The global Robotic Automation market, in all its flavours, was estimated at $271 million in 2016 and is now expected to grow to $1.2 billion over the next 5 years. There is no doubt RPA is here to stay.
The change brought about by automation is sometimes referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with good reason, without doubt the impact on society, culture and work will be just as significant as previous iterations. The types of work being undertaken will radically shift.
Outsourcing is already one of the most significantly disrupted industries, where mundane and repetitive tasks can easily be transferred to a bot. Some outsourcers have been quick to spot the need to change and have been adapting to RPA, but even then the economics of outsourcing to a bot workforce will leave questions as to whether it's a sustainable model for outsourcing to continue.
Meanwhile, closer to home, the UK is set to become a battleground as new entrants, startups and global corporations are all focusing increased effort to gain their portion of the anticipated UK growth.
Larger organisations with support from the big four have already started to align their technology choice, but are equally draining skilled resources from the market and leaving a shortage of air for both suppliers and businesses. The expanding number of technologies diluting the skill pool even further.
And it's far from a done deal. There are still many organisations of all shapes and sizes yet to embark on their RPA journey, fearful of the People Impact, bewildered by the growing amount of choice, and often hampered by traditional IT development models.
While there are amazing results achieved by companies that have successfully delivered automation, there are also those that achieve successful pilots but then struggle to achieve the same results at scale. The skills needed are not just technical but also operational.
The next few years are going to be interesting for sure.
New Operating models will be critical for business survival and automation will be the enabler. People will be displaced, but new jobs and skills will also be created. As automation increasingly includes elements of learning and intelligence it will be essential for regulated industries to demonstrate their compliance, likely expanding data science skills.
Not all vendors will survive, some will be consumed, others will just not hold sufficient market share. Equally, not all solutions are alike and niche players will continue to have their place. The more Disruptive vendors are already making clear how they differentiate from the others, while smaller operators are seeking partnerships to expand their reach more rapidly.
Skills continue to be a premium across the whole industry, but alongside the new operating models, hybrid skills of business and technology will be highly sought. Similar to low-code and model-driven technologies, automation skills will increasingly be found in technology savvy business people.
The hardest part of this will be the cultural changes, whether at work or at home, that automation will bring. We each will traverse our own personal change curve over the coming years until we each find our new place. But the journey will be fun!