It’s that time of year again. Time to start thinking forward to the year ahead. And for me, time to revisit what has become something of an annual tradition: making predictions for what lies ahead for robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and automation.
This year marks the third consecutive year I’ve done this. In 2018, I started by writing an article that highlighted six trends I thought we’d see in 2019. I attempted it again in 2019, but this time as part of my presentation at our FORWARD III conference, where I made seven predictions for RPA, AI, and automation for 2020.
In case you’re interested in those predictions (and how accurate I was), here is a quick look at what I predicted for 2020:
- An upcoming global economic downturn would encourage the adoption of automation. Enough said!
- RPA would become the YouTube for automation by serving as the repository for automation in the same way YouTube stores video content.
- More and more companies would combine and reuse software robots, resulting in more predictable deployments and more effective scaling.
- Younger generations of workers would further drive the deployment and use of automation. In particular, new students entering the workplace are more likely to challenge the status quo and look for new approaches.
- We would continue to be surprised by the intelligence of machines, especially as we move from artificial intelligence to artificial intuition.
- RPA would be featured on the world stage as organizations such as the United Nations and the World Economic Forum. And the organizations would turn to RPA to help create new jobs, increase wages, and drive global economic growth.
- Consolidation among RPA vendors and automation-led service companies would continue to accelerate.
My predictions for RPA, AI, and automation in 2021
This year, I plan on making six new predictions at the upcoming Reboot Work Festival, which will be held December 15-17, 2021. As a quick aside, this virtual event will be a great way to learn from the entire global community and industry leaders as they share their vision for the fully automated enterprise™. It’s not too late to register, so I hope you’ll join us at this year’s Reboot Work Festival.
I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but I thought I’d offer a sneak peek at my top predictions for 2021 and what lies ahead in the RPA, AI, and automation industry.
1. RPA will become the new ERP
I predict that the community of global system integrators (GSIs) and audit-based consulting companies will encourage and train thousands of workers to embrace automation. And that GSIs will do so in the same way they did with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software in the 1990s.
My view is that these firms recognize that the automation industry is poised for explosive growth and see a very real opportunity to sell business strategy and enablement services to help their clients reap new benefits, much like they once did with ERP.
2. Centers of excellence (CoEs) will become profit centers
This prediction represents a major shift: in 2021, companies will begin to see that automation operations not only help them save money but can serve as a revenue-generation platform to create new revenue streams.
I’m already seeing this with a number of UiPath customers, and I’ll highlight a few of the most compelling examples in my presentation at the Reboot Work Festival.
3. We’ll focus on bridging islands of automation
I predict that the industry will turn its attention to robot resilience in 2021. More specifically, RPA vendors will have to help their customers avoid creating separate islands of automation operations that can become dysfunctional, hard to maintain, and extremely expensive over time. In my presentation, I’ll also describe how a focus on business process management can overcome these challenges.
4. We’ll start to rely on work-from-home robots
Working remotely is accelerating the transition from full-time employment to gig-based ways of working.
UiPath has a vision of ‘a robot for every person.’ I see that vision becoming a reality in the near future and every person will have their own robot (or digital assistant). I predict the RPA market will adjust to support this continued shift to remote working models.
5. The employee experience will become as important as customer experience
In the last few years, we’ve seen an increased focus on the customer experience (CX), and I now predict a similar approach to the employee experience (EX).
Why is this? Take the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19 pandemic as an example. So many employees suffer increased anxiety and concern related to the recession and what it will mean for them and their families. The entire automation market must address this with operations and processes that help improve the employee experience—critical for increasing morale, engagement, and productivity.
Also, I believe there is a way to use automation to improve CX and EX, and I will provide more information about this direct correlation in my upcoming presentation.
6. RPA will become more transformational
Have you noticed that “digital transformation” is a business buzzword? I believe that this is because the vast majority of digital transformation efforts in general—and automation in particular—are still too tactical in nature.
Yet I’m also confident that 2021 will be the year where companies will begin to make substantial changes to operating models across the board. As they do, they will begin to truly achieve the potential of digital transformation. I’m excited to see how RPA can influence these changes in the year ahead.
I admit that these predictions may not represent the same rosy outlook that I had at this time last year. But we can think of this time as an opportunity. An opportunity to apply valuable lessons learned in 2020 and carefully consider what comes next.
Again, I'll be going into more details about each of these predictions at our virtual Reboot Work Festival event December 15-17, 2020. This will be your chance to celebrate automation and the remarkable human achievements that it makes possible. It’s not too late—register now!
Editor’s note: views represented in this blog post belong to the author and are not necessarily representative of UiPath.