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Sarah Burnett

Sarah Burnett is a member of Everest Group’s European research as well as Service Optimization Technologies (SOT) teams and assists clients on topics related to European sourcing market, trends and developments, and Service Delivery Automation, including RPA and cognitive technologies. Sarah serves European clients across Everest Group’s global services research areas and leads its Service Optimization Technologies (SOT) offering globally. To read more, please see Sarah’s bio.

Investing Big in RPA is Not a Fool’s Game | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The news of another big round of funding for UiPath, US$225 million series C, and a valuation of US$3 billion created a lot of excitement and amazement in the market. It followed on from Automation Anywhere’s whopping series A funding round of US$250 million in July, which valued the company at US$1.8 billion, and which surpassed UiPath’s earlier series B funding of US$153 million and a valuation of US$1 billion in Q1 2018.

These valuations are phenomenal. In UiPath’s case, the rise from US$1 billion to US$3 billion in less than six months is, I believe, unprecedented. You might think that investors are living on a different planet than us ordinary folks, and that this kind of valuation is plain wrong. I beg to differ.

Investing in the Future of RPA

My case rests on the rapid increase in market adoption and the huge investments that vendors are making in their platforms. As much has already been said about the fast rate of enterprise adoption, there’s no need for me to repeat it again here. Jumping to the second part of my case: RPA today is not the RPA that launched this market three to four years ago. The original developments lacked many of the features that we see today, e.g., computer vision to pick objects on the screen and robust control panels. Similarly, tomorrow’s RPA will be superior to today’s.

As someone who assesses RPA technology on an annual basis, I see a fast rate of product development, not just year on year, but in some cases quarter by quarter.

Everest Group’s “RPA Virtuous Circle” highlights the continuous cycle of developments in the market.

Virtuous Circle w title - Investing in RPA blog

Much has been said of organizations struggling to scale their deployments. I completely agree with this, and for a while I’ve been asking vendors to do something about this issue. I am delighted to see that they have been listening and are investing in features for scaling. These include enhanced robot run time control and management features including intelligent control systems for dynamic workload balancing, auto-scaling, and even identifying processes for further automation. Another major stream of development is turning RPA platforms into the glue that holds together business process management systems (BPMS), different varieties of machine learning, and narrow artificial intelligence. These will ultimately be integrated and will combine seamlessly to provide end-to-end process automation.

While vendors do their bit for scale, organizations should also examine their deployment models for RPA and take a more programmatic approach. Automation is going to be a serious competitive differentiator, and a programmatic approach would significantly speed up organizations’ adoption and realization of desired outcomes. Everest Group’s RPA Pinnacle study highlights some of the approaches that organizations have taken to achieve excellence in RPA.

Of course, these enormous investments in RPA do carry some risks. There is the possibility of tech giants bringing their own RPA solutions to market, in turn pushing out the current RPA vendors. But that wouldn’t be easy to do, as the existing vendors have gained a lot of hard to emulate know how in the past few years. And any one of the existing RPA vendors could be acquired in a major acquisition, but then the investors would get the handsome returns they anticipated…just in a different way.

Taking the Manufacturing Model to Business Processes

Another reason for my optimism about the recent investments in RPA and vendor valuations is that I recently got a glimpse into the future of business automation by looking at manufacturing. On a visit to Siemens Digital, I saw how the concept of digital twin and simulation of manufacturing processes is helping speed up production times and efficiency, even in manual/human processes.

For years, corporate global services functions have attempted to copy manufacturing principles, e.g., adopting Lean and Six Sigma methodologies. Today, they have moved on to automation, which manufacturing adopted decades ago. Having started on automation of global services, enterprises are not going to turn back. They will continue to follow manufacturing’s lead.

Leading organizations are already giving their processes version numbers with supporting documentation, having taken each step through a rigorous Lean Six Sigma methodology.  On the automation front, while the focus has been primarily on tactical needs, it will increasingly move to outcomes and the finished “product,” as in manufacturing.

We will see enterprises develop digital twins of their processes or robots, and run complex functions end-to-end in virtual reality before committing to the final model for deployment in the real world. Future versions of RPA will have to support these requirements, and that is where some of the millions of funding will be spent; on product development and advanced features.

