A new global study conducted by consulting firm Protiviti, in collaboration with ESI ThoughtLab, finds that companies are investing significantly in robotic process automation (RPA) and are planning to dedicate even more resources toward developing their RPA capabilities over the next two years. The survey revealed that, overall, companies are investing about $5 million in RPA on average in their current fiscal years with the largest organizations spending as much as $10 million to $20 million annually. Organizations that fall behind in developing RPA will soon find themselves at a competitive disadvantage as RPA leaders — those companies identified as already ahead of the curve — take market share, generate higher revenues and improve customer satisfaction.
The study, “Taking RPA to the Next Level,” polled 450 executives across multiple regions, industries and company sizes to highlight the most effective deployment practices and lessons learned in RPA adoption as organizations navigate and manage their use of the emerging technology. Of the companies surveyed, 78% have $1 billion or greater in annual revenue.
“Executives are finding that investments in RPA can produce a multitude of benefits. In as little as two years, those companies we’ve identified as leaders will be using bots in virtually every function within their organizations,” said Tony Abel, a managing director with Protiviti. “Today, RPA is a lynchpin of sleek and agile operations that will fortify companies’ market positions by driving efficiencies, boosting speed to market and bolstering financial performance.”
The study found the following benefits associated with the motivation to invest in RPA ranked highest among respondents:
- Increased productivity (22%)
- Better product quality (16%)
- Strong competitive market position (15%)
- Customer satisfaction (12%)
- Greater speed to market (11%)
These results reinforce the fact that automation is being implemented more to add commercial value than to trim costs, which ranked as the lowest benefit at three percent.
Despite RPA successes, barriers towards productive implementation still exist. In fact, 40% of organizations cited that one of their top obstacles is an inability to prioritize potential RPA initiatives, while 30% find that their scattershot approach has made it difficult to pursue the best applications of RPA. Additional challenges include concerns associated with cybersecurity (40%) and regulation (30%).
To help companies improve their RPA implementation plans, the Protiviti study also highlights the lessons learned by those firms that are most advanced in their use of RPA, including:
- Analyze and track the cost-effectiveness of each RPA application
- Leverage the ecosystem of RPA partners, suppliers and consultants
- Make sure there is a plan and budget for ongoing maintenance
- Ensure use of the right application for the processes within the enterprise
- Develop and communicate a clear RPA business plan and strategy
The People Factor
The lack of available talent is another obstacle for many companies looking to jumpstart their RPA initiatives; 24% of executives cited this as a significant barrier. In a situation of supply and demand, companies leading the pack on RPA progress are making a concerted effort to upskill existing employees (71%), partner with consulting companies or tech providers (53%) and identify new sources of talent outside of their organizations (40%).
To assuage employee fears, organizations are taking key steps by being transparent about their plans for RPA use, working closely with employees to understand and alleviate their concerns, and accentuating the positive relating to time saved on mundane repetitive work.
“RPA’s biggest benefit is often the time and bandwidth unlocked when tedious tasks are automated,” said Jonathan Wyatt, head of Protiviti Digital. “The end stage should be a sleek and smoothly flowing operation where new ideas, innovation and the best decisions thrive because employees have time to devote to them.”