RPA booms around the world, but SA appears to lag

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The robotic process automation (RPA) services market is booming around the world, according to a recently published Forrester Research report, titled 'The RPA Services Market will Grow to Reach $12 billion by 2023'. In 2018, the market was estimated to be worth only $3.9 billion.

Furthermore, Forrester’s research indicates that over the past three years, annual revenue growth for the top services vendors has topped 100%, rising from around $0.6 billion in 2017 to an estimated $4.2 billion by 2023.

After surveying 25 of the top RPA service providers about their customers, geographic focus, revenue and scale of implementations for the report, which was published last month, the authors – Leslie Joseph and Craig Le Clair – concluded that the massive growth in RPA services was a result not only of organisations adopting RPA as a cost mitigation strategy, but because automation was regarded as critical to the implementation of broader digital transformation efforts.

However, while RPA adoption in terms of spend appears to be rising around the world, Forrester was unable to provide information about RPA adoption in Africa, or South Africa, as it was unable to source sufficient data. 

Based on the data it was able to obtain, it appears that the bulk of RPA users are based in North America (35%) and Europe (31%), followed by India (10%), Australasia (7%) and Japan (5%). RPA adoption is still in its earliest stages in the Middle East (3%) and South America (5%).

According to Joseph and Le Clair, RPA maturity remains low, with most enterprises (52%) currently having fewer than 10 bots. Only 10% of the 5 800 customer deployments surveyed qualified as 'advanced', with more than 100 working robots, cross-departmental support and a functioning automation centre.

“This could be partly attributed to the fact that many RPA installations have not received the level of executive support or commitment they need. This has translated into there not being sufficient people in the right roles and functions to roll out and maintain automation across the business,” they write.

The report notes that the current ratio of service revenue to licence revenue is huge as a result of unclear business requirements, difficulty selecting target processes, poorly packaged software products that require customisation, as well as shortages of qualified analysts and software professionals.

RPA platform vendors push consulting, implementation and support services to their integration partners, who, in turn, provide clients with digital strategies and governance and automation centres of excellence support services.

However, the authors believe that the ratio between licence and service revenue will start to decline as RPA maturity improves.

The largest RPA deployments currently occur in the shared services organisations of large global corporations (which Forrester believes explains the high rate of adoption in India). RPA is most commonly used in finance and accounting applications (36%), followed by lines of business (15%), IT (15%), contact centres (10%), HR (7%) and procurement (6%).

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