Today’s RPA products are paving the way for a far bigger change in automation of global services than we have seen to date. They are the building blocks of the platforms of the future for an inevitable automation journey that every organization will have to take sooner or later. That is why the current group of vendors are so attractive to investors. They are betting not just on today’s growing revenues, but what is to come.

Are Colleagues Electric? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

“Max, please send our new terms and conditions’ letter to all our Prime current account holders,” said Louise, a customer contact manager in a retail bank.

“I will ask Alf to do it. Is there anything else I can do for you today Louise?” Asked Max, the personal virtual helper on Louise’s desktop computer.

“Yes, please tell Alf to update Elsa.”

You may have guessed that Alf and Elsa are robots too – one processes letters for mailshots, the other makes records for regulatory compliance.

Is this scenario hype or reality?

Are colleagues going to be electric?  Everest Group data indicates that by 2021 there will be as many Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA), attended robots running on users’ desktops, assisting agents, and employees, as there are people currently delivering contact center outsourcing services globally; that means about three million attended robots by 2021.

There will also be a huge rise in the number of virtual workers or unattended Robotic Process Automation (RPA) robots, running on servers in data centers and delivering end-to-end process automation without the need for employees to activate them. Exhibits 1 and 2 highlight the projected rise of both attended and unattended robots through to 2021. These estimates are for robots purchased on license from independent third-party RPA software vendors. They exclude robots provided by vendors at no charge for proof of concepts, and training, etc.

Exhibit 1 – Attended robots

 

Exhibit 1 - Attended robots blog

Exhibit 2 – Unattended robots

Exhibit 2 – Unattended robots blog

Methodology

Our calculations are based on data from multiple Everest Group databases including but not limited to:

  • Revenue, average license costs, and growth of 18 RPA vendors projected out to the larger market
  • Numbers of people currently working in contact center outsourcing services, in Global in-house Centers (GICs), also known as shared services centers, in both front- and back-office functions globally

Everest Group analysis indicates that many colleagues will indeed be electric by 2021, a shift that will impact enterprises, not only in operations but also in terms of HR policies, recruitment, succession planning, process knowledge and other skills development, process and program document management, IT investment, management and maintenance, and business and IT continuity.

Sarah Burnett will be discussing this topic and other RPA trends during her talk at Symphony Venture’s Robotic Operations Centre Launch in Krakow, Poland on June 27.

The Threats of Data Harvesting Combined with Malicious Use of AI | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

For 20 years, the Internet has democratized access to information and learning, and allowed us to have a public voice and become part of online communities. Today, we’re at risk of losing out to those who wish to abuse our personal information and create divisions and havoc in the world.

The Cambridge Analytica / Facebook data harvesting case is the latest scandal to make the headlines, with much of the current debate focused on data harvesting for political or marketing purposes. But it ignores other serious threats we expose ourselves to by sharing information online.

One of these threats is data harvesting combined with malicious use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s already here and has significantly increased personal and business risks. But due to lack of awareness about the threats, people innocently continue to share information on social media.

What are the Threats?

A recent report by 26 risk experts, including researchers from Cambridge and Oxford universities, cited a wide range of serious threats that could result from the malicious use of AI, including:

  • Automated hacking
  • Speech synthesis for impersonating victims on video and voice recordings
  • ID theft
  • Exploiting the vulnerabilities of AI systems for adversarial uses and data poisoning (fake news and Denial of Truth Attacks (DTA))
  • Repurposing of drones and cyber-physical systems for harmful ends, such as crashing fleets of autonomous vehicles, turning commercial drones into face-targeting missiles, or holding critical infrastructure for ransom

When the BBC asked me to comment on the report, I could think of some of the risks that are already possible.  By carelessly sharing information about ourselves and our work, we are simply increasing them:

  • Digital ID theft of family members and friends, much of which will be based on what is known about us on social media
  • Targeting of employees of businesses in key positions for criminal activities
  • DTA that turns truth into lies and vice versa. Much has already been said about fake news, but training AI to do wrong or suggest untruths is already going on. For example, the following graphic illustrates that Google and Bing searches for information about the Welsh language may have been manipulated by frequent use of search strings with negative connotations. These could be misleading for the young and the naïve

Data Harvesting FB - Blog

While global government action is being taken to mitigate these risks, each of us needs to take personal responsibility by, for example:

  • Questioning what we read online, particularly political ads veiled in community-style messaging
  • Being cautious about what and how much we share about ourselves, family, friends, and work online
  • Using alternatives such as search and social media that share less information with third parties. DuckDuckGo already offers search privacy, and the issues with Facebook may well lead to other platforms that offer smaller and protected social networks

Implications for RPA and AI-based Process Automation

As organizations increasingly focus on client data protection, we may see a tightening of policies against robots connecting to both web sites and enterprise systems. Some organizations frequently change the URL of specific web pages for exactly this reason – to make it difficult for robots to find those pages and access the information that they purvey. Other measures include visual and sound-based checks to separate robots from humans when signing up for online services.

