RPA is clearly the IT media darling of the year. Just go to any business or tech publication, and you can’t escape headlines touting RPA as the fastest-growing market in enterprise software. Per Gartner, the RPA market grew over 63% last year. Organizations plan to invest $10 to $20 million annually in RPA solutions to increase productivity, reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction, and help employees focus on creative, higher-value work. “A bot on every desktop” is the new mantra, and companies that promise to deliver this are valued in the billions. Is all this exuberance justified? Or are we looking at another Google Glass?
As a business person, I can clearly see the reason for the demand. Digital transformation and business optimization initiatives want to eliminate latency and waste from the business process, and RPA seems like magic that automates away these inefficiencies. However, as a technologist, I sometimes feel like RPA is the poor man’s API: a tech hack that strings together sequences which should be actually solved by good application architecture or an integration strategy. When you describe RPA’s general approach to a technologist, you get an array of responses ranging from laughter to confusion.