It’s no secret that the RPA market has been growing rapidly. According to Harvey Spencer Associates, it grew 200% in 2018 and is expected to grow another 65% this year to reach $1.2 billion. Riding this wave, the leading vendors in the space have seen their market valuations soar to the level of multiple billions of dollars.
Of course, these valuations are based on investments by firms that expect the leaders to maintain their aggressive growth rates. To achieve this, RPA ISVs are focused on taking their technology to the next level. This was evident in an interview we did with a Blue Prism executive in the wake of the company’s announcement of a major partnership with Hyland Software [see DIR 9/29/19]. It is also evident in the recent announcement from Automation Anywhere of the release of Automation Anywhere Enterprise A2019.
“RPA is the fastest growing technology sector in the world,” said Kashif Mahbub, VP, product marketing and global head, RPA, for Automation Anywhere. “As one of the market leaders, we have seen over the past 15 years how RPA took off, at first slowly, and then like a rocket ship. However, there are certain companies that have yet to adopt RPA–with Enterprise A2019, we are targeting the areas of friction that have delayed their adoption.”
According to a press release, A2019 includes “more than 175 new features across 40 different product capabilities.” Mahbub divvied these improvements up into four buckets:
- user experience: “Two of the major questions that companies have when looking at RPA are, ‘who is going to be the user and how much training is there?’” said Mahbub. “Our goal is to enable users to get started just like they would with Microsoft Word. To achieve this, one feature we have included is end product learning. A user logs in and the software will show them where to click. In three or four steps, they can have a simple bot that might be able to do something like read documents. From there, they can open up the bot and add more complexity and power through a drag-and-drop interface.”Automation Anywhere has also introduced a browser-based interface that enables A2019 to run across multiple platforms. “There is nothing to download and A2019 can be run on any modern browser,” Mahbub said. “Most of the RPA \market now runs on Windows. By implementing a browser interface, we are offering cross-platform support. I’m not just talking about viewing documents or something basic. You can build and launch bots from an iPad.“We believe the user experience has been one of the biggest hurdles to the adoption of RPA. People hear enterprise software and they immediately think they need a developer who understands coding. Automation Anywhere has never really been like that and with the UI in A2019 we are targeting citizen developers—users who are technically savvy but not developers. We believe our improved UI can transform the market.”
- flexible deployment model: “Today RPA is almost 100% on premises,” said Mahbub. “With A2019, we are launching an RPA as a service platform. We will have options for public cloud, private cloud, and on premises will not be going away. One advantage of a browser-based interface is that it can be run in all these environments.”Mahbub noted that A2019 is certified to run on AWS, Google, and Azure clouds. “We also support clouds from vendors like IBM and Oracle, and users have hybrid options,” he said. “It’s really up to the user how they want to deploy A2019, but we are now offering the first-ever, built from the ground up, RPA-as-a-service platform. You don’t try and fight a legacy with a legacy—being browser-based and cloud-ready makes A2019 the ideal platform for today’s users.”
- increased intelligence: “Four years ago, we introduced a dedicated AI product—IQ Bot, and over time that has been enhanced, so that now it is a mature product that is a major part of our revenue stream,” said Mahbub. “In A2019, we have infused AI skills and capabilities throughout the platform.”We first covered IQ Bot as a document capture option in conjunction with the AIIM 2019 Conference [see DIR 4/12/2019]. “It has now been integrated with our core RPA platform,” said Mahbub. “IQ Bot can do document processing and semi- and unstructured data processing and put the data into an XML format that can be ingested into an automated process.”Mahbub added that IQ Bot works with multiple OCR engines and has the ability to automate processing of handwritten documents as well. “As part of its framework, A2019 not only works with our own built-in AI capabilities, we can also connect with best-of-breed third-party AI offerings from vendors like Microsoft and Google,” said Mahbub.
- Scalability: This ability to connect to third-party offerings is a big piece of Automation Anywhere’s strategy for A2019. “Just like no man is an island, no platform can operate by itself,” said Mahbub. “Our ecosystem has grown to include more than 53 of the world’s largest technology providers.”This summer, Automation Anywhere announced a partnership with Microsoft. “Microsoft was on stage with us at the Nasdaq when we launched A2019 [earlier this month],” said Mahbub. “We are now providing an Excel plug-in that enables users to launch and develop bots from within their spreadsheets. Eventually, the entire Office 365 suite, including Teams, will have Automation Anywhere embedded.”A2019 also has integrations with products from vendors like Oracle, SAP, and CyberArc, a market leading credentialing provider. “When a bot is logging in to a third-party application, it needs the same credentials that a human would,” Mahbub explained. “We have functionality built into our product that can provide that, but we also provide ready integration with CyberArc for users that want to go with a vendor that owns 85% of the credentialing market.
“That is part of our security ecosystem. We also have an AI ecosystem, so it’s very easy to connect to process discovery, deep learning, and NLP capabilities. Creating this type of ecosystem is the best way to ensure that a platform can keep growing as a customer’s needs grow.”
Workflow and case management
In the wake of the announcement of Blue Prism’s partnership with Hyland, we asked Mahbub about Automation Anywhere’s case management and workflow strategy. “You can build workflows in A2019 for tasks like invoice processing, where you might automate the reading of a number from an invoice, then automatically log in to an ERP system and pull some data from there and then post everything somewhere else,” he said. “If there is manual collaboration required, we leverage attended bots, an area in which we recently improved our technology through the acquisition of French ISV Klevops.
“Leveraging Klevops, collaboration can include more than one person interacting with one bot. You can have an entire team of customer service representatives interacting with an entire team of bots that are pulling data from disparate systems. This has always been the holy grail of attended automation.”
Envisioning mass adoption
Mahbub concluded that the goal of Enterprise A2019 is to bring RPA to the masses. “We are democratizing RPA in a way that will enable every company to become a digital enterprise,” he said. “You can’t do that with legacy products. This is a brand new digital-first and digital-native approach.
“It makes sure that the user experience is great, that every business can choose between on premises or cloud deployment, that AI is built-in and ready to use out of the box, and that users can keep expanding. We address customers’ ability to get started, accelerate, and scale, which helps reduce the total cost of ownership of RPA and time and effort it takes to deploy it.”
Mahbub said there is a lot more to come from Automation Anywhere in the near future. “This launch was our first step,” he said. “We launched in New York and will follow that up with launches around the world. You will see a rolling thunder approach from us over the next few months.”
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