We may well see technology companies make it more difficult for robots to access their software, for example, through human-only user licensing models, with checks to ensure that the user is a human and not a robot. However, after decades of efforts to make enterprise system integration easier, this would be a seriously backward step.

Interestingly, the fight against malicious AI is leading some companies, including Facebook, to hire thousands of people to check for fake or malicious content. Demand for cyber security skills continues to rise as well. These new hires will, in effect, augment the existing AI-based defense systems that on their own are not good enough to tell fake from real or outsmart malicious AI. Far from AI replacing people, it is creating new roles.

Implications for Customer Contact and Experience Services

A few years ago, service providers in this market segment added social media monitoring and management to their portfolio of services. Today, they will have to add social media truth management to their catalogues. Defending organizations against fake news and media will also expand the range of customer experience (CX), public relations, and marketing requirements. Consequently, there is likely to be a net increase in demand for CX and marketing management services. Service providers that can deliver differentiated authentication solutions, e.g., AI and people combinations that can find and differentiate fake from real and perform other tasks such as context analysis, will be in demand.

Another consequence would be that social media as a source of personal data for customization of products and services will shrink as more people opt out of data sharing.

While we’re a long way from the dystopian futures that have been depicted in many sci-fi movies, people and governments need to act now to mitigate risks and help us keep our freedoms and security.

21 Months to Brexit and the Case for Digital | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) officials have finally agreed on a Brexit transition deal. While some aspects of the agreement still need further work, the principles for the period are clear:

  1. The transition period will run to the end of December 2020. This means that the UK will have to abide by EU rules until then, but it will be able to negotiate new trade deals during that period
  2. The UK must treat EU citizens coming to the country during the transition period the same as those who already are residing there
  3. There will be no border between Northern Ireland (NI) and the Republic of Ireland with the back stop of NI remaining in the EU customs union even after Brexit, if no other solution can be found to a borderless relationship between the two

The Road to Brexit is Digital

Following this announcement, organizations now have a clear timetable to prepare for Brexit, allowing them to plan and define an internal roadmap. One of the key factors when planning is to build with agility in mind. If you’re an executive creating the plan, you’ll want to make sure that the business remains flexible to allow for adjustments to the remaining unknowns.

Digital is a big enabler of agility, and in the run up to Brexit, it is more important than ever that organizations invest in it. Boosting spending on digital solutions and automation will help them adapt and adopt to new market pressures, changing regulatory frameworks, and an uncertain labour pool because of the likelihood of many EU workers deciding to return to their home countries after Brexit.

The ways that digital and automation technologies help organizations in times of uncertainty include:

  • Reduce costs and increase process efficiency while maintaining service quality
  • Decrease hiring and training needs while increasing flexibility to handle fluctuating demand
  • Increase speed to market while decreasing the cost of launching new products and services
  • Empower staff to do more and maintain productivity during a time of change
  • Eliminate capital investment in infrastructure by migrating to the cloud
  • Satisfy new trade requirements and custom checks at EU borders or with new trade partners

Digital Skills will be High in Demand

 

Digital Skills will be High in Demand

 

Digital Skills will be High in Demand

Brexit will increase the demand for digital skills as companies prepare for handling new trade and customs requirements. The same goes for the public sector in both the UK and EU member states. For example, they will need a fair bit of digitalization on their borders to deal with the new paradigm of tracking immigration and trade, and handling customs requirements electronically using technology, such as RFID, IoT, and automation, to achieve the goals set out by political agreements while at the same time not creating hard borders.

Meeting Demand for Digital Skills and Services

Investing and tapping into digital skills is a must. This can take the form of internal training and development, recruitment, and contracting outside the organization. In turn, this likely will drive demand for digital consulting and implementation services.

