Sarah Burnett, Author at Everest Group

Blue Prism’s Acquisition of Thoughtonomy: Does 1+1 =3? | Blog

By | Automation/RPA/AI, Blog

As a reader of this blog, you likely know that we’ve been researching and analyzing the RPA market in-depth for more than five years and have conducted multiple RPA technology vendor PEAK MatrixTM evaluations in the same time frame.

Starting in 2015, Blue Prism earned a Leader’s spot in in our assessment because of its extensive features and strong market presence. Thoughtonomy made it into our Leader’s group starting in 2016 for its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering, and for combining RPA and AI for unstructured data processing.

Because it is a public company, Blue Prism’s strong growth over the years is a matter of public record. Thoughtonomy has also grown strongly, gaining around 77 direct clients and another 200 indirect through its service provider partners.

Against that backdrop, we believe that Blue Prism’s announcement earlier this week that it is acquiring Thoughtonomy for a total consideration of £80 million is a positive move for three reasons.

First, Blue Prism gains several hundred mid-sized direct clients in an instant. Second, and more importantly, its ability to deliver intelligent automation through a SaaS delivery model gives it the opportunity to much more easily sell into the mid-market. Third, this is a strategic move by Blue Prism. Right now, adoption of RPA on the cloud is in the early stages. At the same time, many AI solutions are offered on the cloud to enable access to computing power on demand, and many work with RPA in combination when needed. Having both RPA and AI on the cloud could help companies realize the full potential of intelligent automation and achieve higher scalability. Blue Prism is becoming cloud-ready with this acquisition.

But there is more.Blue Prism Acquires Thoughtonomy

What Thoughtonomy Brings to Blue Prism

Thoughtonomy was set up in 2013 to provide a cloud-based intelligent automation platform. At its core, it is a cloud version of Blue Prism’s RPA, combined with other capabilities that Thoughtonomy has developed over the years, including:

  • Features for human-in-the-loop automation (Self-Serve), including next-best-action recommendation – These features will help Blue Prism with attended automation that is typically used in the front office. Currently, Blue Prism offers human-in-the-loop through its technology partner, TrustPortal, which provides the UI for this capability
  • Built-in AI / machine learning within the platform to optimize workload distribution and robot performance
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP), sentiment analysis, and chat interface to automate processes using chat as a channel
  • A web-based interface for controlling and monitoring robots – While Blue Prism offers a central console for controlling and monitoring robots, it is not web-based. This will help improve the accessibility of its console
  • Wireframer, an intelligent coding quality tool – Blue Prism currently has an automation methodology, but not a coding quality tool
  • Use cases in IT process automation – This will help improve Blue Prism’s value proposition for IT use cases, which are growing in demand

In addition, Thoughtonomy will help enhance Blue Prism’s presence in some verticals, such as healthcare and government & public sector, where it currently has limited market share.

With Blue Prism at the heart of Thoughtonomy’s SaaS platform, the job of integrating the two product sets should be relatively straightforward.

All in all, we believe in this case that 1+1 does add up to more than 2. Is it a 3? Maybe not, but it is a solid 2.5.

The challenges of SaaS, selling to the mid-market, and targeting the front-office market

Blue Prism’s model includes a minimum licensing requirement that can make it expensive for smaller companies to get started with its RPA offering. Thoughtonomy was absorbing these requirements. Blue Prism will no doubt clarify how it will handle licensing for its SaaS offering.

The addition of Thoughtonomy’s human-in-the-loop interface will help boost Blue Prism’s attended automation value proposition. But if it intends to target this segment – which primarily consists of front-office and contact center use cases where thousands of robots might be required – it will need to adjust its pricing to reflect large orders. Additionally, it will need to deliver more desktop-based features in order to outshine established attended automation vendors such as NICE and Pega. As this doesn’t appear to be a high priority segment for Blue Prism, we may not see those additional features in the near future.

The market outlook

With this move into SaaS, Blue Prism has captured a competitive edge. We expect other companies will quickly follow suit. Several RPA vendors are cash rich thanks to recent private equity investments, as well as good organic growth, and they may well have their eyes trained on potential acquisitions. Other RPA technology vendors and other companies that provide complementary technologies, like chatbots, could well be either acquirers or acquisition targets. AI-based automation vendors, e.g., those with NLP or intelligent virtual agents, could make acquisitions of their own to complement their products. And we wouldn’t be surprised to see large software vendors acquiring RPA vendors, just like SAP did last year with its acquisition of Contextor, an RPA vendor that we positioned as an Aspirant in our 2018 RPA Technology Vendor PEAK MatrixTM Assessment several months before SAP made its move.

