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Last Updated : Sep 24, 2020 03:24 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

COVID-19 is spurring demand for Robotic Process Automation platforms

According to a recent report, companies are likely to increase their RPA spend by 5 percent in the next 12 months. An IDC report said that the pandemic has put RPA in the spotlight as companies are realizing the role of RPA in business continuity as they move into the economic recovery phase.

As COVID-19 forced people to work from home and moved processes online, robotic process automation (RPA) has come out a winner. Firms offering RPA solutions have reported increased traction over the last few months, and this is likely to increase further in the country, say industry watchers.

RPA refers to the use of software to automate repeated manual tasks like payroll processing, onboarding of employees and processing orders.

According to a study by Forrester Consulting, commissioned by RPA player UiPath, companies are likely to increase their RPA spend by 5 percent in the next 12 months. Market research firm IDC in a report said that the pandemic has put RPA in the spotlight as companies are realizing the role of RPA in business continuity as they move into the economic recovery phase.

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This interest could mean that key RPA players such as UiPath and Automation Anywhere and other firms that offer RPA as their service stand to benefit from this wave.

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UiPath acquired close to 80 customers in India in the first half of the year alone, said Manish Bharti, President, India and South Asia. The company is also seeing demand from existing customers as they scale up their business, he added.

These include key large FMCG players and small and medium businesses in the country, who want to be competitive as they compete with large multinationals, Bharti said. State and central governments too are adopting RPA to meet the new demands imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Automation Anywhere has been scaling up its partnerships as the demand for automation increases. In India, Automation Anywhere has partnered with IT industry body NASSCOM for skilling the IT workforce recently.

Why?

On the back of the pandemic, two key things happened that pushed the demand for RPA. One, it was clear that employees could not come to work due to the lockdown restrictions. Two, work had to still go on to keep businesses afloat, even if it was at reduced capacity.

So businesses began to look at automation.

Boris Krumrey, Global VP, Automation Innovation, UiPath, said at a recent event: “COVID-19 situation has spurred the demand for automation technologies. (Because) In situations where there is no normal way of doing things, people have to find a work around this.”

How does automation help?

Let us take retail and healthcare for instance. When it comes to healthcare, hospitals were overburdened with running thousands of tests for COVID-19 patients and had to schedule thousands of appointments. They needed a solution to address this. Even in retail, supply chain management had to be done with less human intervention. With people working remote, companies began to deploy bots for onboarding of new hires.

In RPA, bots automate repeated and rule-based tasks. For instance in the case of healthcare, a bot can collect patient information to schedule appointments, take care of billing and customer support since all these require the same process to be followed. For retail, as the demand for essential services shot up online, bots could be used to process the orders online.

Companies also saw adoption from centre and state governments for data collection of COVID-19 patients from different sources.

“We have helped (Brihan)Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on e-pass for essential services. We helped in converting the entire process from manual to automation,” Bharati of UiPath said. He also pointed out that these governments were earlier not so keen on adopting these technologies, but are now showing interest.

Also companies are scaling up their adoption of RPA that was restricted to a few tasks earlier. Executives pointed out that COVID-19 has changed that as well, with companies understanding the technology better and are willing to expand.

But…

Industry watchers caution that though the demand has increased, some companies are only doing the minimum rather than use the opportunity to digitally transform themselves.

For instance, they might automate few tasks that are important rather than transforming the entire system using automation tools. This would mean that some companies continue to depend on manual workforce for certain tasks.

“We're definitely not building the digital workforce revolution we thought we were, but now we have no choice but to digitize global digital workplaces and technologies such as RPA are crucial to support these transformations,” said Phil Fersht, CEO, HFS Research.
First Published on Sep 24, 2020 03:24 pm
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