On the supply-side, there are opportunities for service providers and consultancies to provide Brexit-specific services, such as Brexit Competency Centres (BCC) and products. We may well see Brexit specific packaged offerings emerge as well as Brexit specific robots from RPA and AI automation vendors. I expect these will be provided in extended robot libraries or bot-stores.

Northern Ireland – the New UK Gateway to EU

While the approach is unclear, there is certainty that NI will continue to have borderless access to the EU. This would make NI the ideal location for UK-based companies to place new production sites or delivery centres while still maintaining the bulk of business operations in the UK.

The road to Brexit has become clearer this week – but this is only the beginning. Businesses and governments must start detailed planning and preparation for Brexit. In this regard, digital solutions are a key enabler of both business continuity and change and must be on every C-level executive’s agenda.

A New RPA Unicorn is Born | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

UiPath recently made history by becoming the first Romanian RPA unicorn, thanks to $153 million Series B funding provided by a group of investment firms led by Accel and including CapitalG and Kleiner Perkins. This is the largest round of funding to date in the RPA market, leading to a valuation of over $1bn for UiPath – a unicorn. It is good news for all vendors and buyers as well.

What it means for the RPA market

Other examples of increased investment in the RPA industry include Blue Prism raising £70m ($100m) in funding through new share issuance in January 2018 and WorkFusion raising $35m in Series D financing in January 17.

The fact that investors are willing to put in these huge sums of money is great news for the industry for both buyers and vendors.

What it means for enterprises and RPA

  • This is an endorsement of not only UiPath but RPA as whole by the cream of Silicon Valley investment firms
  • These and other RPA investors will have completed many rounds of due diligence with the vendors, and in the process put a big lens on each software product
  • That RPA is here to stay – that the investors will be doing their best to make sure that the vendors and the platforms perform, to protect their investments
  • That there will be significant investment in enhancing the products to keep ahead in this very competitive market

What it means for other RPA vendors

For other RPA vendors, this may seem like a huge competitive threat but it also means that:

  • Other investment firms will be looking for similar deals. Consequently, we will see rising interest in other vendors and there are an increasing number. We have conducted in-depth assessments of 18 RPA vendors in the past six months and will be publishing our results very soon:
  • With both Blue Prism and UiPath now valued over $1bn, any RPA vendor thinking of issuing public shares will have a very strong backdrop for the IPO
  • It is great for the partners of RPA vendors, particularly technology partners that are likely see more resources thrown at their integrations with the RPA platforms

What could happen next in RPA

Organic or inorganic growth: We now have several RPA companies that are flush with cash; most were already able to operate in a cash-positive manner, so these funds provide for accelerated investments. Some have had the money for longer than others and have invested in organic growth, e.g., opening new offices and hiring more staff. This is a path that UiPath, Blue Prism and WorkFusion have taken already. Expect more announcements from some of them on this front. For UiPath, given that CapitalG is an investor, we expect to see much more integration with Google AI/ML technology.

Then there is the inorganic growth option – to acquire complementary capabilities. This could be cognitive or other technologies to enhance the core RPA capabilities or growing their professional services to accelerate adoption/training. We believe this is highly likely.

Could RPA and AI Save GDPR Laggards from Hefty Fines? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

With just seven months to go to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance deadline, many companies still have wholly inadequate data management capabilities. Strict requirements for personal data security, privacy, and the right to erase, among other things, will cause severe headaches for many CIOs not only in the EU but in all regions, as organizations will have to know which data is and is not subject to the regulation, and where in the world it is stored.

Download our special complimentary report: EU GDPR: Is There a Silver Lining to the Disruption?

No doubt many complex and conflicting scenarios will arise out of GDPR. For example, consider the following data-related issues:

  • When a request to be forgotten comes in from a customer, how will the organization find all the occurrences of the same data across the vast enterprise IT estate?
  • Will public and private cloud and other infrastructure providers be able to handle the requirements in a timely manner?
  • What would be the knock-on effect of a customer asking for his/her data to be erased? What systems will be affected and how would that effect audit trails and other regulatory requirements, such as maintaining company-related data for audit purposes for several years?

These and a multitude of others will take many more years to understand, get guidance on, and resolve. In the meantime, companies must be compliant, or face fines that are the greater of €20 million or 4 percent of global annual turnover.

