The potential elimination of paper, the rise of hiring for RPA skills, and other developments are expected next year.

Robotics specialist Automation Anywhere, predicts that 2020 will be the year for intelligent automation based on five identified key developments it anticipates would impact regional businesses and the adoption of the technology:

  1. The near-elimination of paper from all large and medium enterprises as more industries adopt RPA
  2. Any economic recession will accelerate the global adoption of automation
  3. Robotics Process Automation (RPA) adoption will continue to be driven by the public sector 
  4. Hiring for RPA skills will exponentially rise across all industries and job functions by the end of 2020
  5. Intelligent (AI-driven) automation will replace rules-based automation entirely

Adrian Jones, Executive Vice-President, Asia Pacific and Japan, Automation Anywhere, explains: “Intelligent automation continues to gain traction as a holistic solution for digital transformation in Asia. With the RPA market size estimated to be US$2.9 billion and to grow by 203% by 2021, 2020 will be a year of unprecedented acceleration in the lead up to this growth.”

Near-elimination of paper due to RPA

Jones feels that Cloud-native and web-based RPA platforms will come to the forefront in the new year. Use cases of RPA will eventually move toward easy-to-deploy-and-teach (AI) models for a large majority of paper documents in the enterprise. This means that human workers may never need to process an invoice again. This is due to the onset of rapidly maturing machine learning technologies that understand the written word, as well as integrating resulting actions within an RPA platform.

“What is exciting is that regional businesses are going past the adoption stage. They are now increasingly moving into the implementation of Digital Workers— specialized bots with skills that complement human worker’s responsibilities, by taking on repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Growth in integration with third-party cloud AI services by enterprises will encourage Digital Worker implementations, which can then help with creating end-to-end automation workflows through pairings to chatbots and other triggering mechanisms.”

Recessions to accelerate adoption of automation

Experts warn of an “imminent” global recession in the new year, exacerbated by a US$13T global stockpile of negative-yielding debt. When businesses navigate the downturn, they will need to find new ways to increase efficiency, drive revenue, and meet customer needs.

With 85% of the RPA market still untapped, the economic slowdown will encourage businesses to dive into automation to find new efficiencies and mine new opportunities.

Public sector adoption drives RPA

As big data continues to be the overarching technological infrastructure driving the advent of 5G and explosion of connected devices, the public sector will sharpen their focus on supporting AI adoption in the workplace.

“We already see that in countries like Singapore, with the recently announced National AI strategy which will support key sectors like Education, Transport, and Security. We believe that we will continue to see inquiries on implementing Digital Workers from public sectors across Asia Pacific and Japan,” explains Jones.

In addition to government investments in the technology, data privacy laws will result in a higher demand for transparency of data collection and use. Secure and intelligent bots will thus increasingly come into the fold to be a critical line of defense against data breaches.

Rising demand for RPA skills

With RPA and AI already among two of the most in-demand skills in Asia, the demand for RPA skills will continue to appear across job roles—developers, business analysts, program and project managers, etc., and verticals such as IT, Business Processing Outsourcing, HR, education, insurance, banking, among others.

“Individuals with the requisite skills in RPA will see their starting salaries rise, and this will prompt more professionals to upskill to ride on the waves of demand. We will continue to work with industry partners and educational institutions, like Dhurakij Pundit University in Thailand, INTI International University in Malaysia and the Institute of Technical Education in Singapore, to equip the next generation with requisite skills in RPA and prepare them for a digital workforce,” continued Jones.

Rules-based automation will dwindle

While many RPA platforms now offer AI capabilities, they currently are used as two separate entities—one, rules-based, and the other, adaptive and predictive. In the next year, RPA and process analytics will become entirely infused with AI and machine learning (ML), accelerating process mining and discovery, and dramatically simplifying human effort in these areas. Moving forward, bots will be able to automatically identify the best processes to automate, act upon this insight, and optimize deployments throughout to guarantee the best possible results.  

“Technological advances will result in even greater usability and sophistication of RPA. The move toward AI-driven automation is but one of the many advancements in the technology we will continue to see in the new year. As developers gain increased access to the technology via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and software development kits, the ecosystem will continue to grow as they develop cutting-edge digital workers that they can monetize via online bot marketplaces,” concluded Jones.