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By 12 February 2019 | Categories: feature articles

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The burgeoning growth of robots have been a science fiction vision around as a theme for easily for more than half a century. However, science fiction has now become science fact, as a recent round table discussion with UiPath about Robotic Process Automation (RPA) revealed.  

Indeed, the new UiPath head of sales for South Africa, Lenore Kerrigan likened the adoption of RPA to that of the PC and smartphones. Both those technologies, she noted were once dismissed with incredulity – after all, critics asserted when huge mainframes were the norm, who on earth would need their own PC on their desk. And then, with mobile phones, the very idea of carrying a phone in your pocket was once considered absurd. Yet both technologies are now indispensable.

The future beckons

In a similar vein, UiPath  - which provides software that helps organisations automate their business processes - posited that we should to see every person on the planet have their own robot (at least one) in a few short years.

Kerrigan noted that the difference between the wave of PC and the wave of smartphone adoption is that RPA is taking off much more quickly. “I have been in the industry many years and I have never a technology gain momentum at such a fast pace as we are seeing with RPA,” she enthused.

Indeed, according to IDC, proof of the accelerating adoption rate of RPA can be seen in the amount of money being spent on the emerging technology.

Mark Walker, the associate vice president for sub-Saharan Africa at IDC, noted that the global RPA spend is already in the region of $3.7 billion. And it’s growing, expected to continue to do so 50% year on year till 2022. “Robotic Process Automation is already among the top three capabilities expected of a company, because of its cost savings, rapid implementation and fast return on investment,” he said.

“That is why UiPath now has a presence in South Africa - to assist customers in this massive change and in the growth of the RPA market,” explained Kerrigan. She noted that the South African market is “very ready” for RPA, and that is true across all industries and all organisations from small to public to large enterprises.

Growth explained

So why is it growing at a faster pace than other technologies, like cloud, for example?

Kulpreet Singh, the MD for UiPath EMEA, explained that RPA works without the need for rip and replace, and because it works across all applications, incompatibility is not an issue. So, setting the stage for its rapid is the fact that it doesn’t involve significant upheaval and business disruption that typical IT transformations do, he added.

“Secondly, there is no enterprise client globally who would accept a huge reduction in cost that comes with even an incremental increase in risk to their security. Our technology sits within a client’s infrastructure, whatever that might be, whether it is on-premise, or in the cloud. As well, we don’t have access to any of our clients’ data, which is totally ring-fenced by security infrastructure,” he stressed. This makes it more attractive than cloud initially was from a security perspective, which took time for corporates to come to peace with..

The third and final reason why RPA is gaining ground so quickly, according to Singh, is due to the fact that organisations start seeing the benefits of implementing the technology very quickly - from six to nine months. That, he explained, is driving the adoption. Even so, there is a caveat to the adoption of RPA, there are concerns, and then there is the South African context. Those issues will be answered in Part 2.

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