CIOs Plan To Double Down On Software 'Bots' As Pandemic Chaos Continues
Covid-19 kicked the use of software bots into overdrive in the second half of last year as companies turned to robotic process automation (RPA) software to boost productivity and save money.
This year could well see another surge in the use of bots, which use code to automate common and repetitive tasks handled by human workers. That's according to a new report which surveyed 220 CIOs and other senior tech executives across 11 industries, including financial services, retail and manufacturing. Conducted by Enterprise Technology Research on behalf of Automation Anywhere, one of the main players in the RPA software market, the report also draws on insights gleaned from the software company's thousands of customers.
Given that Automation Anywhere has a clear interest in boosting bots, the report's conclusions should be treated with some caution. But the study's finding that CIOs who are already scaling RPA programs plan to roughly double the number of bots deployed-from an average of 67 in October last year to 131 by the end of September this year-matches other bullish projections about the market's prospects.
A budget bright spot
Gartner has forecast that growth from existing deployments and new customers will boost total sales of RPA software to $1.9 billion in 2021, a year-over-year increase of almost a fifth. That should make bots a bright spot in tech budgets that have been squeezed by corporate belt-tightening.
Dominic Cugini, divisional CIO and senior director for service digitization at Cleveland, Ohio-based KeyBank, which has over $170 billion of assets, says bots have helped it cope with huge spikes in demand for loan forbearance and mortgage refinancing triggered by the pandemic's impact. The bank was automating two to three processes a month using bots in 2019; now it's running at an average of 15 a month and plans to lift that number to 22 in the second quarter of the year.
In some areas, such as handling disputes involving customers, KeyBank needed help from code because it would otherwise have struggled to onboard and train enough new employees to deal with cases. "We were looking at hiring at a pace that just wouldn't have been feasible," says Cugini, who notes the bank also saved millions of dollars by automating processes and is seeing a return of 2.5-to-3 times its investment in significant areas of bot deployment.
KeyBank, which uses Automation Anywhere's platform and is also exploring offerings from rival UiPath, is still at an early stage in its RPA journey. Only a small percentage of its 19,000 employees are using bots to help them with their jobs says Cugini, though he has ambitious expansion plans for this year. Plenty of other companies are in a similar position according to Automation Anywhere's report.
Bots and billions
The prospect of many more employees using bots-or being replaced by them-has boosted valuations of venture-backed businesses offering RPA software. In November 2019 Automation Anywhere raised $290 million in Series B funding at a valuation of $6.8 billion and last year UiPath closed a $225m E round from investors at a $10.2 billion valuation.
Automation Anywhere's CEO, Mihir Shukla, says the company has "no immediate plans" to raise fresh capital and is seeing strong demand for a cloud-based offering it launched last year. Most RPA deployments are still hosted at customers' data centers, but Shukla thinks the flexibility and robustness offered by the cloud will encourage many companies to switch to it.
It could also encourage even more competition, which would be great news for customers who have already seen annual fees for bots fall. KeyBank's Cugini says he saw price reductions of between 10% and 15% over the past year. Perhaps it's time someone invented a new RPA tool for CIOs: A bot that automates the process of negotiating down the cost of bot licenses.
This Article Source is From : https://www.forbes.com/sites/martingiles/2021/01/18/cio-double-down-on-software-bots-in-2021/?sh=36b0bdee6ccd