Where do you see RPA and AI evolving over the next few years?
If you look at the way that technology has developed since Blue Prism started in 2002, it started as a process-driven, task-oriented technology. At that time, it was described disparagingly as ‘Macros-on-steroids’. However, over the last two or three years, the skills built into the robots have become more “intelligent”, and I use that word advisedly because RPA still deals with the structured data, the rules-based activities that organisations want within their companies.
So, where do I see this going? Robots are learning new skills, so the AI elements that are being built into the platforms are allowing organisations to automate more of their processes. Why? Because they can deal with the semi and unstructured data. What that means is that organisations will build more robots across more of their operations. As an example of this happening today, Admiral Insurance, which is a UK-based insurance business has its headquarters in Cardiff in Wales, started 20 months ago with one UiPath Robot; now they have robots in every single one of their departments, with the exception of the canteen – I don’t think even we can automate that! Admiral has automation that covers the back-office corporate functions: finance & accounting, procurement, and HR; into the industry-specific processing functions like claims processing, first notice of loss, and into the customer service, customer experience areas with the attended robots. What this means is that there is no limit to where automation can spread within organisations. An interesting side note on this is that most organisations that go into automation go into it for the wrong reason. They go into it because they want to reduce headcount, they want to reduce cost, but what they find when they do it, is that the value of their people, the value of the human capital is actually much higher than they thought it was. What they’re doing is moving those people up the value-chain – because they can. So, ultimately I think we are now moving to a stage where everybody in business will have their own robot, to do what I lovingly call the ‘s***** crappy stuff’ that no one wants to do, that people have to do to their job, and an attended element to help them to do the stuff that they do want to do. We are actually doing a study at the moment with Forrester [which has now been published. To get your free copy, please visit: https://www.uipath.com/company/rpa-analyst-reports/forrester-employee-experience-rpa] which has proven a direct link between employee engagement, facilitated by RPA, and improved customer experience.
Ultimately, I think automation and AI will disappear. It won’t disappear because it’s not going to get used, it will disappear because will be used everywhere. Professor Andrew Ng of Stanford University has described AI as the new electricity and unless you’re an eco-mentalist, no-one cares how the electricity is generated as long as when you turn on the switch, the light comes on. This will be RPA and automation and AI within organisations, in the next five to ten years.