With channel partners focusing on implementing new and emerging technologies, Robotic Process Automation is yet another excellent business opportunity for them across diverse industry verticals
Today, when businesses are multi-dimensional, technology needs to be super fluid. Organisations can’t afford to be sitting in the era of technology monologues. An all-encompassing technology dialogue is the need of hour, with adoption of technology trends like Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
RPA, the offshoot of artificial intelligence, has many aspects that curate the entire system successfully, when the correct mould is fixed. And who else does the mould fitting better than the channel ecosystem, which is the lifeline for vendors and enterprises alike. Channel partners are the ones who understand customers’ requirements and capacity in terms of scale and monetary quotient. They are constantly exploring how best to satisfy a client’s latest requirements using modern tools and techniques.
The usage of RPA is multifold; it is used to automate repetitive tasks that would otherwise require one or more persons to perform manually. RPA uses software programs and robots to do the tasks performed by humans and can therefore almost completely remove people from these business processes. Undoubtedly, it is the way forward for the future.
According to Market Watch research, “With rapid advancements in digitisation and information technology in countries like China, India and Japan, the Asia Pacific region is expected to grow at the highest CAGR in the RPA market.”
Not only are RPA applications faster, but also less prone to errors and can work 24×7. Businesses can re-train and upskill people replaced by these bots for more creative and self-satisfying jobs. Examples of RPA use include verification of data on forms, extraction of data from forms, automating data entry, and computing tax on invoices.
“RPA has been gaining considerable traction in India over the past three – four years as organisations look to automate repetitive, tedious tasks. As is the case with most emerging technologies. We typically see customers starting with limited tactical RPA deployments and then scaling up. In India, early adopters of RPA include financial institutions, healthcare, retailers, aviation and BPO sectors. Ingram Micro is a firm believer in the transformational power of RPA and we have adopted UiPath globally within our organisation,” says Navneet Singh Bindra, Executive Director and Head of Advanced Solutions, Ingram Micro.
Adoption of RPA in the Indian market
With gradual unfolding of the benefits of RPA, and the impending market maturity, this technology is making significant inroads. “RPA technologies are in high demand from companies in India. Currently, we see more enquiries from MNCs and large Indian corporates, as compared to mid-sized companies. Within a company, different divisions are adopting RPA technologies to improve efficiencies in their processes. We believe RPA adoption in India is going to only increase in the future, in line with the global trend. Early adopters for our RPA have been finance, taxation, operations, and HR. In terms of industry verticals our customers who are early adopters are from logistics, services (consulting/media and entertainment) and manufacturing sectors. We added more than a dozen bluechip companies as our customers in the last six months,” informs Srikant Krishnan, Co-Founder & Managing Director, dMACQ Software.
It is interesting to note that RPA was one of the eight technologies that was identified and unveiled in the Future Skills platform which was inaugurated last year by the Prime Minister. It aims to upskill IT professionals in emerging technology areas.
“The cost-effectiveness and easing of business processes are expected to drive the large-scale adoption of RPA. And, it is evident that RPA can grow across industries and verticals – like a horizontal phenomenon. Indian companies started slow, but now the adoption is occurring at a high rate. Sectors that are leading RPA adoption include BPO, BSFI and manufacturing. ICICI had adopted software robots to process financial transactions as early as 2016, with these robots executing over 10 lakh transactions per day,” says Radhakrishnan R, AVP – Solutions, Infogain.
Importance of partners in RPA deployment
There is a plethora of opportunities for channel partners in every industry vertical and across all functions. “We work closely with customers to identify use cases which can bring value in terms of time, resource optimisation, process efficiency and decreased overhead costs. For instance, we have worked with our customers for automating their invoice processing, order fulfilment, report generation, transactions reconciliation,etc,” says Rama Krishna, MD, Bodhtree Consulting.
The role of a channel partner has transformed into that of a trusted advisor on implementation of new and emerging technologies. RPA gives channel partners a great opportunity to offer services around implementation, process analysis, integration and consulting.
“For us, RPA is an integral part of a larger vision of ‘Connected Intelligence’, which aims to help customers by enabling their business accomplish its key goals like cost, growth, risk, customer experience by connecting all the facets of digital experience making automation the DNA of every business process and technology across all layers of enterprise. This helps in freeing up the human talent for creativity using emotional intelligence and design thinking while the machines assist humans with all other activities that involve, but are not limited to seeing, listening, sensing, thinking, learning, predicting and acting,” says Navneet Singh, Global Business Head, Intelligent Process Automation, Zensar Technologies.