For those organizations that have not yet prepared for GDPR, the overheads of data management are increasing significantly. For example, they must figure out how to best obtain and maintain personal consent, handle access requests, process revocation of consent and requests to be forgotten, train personnel to know what they can and cannot do with data under GDPR, ensure outsourced services, cloud providers, other suppliers, e.g. in the supply chain, and partners are compliant, and run audits to check the readiness and effectiveness of the provider/supplier/partner ecosystem.

Enter RPA

This is where, with its rules-based bots, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) could prove to be God’s gift to the laggards. Scenarios where RPA could be ideal include, but are not limited to:

  • Running audits of data against consent and revocation databases for compliance
  • Checking a queue of in-coming consent or revocation requests, and acting upon them, e.g., setting the right flags in systems or actively deleting data while maintaining an audit trail
  • Producing audit reports
  • Propagating changes of personal data and related consent across all the systems that hold that data, by cutting and pasting updates and maintaining consent-related databases

The role of AI

As organizations collect more and more GDPR-related data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions could come into their own by helping with risk and impact analysis and reporting:

  • How many systems will be affected by a GDPR consent and access related change?
  • What is the knock-on effect on workloads and audits trails? How do these affect other regulatory requirements of data retention?
  • How many systems will be affected, and what would be the impact on operations and other legal and regulatory requirements?
  • What is the data security threat level of the day? What is the likelihood of data breaches on a daily/hourly basis, and what preventative measures could be taken?
  • What security breach has happened and what actions have been taken? Who has been affected by it and must be notified?
    Additionally, good governance is an imperative for GDPR. RPA and AI can be used to embed governance in daily operations for enforcing and monitoring purposes.

A new era of data protection is upon us. It is coming at a time when, some would say, that companies have taken far too many liberties with their customers’ data. The full implications for businesses are yet to be understood. But we believe that all organizations that hold or process personal data will experience some disruption in service delivery as a direct result of GDPR. For more on Everest Group’s point of view, please see our latest free publication: “EU GDPR: Is There a Silver Lining to the Disruption?

RPA and BPM – The Twain Shall Meet after All | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

It was not long ago that I was talking to a German manufacturer about the relative merits of different types of automation solutions on the market. The client did not want any services-layer, API or connector-based process integration. He said those were in the realm of Business Process Management (BPM) and IT. That is why he was going for Robotic Process Automation (RPA), for integration through the user interface. We discussed the pros and cons of these different approaches – but the point is that he was looking for an alternative to traditional BPM. He, and many others, have come to view RPA as that alternative. Yet, recent announcements by leading vendors show that RPA and BPM are coming together. Announcements by IBM and Automation Anywhere, and Appian and Blue Prism, indicate that we have really come full circle and that the RPA and BPM twain have already met.

This was inevitable:

  • The recent success of RPA was a bolt out of the blue for the BPM market, distracting and taking away many potential customers and reaching business users that BPM providers could only dream about. BPM vendors had to take steps to protect their share of the market
  • The growing scale of RPA deployments is another driver for the twain to meet. It is one thing having a few robots running basic processes, but as organizations’ automation ambitions have become loftier, the need for integration with workflow to increase control and orchestration has grown too
  • Robotic Process Automation is not the answer to all automation requirements and, therefore, combining it with BPM for a full set of capabilities to handle different situations is a no brainer. Some of the most successful automation deployments combine RPA with BPM-based large strategic system integration and transformation. In these scenarios, RPA complements the BPM integration by connecting core business platforms to other disparate enterprise systems

IBM and Automation Anywhere

With their announcement, IBM and Automation Anywhere have taken their partnership to the deeper level of integrated offerings:

  • IBM will include Automation Anywhere Enterprise edition in its BPM software catalogue. Currently BotFarm and Automation Anywhere’s cloud offerings are not included
  • It will resell and support Automation Anywhere
  • IBM will integrate Automation Anywhere with the software becoming a part of its IBM Digital Process Automation platform. This included IBM Business Process Manager (BPM) and IBM Operational Decision Manager (ODM)
  • Automation Anywhere will be the standard RPA software offering unless clients ask for another

As things stand today, IBM Digital Process Automation orchestrates processes between core systems while Automation Anywhere RPA automates repetitive rules-based tasks. IBM’s vision for the future is that BPM and RPA will be integrated into a flexible offering with software, services and consultancy provided from a single source. In the future, we will see IBM add cognitive capabilities to this mix. The question is how much of Automation Anywhere’s intelligent capabilities will feature in IBM’s software catalogue.

