When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Of all the application use cases for Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the world of ERP is a perfect attack surface.
With so many essentially repeatable core tasks and processes, ERP has a whole variety of functions (some of which are complex and interconnected across disparate systems) that can be driven towards RPA and the software robots (these days we just say ‘bots’, obviously) that can now work for us and handle some of the more mundane aspects of work.
Key players in the Robotic Process Automation space include UiPath, Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism with Pega also coming in the usual suspect favourite vendors in this group. It’s also worth remembering that the enterprise software behemoths themselves (IBM, SAP, Oracle and so on) now also table their own RPA offerings at one level or another.
So as the market for RPA expands, where will it hit ERP most directly?
Peter Villeroy is director, global IT automation practice at UiPath. Reminding us that some technology commentators trace the origins of RPA back to early computer vision technology, where practitioners used it to accelerate the power and versatility of User Interface (UI) test automation, Villeroy is optimistic and upbeat in terms of where RPA goes next… specifically where it is applied to ERP.
ERP is serial production tooling
Villeroy calls ERP the ‘serial production tooling’ of the business software world, a wide subset of technologies where Robotic Process Automation can be applied for competitive advantage.
“In the business world, RPA was initially adopted in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry as a method to enhance productivity. It quickly spread globally as companies in a wide array of industries recognized the impact RPA could have on manual business processes tied to the digital world, in their corporate ERP instances, office products… and on their whole IT landscape,” said Villeroy.
There’s technology democratisation here. UiPath points to how Robotic Process Automation is enjoying a strong community take-up as business users are now leveraging the simplicity of tools such as UiPath StudioX to automate their own individual tasks and workflows.
A UiPath-commissioned IDC white paper, “The Economic Impact of UiPath Robotic Process Automation”, now suggests that the economic benefits expected by the use of RPA software by UiPath customers will grow at an extremely rapid pace.
That growth spans from $7 billion worldwide in 2021 to $55 billion in 2025.
“Only 7% of digitally enabled task workers have been impacted by the use of RPA. At this study’s projected rate of adoption, task workers impacted will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 70% from 2020-2025, accounting for 10% of task workers impacted. RPA is not even to the ‘knee of the curve’ of adoption,” said report co-author Maureen Fleming, IDC’s program vice president of intelligent process automation research.
RPA eats more ‘materials’
UiPath’s Villeroy says that RPA doesn’t face growth constraints. He suggests that RPA can arguably use more ‘materials’ than humans, including physical documents (statements, forms, receipts, and more), images, spreadsheets, web front-ends, API interfaces, legacy or proprietary protocols and so much more.
IDC estimates that two jobs are gained for every job lost to RPA… and based on how RPA advances, the ratio could change over time to four jobs gained for every job lost.
We can also see that as companies continue to prioritise digital transformation efforts, especially in the realm of ERP… they are increasingly upskilling their employees on RPA to unlock the productivity afforded by automation.