without dismantling legacy systems at a financial loss.
Collaboration and cross-department contributions
What’s more, through the UiPath Automation Hub, colleagues, team members and more can share these findings in a portal, gain rewards and even publish them to an automation library. With widespread remote work the norm going forwards, fostering a sense of collaboration and crowdsourced materials will foster a sense of belonging while physically distanced from one another.
The quick and scalable nature of RPA technologies makes it particularly resilient to future disruptions. It’s a great way to bring people together to build long-lasting, practical, super-accurate solutions while also freeing them from repetitive tasks. These features can be customized and continually built upon in a fast-moving ecosystem, adding on-going value to organizations and their teams.
Strong governance, rules and ethics
Automation boosts productivity, reducing and eradicating tedious tasks and freeing people up for the more human tasks. For the most part, RPA is accurate, secure and actually reduces risk. However, this technology shouldn’t be adopted without careful consideration of ethics, an understanding of potential risks and a reassurance of protections for all employees.
According to a just-released report from Fico and Corinium, 93% of C-suite respondents said ethical considerations represent a barrier to AI adoption. 60% also expressed concern around regulatory and compliance risks associated with AI and automation. FICO’s Chief Analytics Officer, Scott Zoldi, stressed the need for organisations to ensure “AI is designed robustly and is explainable, transparent, built ethically and governed by auditable, recorded development process that is referenced as data shifts over time.”
There are many questions around how to construct a strong framework around these technologies: transparency, communication and best practice implementation will be critical throughout this process, particularly as many organizations rush to obtain the tech they need under COVID-19.
As UiPath highlights, “Automation is a team sport and like any sport you need some rules to ensure everyone plays well together.” In response to such concerns, companies should channel their efforts into strong model governance, management rules and company-wide policies that start with the highest levels of leadership. UiPath themselves are handling this with care, with the features that includes support teams, end-to-end visibility, monitors, licensing models and centralized management systems to ensure security and consistency in all their programs.
RPA solutions are a crucial way to negotiate the uncharted waters left in the wake of COVID-19. In a world of massive changes, big-picture solutions are necessary. For the implementation of these technologies to be successful, every team member from IT to HR to senior leadership needs to be involved and informed of what these processes entail.
Automation and RPA are not only the future: they are already here, heralding an exciting opportunity for organisations to focus on people, become more efficient, gain resilience and free up time to concentrate on timely innovations at this unprecedented moment in history.