In 2024, the robotic process automation (RPA) market will shift due to four major trends. These include (you guessed it) artificial intelligence’s effect on RPA, shifts in the market landscape, changes to RPA’s place in the larger automation landscape, and new data management methods. Whether you’re looking to take manual tasks off your team’s plate, get more from your automation program, or simply know more about the future of RPA, these evidence-based trends and expert predictions will help you understand what to expect from RPA in the coming year.
AI, AI, AI—this will be the top 2024 trend for most areas of technology, and RPA is no exception. (The robots are all panicking about their jobs right now.) Gartner® reports in the 2023 Critical Capabilities for Robotic Process Automation that “almost every RPA vendor has experimented, or plans to experiment, with generative AI (including GPT models) in their products or is enabling APIs to known GPT vendors.” These experiments will very likely become productized in 2024.
Expanding on that point, Gartner shares this strategic planning assumption in their 2023 Magic Quadrant™ for Robotic Process Automation:
By 2025, 90% of RPA vendors will offer generative-AI-assisted automation.
What could this “generative-AI assisted automation” look like? It’s likely AI will help make it easier for developers to create bots with features like guided navigation and chatbot assistance.
You’ll also see AI being used to evolve the robots themselves. The bots will get better at:
Generative AI will also come into play by enabling bots to autogenerate workflows based on data they receive. While some software, like Appian RPA, already allows developers to record their browser-based task actions and use RPA to create a ready-to-automate workflow design, AI may make this even more intuitive.
The RPA market isn’t necessarily growing—but it is consolidating and becoming more competitive, and at a rapid speed. Gartner adds in the 2023 Critical Capabilities for Robotic Process Automation that:
Despite its slowing rate of growth, the RPA market continues to evolve rapidly. As of January 2023, the global RPA market includes more than 60 vendors, but it is becoming more consolidated and competitive. Large software vendors are entering the market, and pure-play RPA vendors are jockeying for market position and evolving their offerings.
Forrester describes the RPA market as being at a crossroads. They add:
Many major RPA vendors that have evolved robust product offerings over the years now yearn to transcend RPA and move toward broader automation plays. They attempt to do this both organically and inorganically, making product portfolios ever more complex.
Due to changes like these that lead to RPA becoming more ubiquitous and commoditized, Forrester suggests that license costs will come down.
See what else analysts are saying about automation in the Gartner® Emerging Tech Impact Radar: Hyperautomation.
As a natural result of the RPA market consolidation trend, you’ll see companies continuing to use and purchase RPA less as a standalone tool and more as a feature of a larger automation platform. Organizations increasingly prefer to use automation tools that integrate fluidly, roll under existing platform maintenance, and don’t need specialized skill sets to manage. This unified approach prevents islands of automation from forming (and helps IT teams bridge gaps when islands have already been created). See the Gartner assessment of the situation below:
RPA vendors are adding new products to their portfolios or are being acquired to provide more general task and process automation platforms with a wider range of capabilities.
While this can be convenient, it also makes it tricky for buyers. Forrester writes:
RPA buyers must navigate these choices while balancing twin objectives: scaling and industrializing their RPA setups while up-leveling these into the even more diverse mix of automation technologies that is the automation fabric. This is not an easy ask.
Build an end-to-end strategy for automation that goes beyond RPA: Get tips for success in our Process Automation Guide.
Robots interact with data, just like any digital experience tool, and they should be able to access it easily. They shouldn’t need to be concerned about how data models are built, how to enforce authorization rules when accessing data, or how to guarantee data quality when modifying or ingesting new data. In 2024, these concerns will be addressed and baked into robots’ data access mechanisms. The most effective bots will rely on a data platform layer that enables organizations to unify disparate data sources into one cohesive data model with well-defined governance. This cohesive data model should free RPA delivery teams from data access concerns since data will be accessible to bots regardless of where it lies.
Gartner identifies “Data Quality” as one of the essential criterias for selecting cases that are well suited for RPA, stating:
The RPA system will automate the manipulation of data and propagate the source data across other systems. Therefore, if there are any data quality issues in the source data, those should be addressed before the robot propagates the error and creates a larger data problem down the road.
Due to this increased realization that proper governance is essential to maintaining data quality for RPA, organizations will develop better governance structures to centrally define how these disparate data models correlate, apply enterprise rules to transform or validate data elements, and apply authorization policies.
The trends affecting RPA will cause the market to look a lot different in 2024. But at the root, RPA will remain a useful tool to alleviate the burden of manual and repetitive tasks from human workers. With the changes that will surely be wrought by the influence of AI and better data management capabilities, RPA bots will get even better at meeting their original purpose and increasingly help workers refocus on complex tasks and higher value work.
Get five best practices for RPA success in this guide.
Gartner, Critical Capabilities for Robotic Process Automation 14 August 2023, Andy Wang Et Al.
Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Robotic Process Automation 2 August 2023, Saikat Ray Et Al.
Gartner, Emerging Tech Impact Radar: Hyperautomation 28 March 2023, Cathy Tornbohm Et Al.
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