Big Tech in RPA could bring automation acceptance to mass audiences

Photo by Jonas Jacobsson

There's a lot more to automation than RPA alone. But if Microsoft and other big names show how accessible and effective it can be, we all stand to benefit.

Despite everything you’ve heard, robotic process automation is still under the radar when it comes to the mainstream press. Just a quick search for ‘RPA’ using something like NewsNow and the results include mostly niche technology outlets, or press release specialists. However, this could soon change, with Microsoft becoming more prevalent as a significant player in the RPA arena. If history has taught us anything, mainstream media loves a big name.

Apparently, Microsoft’s relatively sudden interest in the low-code RPA space is a bad thing for RPA companies. We’re not so sure. The most obvious angle to scrutinise is Microsoft’s strong legacy of corporate relationship building. A cynic might say Microsoft benefits from corporate apathy, so if its new software is part of Office 365, decision makers say: “Let’s just use that.” But we’re not cynical, so we won’t. Instead, we see the benefits of Microsoft’s focus on RPA, and what it means for the future of automation in general.

Taking things beyond RPA, with a little help

What we want at Aito want more than anything is universal knowledge and acceptance of the power and potential of automation. The more people know about automation, the better. With thinking time, we believe most sensible organisations would come to the conclusion that automation will help their businesses function more efficiently. RPA is part of the machinery of automation, with artificial intelligence and machine learning being others. Knowing a little something about how each interacts with the other is no bad thing. And if the likes of Microsoft and similar familiar names (such as Google and Amazon) dip their significantly big toes into the waters of automation, we're all for it.

There are always gaps between what’s marketed, what’s actually achievable, and what’s realistic. If large tech companies introduce simple, low-code tools to the masses, it follows that curious business minds will want to explore them. It’s simplistic to presume that having Microsoft at the core of your enterprise means it will be the perfect solution for RPA too. Far better to think of it as an introduction to what’s available and what's possible, and how business processes can be inspected from different angles. They’re often complicated angles, and as Liam Neeson might say, require “a very particular set of skills”.

This is where we peel back the curtains and reveal machine learning. While the workhorse that is RPA pushes and pulls tirelessly at rules-based processes, ML drops a saddle on its back and whispers predictive pathways into its ear. And it takes expert knowledge and skill to be able to help organisations identify and implement these pathways to make sometimes thousands of processes more efficient. ML is the sugar rush RPA needs to be able to take process automation to the next level.

Owning the process – details and everything

Another pleasing side effect of Big Tech in RPA is that, when it comes to analysing processes, it may become more acceptable at corporate level for process owners to … well … own the process! This is definitely a good thing. Being amenable to standing back and looking at the big picture, while listening to process owners who understand the details, makes concrete use cases rise to the surface. These may be scenarios that, without prior knowledge of intelligent automation technology, would have remained undiscovered had it not been for your household-name suite of low-code tools.

Big Tech such as Microsoft, Google, and Amazon has the potential to reveal to mass audiences what we’ve known all along: that automation can improve almost any business. If the tools they deliver to users are easy to use and universally acceptable to non-techies, the more opportunities we’ll see right across the board. From familiar use cases to the undiscovered, we may actually be on the cusp of a truly remarkable era of mass business automation, and that’s exciting!

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