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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
The RPA market reached ~$700 million in 2018 and is expected to surpass $1 billion in 2019
Robotic process automation [RPA] vendor WorkFusion is looking to capitalize on the strong momentum in the sector, with a major new product release and a favorable new analyst report.
New York City-based WorkFusion is one of the top players in the RPA space, which is booming. A new report from Zinnow on the RPA market reported that the total worldwide addressable market is $50 billion, with enterprise spend predicted to grow at a 37 per cent rate. Forrester Research, one of the analyst firms who specialize in the area, scored WorkFusion as a strong performer in their 2018 report, behind UIPath, Automation Anywhere, and Blue Prism. WorkFusion also scores very highly in a 2019 report by Everest Group, another analyst firm with a strong focus on RPA. The Everest Group report on a sub-space, Intelligent Document Processing [IDP], defined as a software solution that captures data from documents and categorizes and extracts relevant data for AI processing, ranked WorkFusion in the leader section, with the highest score in vision and capability.
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When the Everest Group announced that RPA could lead to a cost reduction of nearly 65 percent, many business leaders began exploring the long list of benefits of RPA for enterprises.
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Intelligent automation, it’s meant to be the next big thing in automation, at least that was the gist of what AntWorks told analysts, press and customers at an extravagance in London, recently. They likened themselves to a tortoise, winning the RPA race over the hair, talked about an elephant in the room, and boasted that they have moved RPA up a gear.
Sarah Burnett, Executive Vice President and Distinguished Analyst at Everest Group, said: “We all want automation of business processes to be easier, and we want to automate more of them. Antworks with AntsteinSquare is aiming to address these requirements: one integrated platform for multi-format data ingestion and processing, a lo- or no-code environment, an integrated stack, and more.”
Read more in Information Age
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