Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software has, in our opinion, recently gained a lot of ground. For example, when discussing innovation, major IT players such as SAP and Fujitsu regularly discuss RPA. In addition, market leaders UiPath and Automation Anywhere received hundreds of millions at the end of last year to further develop their products. Although such parties have the wind in their sails, there are still plenty of steps that can be taken. Teaching, in particular, can be the key to a better story, as is evident when we speak to Country Manager Netherlands, Maurits Houck, of UiPath.
RPA has become a fairly well-known concept in the IT world but is still regularly confused with Artificial Intelligence (AI). This is only partly justified, as RPA is actually an AI application. The difference lies in the way it works. With AI, machines simulate human intelligence, while RPA copies human actions one on one by observing workflows in business applications. For example, RPA uses a robot to read a number of login screens that pass by every day to log into dozens of systems. The robot can then log in itself at the beginning of the day, which saves people a lot of boring tasks.
We had talked to Houck earlier about the precise way in which it works. Although the difference between AI and RPA was already clear at the time, we saw that a growing interest in AI is also good for RPA. Nevertheless, there is still plenty of ground to be gained for RPA, we conclude after the current discussion with Houck.
Automation is in its infancy
At the moment there is a plan on the table at UiPath, with teaching as the key, to make sure that RPA will be scaled up. There is certainly room for this when we look at a recently published report by Capgemini (pdf), which actually shows that automation is still in its infancy. Of course, this is not just RPA, but according to Houck, this is the “hot item” under automation.
The most important result of the study was that 16 percent of the organizations use automation on a large scale. If we look purely at the Netherlands, they are behind the global average. The country scores 9 percent, which is a bit more than the 6 percent of Sweden, which follows. Although the research report does not mention Belgium, Houck states on the basis of his experience that this country would not score high either.
If we take these figures and Houck’s observation as our starting point, we can see that the Benelux market is surrounded by countries that are doing better in terms of percentage. France, Germany and the United Kingdom are 21%, 17% and 16% respectively. But, if we’re honest, a few years ago, several of us would have expected all of these percentages to be higher.
Trying out and subsequently scaling up
During our conversation we will be the first to zoom in on the gap that the Netherlands has to bridge in relation to the rest of the world. Houck sees this gap arising from the fact that our market is six months behind the other countries because companies are still in the exploratory phase. According to him, about 90 to 95 percent of organizations are currently testing how RPA actually works in the production environment. The other organizations are already scaling up, often because they have seen the usefulness.
When we hear Houck’s reasoning, however, we wonder whether we can also attribute part of the backlog to UiPath and competitor Automation Anywhere, among others. Is their story really true here? Houck says that other countries also needed a few months to achieve wider adoption. According to him, our market is going to take the real step this year. The customer base that has grown since the opening of the office must also be a motivation for this. Many of these new customers are in the early stages of scaling up.
So in the Benelux, there is certainly still room for improvement, but as we said earlier, global adoption can also grow. Of course, UiPath also sees that. In order for the overall story to have a better impact, UiPath focuses primarily on teaching. In other words, informing customers about the exact possibilities of the software and how they can make even better use of the software. Since last year, it has been providing free online training courses under the Academy 360 banner for this purpose.
One of the things Academy 360 wants to achieve is that not only IT professionals can handle a robot, but also other employees can work with it. This is because the programme includes various training courses, some of which are more in-depth than others. The idea here is that the less experienced employee understands RPA a little more so that he can use it more, and that advanced personnel will discover the possibilities of the software even more.
UiPath still looks at young people for teaching, as they are expected to be living in a fairly automated world. For this target group, there is the so-called Academic Alliance programme, which, just like Academy 360, includes various disciplines. In this way, the Academic Alliance aims to reach students of different levels and ages. After all, they will encounter RPA and AI when entering the labour market. Because although in the automated world, UiPath will ideally have a lot of RPA, AI cannot be ignored. There is also a lot to be found about this in the programme.
Robots for unique situations
Teaching is, therefore, one of the most important means to ensure further upscaling and adoption. In our conversation, however, Houck also touches on simplicity, which is something that so many software suppliers are insisting on. According to Houck, however, with its Go! marketplace, UiPath has already proven its ability to achieve real simplicity.
This marketplace, or rather an app store, gives the community access to reusable components, machine learning models and training materials for building new robots. With Go!, UiPath’s main goal is to provide everyone with the means to download software for building their own robot. After all, the unique situations of employees require robots that are tailored to the task.
This makes Go! sound interesting, although a brief glance shows that the marketplace is not yet flooded with downloads and reviews. We do not dare to say to what extent this will actually give UiPath a push in the right direction. After all, the actual downloading does not necessarily have to be the cause of the actual long-term use of the software.
Nevertheless, it remains interesting to see how UiPath continues to take steps to enhance its RPA story further. We will, therefore, be closely monitoring how the company develops in the coming period.