This is just the beginning of the consolidation phase of this expanding market, and we have no doubt there is more to come.

Everest Group will be publishing its 2019 RPA Technology Vendor PEAK MatrixTM Assessment in the next few weeks. In the meantime, please check out our recent service optimization technology-focused publications, including Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) Annual Report 2019 – Let AI Do the Reading

Do We Really Need a Robot Per Employee? | Blog

By | Automation/RPA/AI, Blog

When I started researching the RPA space five years ago, vendors were working hard to position themselves in the unattended automation space, where robots ran on servers in the data center, according to schedules, typically delivering back-office functions.

This was a departure from attended automation that for some years had boosted (and still does) agent efficiency in the contact center.

Today, the market has come full circle, with a focus on helping other office workers, not just contact center agents, increase their productivity. A robot per employee is a marketing message we are hearing increasingly frequently, boosted by the concepts of lo-code software and citizen developers who can build their own robots with little help from tech developers.

Examples of automation vendor activity in this space include:

  • NICE’s NEVA, an avatar for NICE’s attended automation, to help all office workers automate their repetitive tasks
  • Softomotive’s People First approach, which intends to democratize automation in the enterprise. This applies to both attended and unattended automations, but puts the power in the hands of employees
  • UiPath, which is putting out a robot per employee messages in addition to its Automation First campaign. It has even showcased robot-based consumer apps at its event.

One could argue that going full circle back to attended is because unattended automation is proving tough to scale. That does not diminish the potential opportunities that the concept brings to the enterprise and its employees. But it is not immediately obvious what attended robots could do for the average office worker.

Here are a couple of examples.

At the recent Pegaworld event in Las Vegas, a healthcare payer company showcased several examples of how it is using attended automation, including logging employees in to half a dozen systems, a task they need to perform every morning, through what the company calls “start my day,” and changing passwords on those systems on behalf of the employees, at the frequency dictated by the corporate IT policy. Another is helping with repetitive sales administration tasks, e.g., the robots update daily sales information for reporting purposes.

The big question is, do these kinds of examples, good as they are, justify the investment in desktop/attended automation robots by the thousands? True that attended robot licenses typically cost much less than unattended ones, and vendors are likely to offer good rates for bulk orders. But overhead costs, such as training employees to code their own robots and for the enterprise to support them, also come into play, as do robot performance: how fast can they run on those desktops, and can employees get on with other work while the robots are running?

It is early days for a robot per employee model, but it is high time that we boosted office worker productivity again. It has been decades since the advent of personal office software led to the last productivity revolution.

Personally, I am looking forward to seeing attended automation evolve and become really useful. I cannot wait to “robot-source” some of my daily routine work. First though, we (office workers) have to try attended automation for ourselves and see what works and what doesn’t. Lessons learned in the contact center can help us with this, but hands-on and trial and error is the best way forward.

Process Mining for Automation Gold | Blog

By | Automation/RPA/AI, Blog

The process automation market is evolving in more ways than one. Many organizations are taking the next step of complementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) with Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions such as virtual agents and intelligent document capture. Others are looking deeper into their business functions with process mining and discovery software to scale automation and capture more returns from them.

Process mining and discovery solutions automate a part of automation itself. This is effectively mining processes for elusive gold opportunities for automation.

Process Miners

Process mining software has been around for a while and can be used for many purposes, but several vendors have made a name for themselves in the automation space, e.g., Celonis and Minit. These types of solutions use application logs to reconstruct a virtual view of processes. They discover business process flows and models, and provide process intelligence analytics. They can even suggest how to change a process using smart capabilities. The result is information that allows organizations to decide what process to automate next.

Some service providers have developed their own capabilities in this space as well. An example is Accenture, which uses process mining for automation as a competitive differentiator.

Valuable as it is, however, process mining also has its drawbacks. For example, it requires a lot of data. And if you want to find opportunities among processes that go across enterprise systems, you need to integrate the logs from these systems, e.g., build a data warehouse. Those of you who have built data warehouses know what a massive pain this can be.

Process Discoverers

While process miners can also do process discovery, several RPA vendors – including EdgeVerve, Kryon, and Nice – are offering new solutions. They’re using their desktop automation and action recording capabilities, complemented with AI, to capture and reconstruct what the human worker does, and then map and analyze the actions to identify opportunities for automation. Process discoverers do not require a load of application data, but they do come with their own challenges. For example, a recording may not capture the full set of relevant steps. And employees may have concerns around privacy.

