The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated existing trends towards automation, but now that much of the work of responding to the new work situations is created has been done, Automation Anywhere looked to future issues around workplace resiliency at their virtualized customer event.
Tuesday saw robotic process automation [RPA] vendor Automation Anywhere kick off their virtualized customer event, Imagine Digital. The RPA sector has been one of the ones in the IT sector which has benefitted from the COVID-19 lockdown and the move towards Work From Home environments, as these have accelerated trends towards automation and the cloud which had already been in place. The company looked to the future with their new product announcements around the event, addressing what they perceive to be current areas of weakness in RPA, in order to better prepare for any future crisis that might transpire.
“Many of the initiatives that organizations had planned for 2025 to 2030 are now being moved up to today,” said Mihir Shukla, Automation Anywhere’s CEO. “The pandemic has highlighted the need for tools to make a difference, and once you use bots, you are not going back to doing things manually. When the pandemic ends, much of what has been learned will continue.
“We have seen a massive shifts in the last eight weeks to the cloud,” Shukla emphasized. “It feels like the beginning of a completely new paradigm shift.”
Automation Anywhere now has 4000 customers, ranging from the Fortune 500 to small businesses, and are present in almost every industry, including 98% of the American SLED market. They have 1.8 million bots deployed, close to 900,000 community members, and 1900 global partners. They now have 40 offices worldwide, and a $6.8 billion valuation. Salesforce is now their largest investor.
The company focused on their strategy in responding to the pandemic, and, more importantly the strategy going forward around the issues that it raised.
“The first phase of the COVID-19 challenges was around business continuity,” said Riadh Dridi Automation Anywhere’s CMO. “We saw some amazing responses from some customers, with old use cases accelerated and new ones introduced.”
The second phase is the development of Back To Work and ongoing remote working strategies, in which Dridi said hybrid strategies will dominate, particularly around collaboration and contact tracing bots.
“The biggest challenge is the third phase – business resiliency, particularly the automation of critical back office and front office processes,” Dridi stressed.
“In the post-COVID world, digital transformation itself has been disrupted,” said Brian Solis, Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. “There has been a forced reprioritization about what really matters, which involves using automation to improve agent and customer experiences. Solis stated that 84% of customers said customer experience is as important as products and services.
“In assessing the impact of RPA post-COVID, 80% of repetitive tasks that can be automated remain undiscovered, and new repetitive processes will be introduced,” he added
Dridi said that Automation Anywhere is reacting to these trends by looking to automate more key processes to make businesses resilient, including these ones that do not yet exist.
“Automating the front office remains a problem,” he stated. “There are issues with seamless integration between RPA and API-based applications. We also need to democratize RPA more in the enterprise.”
The API integration issue is addressed with a simplified API-based integration with Mulesoft, which is now of course part of Salesforce. Automation Anywhere Bots for Mule 4 connector let developers leverage the speed and resiliency of MuleSoft API data transmission with Automation Anywhere’s RPA suite to simplify bot development.
Front office automation issues created by the movement of much of the Contact Center workforce to home offices are addressed with Interactive Forms, which provide a software bot to any front office customer service agent working remotely or in the office,
“The bots let agents do what they need to do without toggling,” Dridi said. “They free up more than 50% of agent task time. Many now work from home, so there is a need to protect for privacy purposes. Screens with bank accounts are now being displayed in someone’s home, so the bot makes sure only the information that is needed is visible to the agent.”
The Developer Portal has been enhanced to provide an integrated resource for intelligent automation development and RPA skills enhancement.
“This will enhance skills for everyone from citizen developers to professional developers,” Dridi noted.
Automation Anywhere has introduced the ability for companies to create their own Private Bot Stores, which provide a structured, customized ecosystem for organizations to onboard, learn, and collaborate.
“We have the largest public Bot Stores in the industry, and these will now allow companies to do the same in-house,” Dridi indicated.
Automation Anywhere has also introduced new Cloud Starter Packs to let companies use the expanding presence of bots in the cloud with just a few clicks.
“This provides an intuitive RPA SaaS buying experience starting at $750 per month, and is an industry first for RPA,” Dridi said.
“In many ways, we are just scratching the surface of this,” Shukla said. “The next five years will completely restructure and rewire how we work.”