Intelligent process automation: There is a lot of potential left

Study by IDC
Intelligent process automation: There is a lot of potential left

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For example, in order to optimize and accelerate value chains, intelligent process automation is an effective technology. Nevertheless, there is a lot of potential in German companies, as an IDC study shows.

Artificial intelligence is an important tool in process automation for improving and modernizing solutions.
Artificial intelligence is an important tool in process automation for improving and modernizing solutions.

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According to a study by IDC, process automation is used almost nationwide in German companies. Nevertheless, there is still no company-wide penetration of the business areas and there is still a lot of potential left in the use of the available tools and solutions. However, the study also shows that the potential of intelligent process automation is high and the usage rates will increase rapidly in the next 24 months, if you believe the plans of the respondents.

The goals of intelligent process automation (IPA) are almost congruent with the business priorities of the companies. These include reducing operating and product costs (32%), improving employee performance and attracting and developing talent (31%), improving sustainability (30%) and modernizing processes (29%).

“The results clearly show the value contribution of automation that organizations are facing in the current challenging year 2022,” says Matthias Zacher, Senior Consulting Manager and Project Manager of the study.

Further development of technologies

Process automation is not a new topic, but a lot has changed technologically in the past five years. In robot-controlled process automation (RPA), for example, different types of bots are available today. 37 Percent of the companies surveyed by IDC use supervised bots, 33 percent use unattended bots, and 29 percent use hybrid bots. According to the market researchers, the share of their use will increase rapidly and double within the next 24 months, as these software programs take on more and more tasks to directly support employees, act independently and fully automatically in the IT systems and make suggestions for decision preparation.

In addition to the classic RPA, solutions and technologies such as process mining (35%), workflow automation (34%), workflow orchestration (29%) and case management (29%) significantly expand the potential of automation. Consequently, RPA and Business Process Management (BPM) are getting closer and closer. IDC is observing a clear trend towards ecosystems and platforms. In this way, the providers are responding to the requirements of the users, because according to the survey, 67 percent consider platforms and the orchestration of the tools as a significant added value for automation. However, this requires comprehensive transparency and consistent use of standards in order to achieve positive effects quickly.

IPA establishes itself

In addition to robotic process automation, intelligent process automation is becoming more and more established. The software is a portfolio of technologies that are used to restructure, integrate, orchestrate and automate business processes and the associated processes. This makes it possible to combine processes in process chains and let them interact with each other. More than 30 percent of the companies surveyed already use IPA tools. In the next 24 months, more than 70 percent already want to use these tools.

Artificial Intelligence in Automation

The use of artificial intelligence, as in many other areas of companies, is also considered an important tool for improving and modernizing solutions in process automation. It is therefore not surprising that 26 percent of decision-makers specifically focus on cognitive RPA. In addition, there is the fact that AI is present in more and more solutions as a partial functionality, such as in document processing and conversational AI (30%). These two usage paths will mean that more than half of the solutions will be equipped with AI functionalities in the next 24 months, according to IDC.

Process Mining

Process mining is basically about fact-based recognition of process deviations and inefficiencies in order to systematically improve processes and thus also automate them. The IDC study shows that two basic application scenarios have been established. On the one hand, this is a one-time use, for example for the planning of process improvements (49%), to support the process modeling of individual processes (33%) or to support migrations (32%). In addition, companies regularly use process mining, for example for audits (34%), for problem identification (33%), for performance monitoring (32%) or for permanent process optimization.

The coexistence and cooperation of tools

For decision-makers, the question also arises of the juxtaposition and coexistence of tools for process automation and business applications. 68 Percent of decision-makers believe that business applications such as ERP and CRM will have complete “built-in” automation functions in the medium term. From IDC’s point of view, there will only be partial functional overlaps between RPA and business applications in the long term. How this point will develop in detail, especially in numerous German industrial companies with their ERP systems pending replacement, cannot yet be conclusively evaluated. However, this much can already be stated today: with the use of low-code and no-code, users have another tool at their disposal that allows new approaches to solutions. 24 Percent of respondents see this as an approach to simplify the implementation of process automation.

IPA and the Public Cloud

According to the market researchers, the better process automation is supported by the cloud, the more successful it is. According to the study, only 29 percent of the solutions currently come from the public cloud. A major reason for this is that RPA solutions were originally strongly non-cloud. For this reason, 36 percent of companies today still use solutions for business process optimization on-premises and another 35 percent in the private cloud, i.e. in their own data center. But the trend for the next 24 months is clear. After all, 59 percent of respondents want to increase public cloud use. From IDC’s point of view, two reasons are decisive for this: On the one hand, more and more providers have placed SaaS solutions on the market and thus created an offer that has high growth rates. Secondly, cloud-based process automation benefits greatly from the trend towards the public cloud in business applications, as RPA and IPA are strongly networked with these solutions.

Conclusion of IDC

Overall, the study shows that process automation is being pushed further – not least due to the economic framework conditions in the organizations. The topic is by no means new and has been present in the form of RPA in numerous companies for many years. However, process automation is currently undergoing a change. While the potential for RPA remains high, IPA is becoming increasingly important. The closer connection of RPA, BPM and integration tools as well as the rapid technological progress in AI, including analytical approaches, significantly increase the benefits and added value of process automation for companies. This paves the way for end-to-end automation based on IPA and ecosystems. Many processes in the core applications are outdated and urgently need to be modernized. This requires a precise analysis of the processes – i.e. process mining.

Despite all the differences in the technical requirements, the mapping, automation, management and orchestration of the processes should also be promoted on the basis of standards. It must now be the common goal of providers and users to overcome the technological challenges together. Judging by the current survey, companies are on the right track to increase the automation of their processes and procedures and thus set the course for successful digitization.


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