The Art of the Possible

So, is it worth it to use process mining and discovering solutions despite their downsides and flaws? Yes, absolutely. But curb your enthusiasm, set expectations at the right level, and go for the art of the possible.

For example, there are many opportunities for automation within individual applications, without having to include processes that go across systems. And, you can use human intelligence to manually fill in the gaps and augment the findings of an automation discovery tool, even though doing so is going out of fashion.

With yet another category of software coming to the fore, enterprises would be right to feel that they are on a technology investment hamster wheel – there is no end to the cycle. After all, in recent years we have had the huge wave of RPA adoption. And today, in addition to competitive pressure to invest in AI-based automation, enterprises are having to evaluate process mining and discovery as well.

The good news is that automation can generate significant returns on investment. Our research and interactions with enterprises have shown this to be the case time and again. Process mining is another piece of the jigsaw, and it can help you find more automation gold.

Everest Group will be publishing a detailed viewpoint on process mining and discovery very soon. Be sure to keep an eye out for it, so you can mine it for gold.

Thanks to RPA, “Integration” is No Longer a Dreaded Word | Blog

By | Automation/RPA/AI, Blog

Many enterprises that have used Robotic Process Automation (RPA) have seen the power of digital transformation, even if only in a small way through a few automated processes. The transformational value they experience is often a tipping point that whets their appetite for even more automation and deeper levels of application integration. But, this creates a quandary about how to maintain the array of automations. Ultimately, their success depends on the scope of the centers of excellence (COEs) that maintain their automations. Let’s explore further.

Getting the Wheel Spinning – Getting that Old-time Integration Religion

I believe that RPA has helped companies that previously held back from adopting newer technology solutions see the value of a digital mindset. These converts are now finding more opportunities for automation, and greater conviction in moving to digital-first operating models.

In short, something comparatively simple like RPA helps inspire confidence and vision.

The Ironic Corner to Turn – Moving beyond what Initially Made RPA so Enticing

Once this passion is unleashed, organizations come to fully appreciate that RPA is only one tool for automating operations. Many desire to transform their high volume, fast processes, and must confront the reality that surface-level RPA integrations are often not sufficient. The next steps towards more powerful automations often include integration via connectors and APIs.

The following exhibit reflects the diversity of systems which may now need to be integrated in a digital-first operating model world. (Spoiler alert: we’ll be writing a lot more about the Digital Capability Platform in the upcoming months.) And there are many ways to go about creating the needed integrations.

 

Digital Capability Platform

 

Some enterprises have cast aside the promise of surface-level RPAs, and now use their RPAs more through APIs. This is a bit ironic and worthy of a discussion by itself, but let’s get back to what happens as the types of automations proliferate.

Holding it Together – not Firing and Forgetting

One thing that all integrations – surface, APIs, or connectors – have in common is that they need maintenance. With surface-level RPA, you need to do a lot of robot maintenance when application layouts change. But all integrations, RPA included, require maintenance for other reasons as well. The biggest is the need to resolve data ambiguities, e.g., common customer names (think Jane Smith) with similar account types requesting a temporary address change. Which record should be updated? How can this correctly propagate across all the relevant systems and processes?

This is why a COE should be responsible for all types of automations, whether through surface or other integration methods. By looking across all automations, a COE can not only more accurately maintain the automations, but also identify anomalies and conceive new ways to structure interdependent automations. Of course, adding AI-based tools into the mix adds even more API connections to manage. But AI connections are far from the only ones that will need to be managed; the landscape will become more complicated before it simplifies (yes, I’m trying to be optimistic here.)

I can hear some of you saying that the COE should be an overall digital center of excellence. My answer is a big “no.” Digital is a far broader field that often involves major legacy transformation projects. Automation is clearly a part of digital, but it is operationally focused on the practical realities that come from modernizing processes that still primarily run on legacy systems.

This is a different mindset and a different set of competencies. As a result, it is best to keep a separate automation COE focused on the details of operational processes, while separately working towards the corporate digital objectives in a broader digital office. And that automation COE’s remit should be bigger than just RPA – it must deal with the combination of all types of automations that are enabling the operating processes.

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

By | Automation/RPA/AI, Blog

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.

Related: 2018 RPA Vendor Technology Landscape PEAK Matrix™ Preview

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.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Are Colleagues Electric? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

By | Blog

“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 | Blog

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 | Blog

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 | Blog

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 | Automation/RPA/AI, Blog

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?