Addressing market opportunities
Automation and RPA, with their impact and advantages, form a very focused area and tend to have the highest management attention. “Our RPA team has almost tripled in size in the past one year. Our bot portfolio has increased and so have the capabilities of our bots. Most of our bots run on customer premises with no connection to the internet – this significantly reduces any cybersecurity risks associated with using our bots. We can create structured information from unstructured data sources including the web. Our latest bots can also extract information from images. We have a client-side solution called dMACQ Studio, in addition to our server-side solution called dMACQ VisualParser – both of these solutions allow end users to directly customise bots on their own without any help from our customer support team,” says Srikant Krishnan.
The RPA bots generally come with built-in data analytics capabilities that permit customers to visualise the current data profile. Experts are also working on multi-lingual bots that can extract information from several Indian and foreign language documents.
“Like in any technology, skilled manpower is the main component in gearing up for any opportunity. It is one of the major success factors in good execution too. Having a constant touch with customer challenges and knowing the software industry direction, we could predict an upcoming need for skilled resources in RPA long back. We have initiated an RPA practice much early, trained and enabled our teams. Immediately after training, we have started automating all our internal processes. Doing so gave us an insight into the real world issues quite early. It was a great indispensable learning experience. Once the practice is matured, the team is strengthened with addition of experts from the industry,” says Krishna.
Up-skilling and re-skilling of partners
A lot of the focus is on up-skilling and re-skilling. “We believe in democratisation of technical skills within our firm, hence we have a lot of programs, such as Build Your Bot hackathons, online training programs, partner run webinars, classroom programs and the likes, to promote awareness and familiarity with the technology across the firm at all levels. We have launched several programs which are open to all staff members with incentives to get themselves certified within a specific period of time. The success has been overwhelming. These technologies are not hard to pick and it becomes an important tool to keep the millennials and the Gen Zs engaged and motivated to work with us,” states Amit Ray, Managing Director, Data & Analytics, Protiviti India Member Firm.
“Training sales teams and partners is crucial to a successful channel strategy for any product, especially for an emerging segment like RPA. We are fully cognizant of this need and are duly supported by our RPA vendors to meet the training needs. It is also very encouraging to see everyone take much interest in learning about this new technology,” says Bindra.
How profitable is RPA for solution providers
Though RPA implementation brings in lot of cost savings and other benefits to customers, it is not the same with service providers. “RPA engagements are short term based and will not run into long running contracts like in other technology. So, we don’t see RPA generating huge profit margins when an individual engagement is concerned. However, low profit margins can be compensated by volume of implementations. We keep the teams agile for swift implementations,” says Rama Krishna.
RPA market is in a nascent stage in India and hence pricing standards vary. “With the presence of several foreign companies the pricing is competitive. Our charges are typically associated with the savings that the customer can achieve and range between three to five per cent of the savings (also depends on the volume). The potential to exponentially increase profit margins in this business is very high,” states Krishnan.
“The business is profitable for sure. We typically works with our client on a full service model, which essentially means that Zensar consultants help find opportunities for automation within the client enterprise, prioritise them with a business case, procures licenses, automates (implements) them and maintains the bots for a three to five year period. The profitability is built into the end to end managed service model,” mentions Singh of Zensar.
Success of RPA deployments depends upon the process champions sharing their knowledge openly and accurately. “However, there is still plenty of mistrust, even fear, that they are helping in making their own jobs redundant, which causes resistance,” shares Ray. He further points out that the software needs to know all variants of a process to handle all possible scenarios, however, often no single person in the organisation would have the systemic knowledge. Moreover, process documentations often capture only the happy path scenario.
RPA should not be used to automate a broken process. Technology cannot fix the process, contrary to inflated expectations about RPA. The performance of the software is limited to the slowest performing applications in the entire value chain, hence due to legacy applications, the full potential of bots are often not realised. RPA has access to a lot of information such as financial information, password, etc, hence security must be the top priority.
Change management and operation of RPA is often a challenge, as though businesses own the asset, they have no experience managing the technology.