While the move by IBM to build this partnership is part of the maturing RPA market, it must have been partly driven by a move by its other major RPA partner, Blue Prism, to join forces with Appian, a BPM vendor with whom Blue Prism has built deeper software integration. Last year, another BPM player, Pega, acquired Open Span, which also offers Robotic Process Automation.

An additional driver is that RPA offers integration at a relatively low cost of entry, and this partnership allows IBM to bring in customers at a lower starting point to traditional BPM projects.

Appian and Blue Prism

This week, Appian and Blue Prism, which, had already built some plug and play capabilities together, took their relationship to the next level with the announcement of an extension to Appian’s platform that is based on RPA from Blue Prism. The partners are also aiming for a one-stop-shop to all automation requirements and seamless integration between their combined BPM and RPA products.

Interestingly, the Blue Prism partnership with IBM is going on, unaffected by these pairings. The groups involved are different: Blue Prism started in IBM’s Global Process Services and expanded to GBS Digital. Automation Anywhere’s relationship is with IBM Software.

It is important to note that the Appian move is part of Blue Prism’s strategy to turn its software into a platform that other solutions can be plugged into easily. The Blue Prism Technology Alliance Program (TAP) will see integrated offerings from partners in cloud, virtualization, analytics, process mining, artificial intelligence including computer vision, as well as BPM. IBM is a TAP partner. Others, include Celaton and Instream, its intelligent automation software.
These alliances open new opportunities for Blue Prism, for example, to handle processes that use unstructured content and to access services that are run on cloud solutions. In summary, interoperability is going to be a key feature of the Blue Prism platform and the Appian move is a major step in that direction.

Everest Group has addressed aspects of automating different levels of processes with different solution types in a paper titled “Pushing the Dial on Business Process Automation”.

Everest Group has just positioned IBM as a Leader in a PEAK Matrix™ assessment of Business Process Services Delivery Automation (BPSDA).

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction – The CSAT View of RPA in BPS Contracts | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Everest Group’s latest research shows that while there is growing adoption of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) within Business Process Services (BPS) contracts, customer satisfaction (CSAT) with service providers’ is distinctly average at 3.6 out of 5. Service providers need to do more to achieve better CSATs.

Everest Group’s research titled Business Process Services Delivery Automation (BPSDA) – Service Provider Landscape with PEAK Matrix™ Assessment 2017, which assesses the automation capabilities of leading service providers, shows that the number of automation proofs of concept run by service providers for their BPS clients has on average quadrupled in one year. Furthermore, the number of BPS contracts with automation has gone above 1,000. Yet, the scale of deployments is small; the average number of robots deployed per BPS client hovers at just below 10.

Unsurprisingly, at 85%, the vast majority of deployments are robotic process automation as opposed to automation based on Artificial Intelligence (AI).

The other finding from the report, based on interviews with reference clients of the service providers shows that CSAT with service providers automation services is fair to middling. The average overall score was 3.6 out of 5. Clients rated the need for RPA skills very highly with service providers achieving 3.9 for their RPA related services. The scores were dragged down by the CSAT for AI capabilities that scored only 3.1.

The kind of issues that the reference clients reported were mainly related to the immaturity of RPA in the global services market and the skills for deploying it. Examples of feedback include:

  • It feels like they used us as a training arena for some of their staff
  • They (the BPS provider) should communicate opportunities better. It feels like they were late to bring this to us
  • They took a long time to learn how to code in xyz RPA software. It took a long time to integrate the RPA with our systems
  • The service provider should have done more due diligence on the RPA technology vendor
  • Change management and governance need improving

What can we expect with Robotic Process Automation?

Some of this dissatisfaction is a result of the hype in the market about the ease of robotic process automation deployments and rapid returns on investment. Clients have high expectations from all RPA projects, and this is showing in projects that they deploy for themselves or through system integrators as well.

The good news is that service providers continue to invest in automation. On average, 60% of service providers’ technology staff are working on automation products, solutioning and related services. This will enhance their skills and capabilities in SDA technologies, both RPA and AI.

We expect to see skills grow alongside the market in the coming months. We’ll be watching this space closely to provide our clients with updates over the year.

The “War” in Ransom“war”e – Service Providers will Feel the Pain of Clients’ Tougher Security Policies | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

In the immediate aftermath of last week’s Wannacry ransomware attacks around the world, many organizations will consider how quickly and effectively to update older Microsoft operating systems and apply the necessary patches. The longer-term effects, however, will be more far reaching as governments and other organizations review their security policies to protect their systems against future attacks. This spells tougher requirements on IT services as well as service providers’ connections to client systems.

Tougher government policies on suppliers

The Wannacry attack in the UK crippled the National Health Service (NHS), putting people’s lives at risk. It is going to cost billions to put right, not only in terms of upgrading systems but also rescheduling operations and treating people whose condition will have worsened after the delay caused by the attack. The UK government must act and be seen to act to better protect vital services in the future. It is likely to unveil new stringent policies for cyber security.

While this spells new business opportunities for IT service providers to enhance the public sector’s cyber security, other service providers will feel the pain of even more longwinded procedures to connect to client’s VPNs when working on system integration or business process services. Many already have to apply to clients’ IT departments on a daily-basis to be allowed to connect to VPNs. More stringent requirements are likely to come into force.

Microsoft must face the music

Let us not forget that it was a Microsoft Windows vulnerability that enabled this attack. Microsoft must face pressure to continue to support its older operating systems for longer. There are often legacy systems that work only with older operating systems. A Windows upgrade can therefore be very costly. A cash-strapped organization, the NHS prioritises patients care over keeping up with Microsoft’s timetable for Windows upgrades and discontinuing support for older operating systems. This is something that the UK government must address. It has enough buying power to demand action from Microsoft.

Upgrade pressure on government agencies

Government bodies such as the NHS will be put under renewed pressure to upgrade their systems and keep them up-to-date. The organizations will no doubt demand extra cash to deal with the situation. Spending on cyber security is set to increase whether agencies find new money or redirect funds from other activities. This ransomware attack will therefore boost the IT market for end-point security if not the wider security sector.

Pressure on users

Users too will feel the pain of ransom“war”e. Tougher usage policies are likely to get enshrined in IT department guidelines. Users are likely to experience reduced flexibility as more organizations adopt desktop lock downs with workspaces become more centrally controlled and monitored to reduce risks.

With numbers and varieties of attacks increasing, all aspects of IT security will be tightened up. Even the most laggard of organizations will look to build better security controls across their broad IT services or risk loss of business, revenue, reputation and in some cases, the wellbeing of their customers.

Accenture’s Acquisition of Genfour is Harbinger of More M&A to Come | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Accenture announced today that it has acquired Genfour, the pureplay automation integration and professional services company, for an undisclosed amount. Everest Group research indicates that Genfour is growing fast more than doubling revenue year on year but that is the norm in a growth market that is currently dominated by RPA technologies. Revenue mix includes annuity, run and operate as well as consultancy. The company head count includes a large developer pool. Genfour has a strong presence in the insurance and utilities sectors, as well as a few clients located in the US.

Acquisition of additional automation skills likely a key driver

Genfour works with a number of Service Delivery Automation (SDA) technologies, Blue Prism, UiPath, and Celaton. It also has its own Genfour Autonomic platform with multi-tenant features and interfaces to third party workflow and reporting software. It not only develops and deploys automation for clients but offers on-going as-a-service operation and support services.

Automation skills are in short supply in the market, and Genfour brings Accenture expert personnel. This is likely to be the main reason for the acquisition.

Client acquisition is unlikely to have been a driver for this take over given that many of Genfour’s clients are mid-sized organizations that are not usually targeted by Accenture. However, Genfour’s presence in the insurance sector might have helped.

In terms of technology, the two companies’ capabilities mostly complement each other. Accenture has built extensive automation capabilities in recent years by following a strategy of partnering with leading automation technology vendors, Blue Prism and IPsoft among them. While the two companies share expertise in Blue prism, and to some extent, UiPath, Genfour adds Celaton and its own IP to the Accenture mix.

Expect the M&A trend to continue

The market is moving towards increasing levels of domain and industry specific automation. Accenture is likely to follow this trend and build capabilities for specific domains and vertical expertise as well as increasingly more complex projects.

It is unsurprising that there is M&A activity in this market. We have predicted this, and there is more to come. This acquisition is unlikely to be the last in SDA in 2017.
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