The business upheavals resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic have had mixed effects across the global economy. Industry sectors like leisure and transportation have suffered significant negative impacts, while others, including online services and home delivery operations, have thrived during the rolling lockdowns.
Additional effects have emerged from the need for many businesses, large and small, to rapidly refocus their operations. These may occur in response to additional customer demands for existing products and services for example, or in order to accommodate altered work practices and social changes, such as remote working or distance learning. A case in point is robotic process automation (RPA), where software ‘bots’ are typically designed to handle a range of routine office tasks, such as processing payroll data or expense reports, and fielding call-center queries.
Robotic Process Automation Use Case #1: Walgreens Pharmacy
While some companies outsource the development of bots to third-party software firms, there are also easily-accessible RPA platforms that are designed to enable businesses to make their own custom-made tools. One such business is pharmacy chain Walgreens Boots Alliance which, according to the Wall Street Journal, has been using an RPA platform provided by Automation Anywhere Inc. to deploy its own bots in several business areas, including order processing, human resources, and supply chain operations.
In addition to streamlining time-intensive user interaction processes, the bots are enabling the company to handle a growing volume of online orders and Covid-19-related customer queries, and are helping to increase employee productivity and morale by reducing workload.
Automation Anywhere’s RPA platform incorporates AI-based cognitive automation and embedded workforce analytics to manage and scale business processes faster. Earlier this month, the company announced an increased focus on providing suites of cloud-based RPA products, where groups of ‘microservices’ can be deployed, scaled, and managed more nimbly than conventional server-based applications.
Robotic Process Automation Use Case #2: Banking Industry
Another pandemic-driven adoption of RPA systems may be found in the banking sector, which has been scrambling to rapidly process loan applications under the US federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Backed by the US Small Business Administration (SBA), the PPP enables banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions to offer low-cost loans to help small employers avoid workforce layoffs during the pandemic. Many such institutions have reported up to a five-fold workload increase in SBA applications, which need to be handled in a very timely manner.
John Steinmetz, CEO of Vista Bank, a Texas-based regional lender, calls Automation Anywhere’s bot a ‘game-changer’ that is helping his institution efficiently get critical PPP funds into the hands of thousands of small businesses, as well as helping with other banking processes like customer service requests, loss mitigation, and loan restructuring.
Robotic Process Automation: The Companies Leading the Way
San José-based Automation Anywhere has recently beefed up its senior executive team by bringing in Mike Micucci and James Budge as COO and CFO respectively. Micucci was formerly the head of the Commerce Cloud Division at Salesforce [NYSE:CRM] and Budge had previously led Pluralsight, an online education company, to a successful NASDAQ IPO in 2018.
Recent fund-raising rounds for Automation Anywhere have included influential venture funds like Salesforce Ventures and Workday Ventures, as well as Softbank Vision Fund. Together with the recent executive hires, these investments should help position the company well for an IPO or acquisition in the near future.
Other influential players in the RPA market include UK-based Blue Prism [IPO 2016, LSE:PRSM], which claims to have originally coined the term robotic process automation, and UiPath, which is based in New York and carried out a successful IPO last month [NYSE:PATH]. The overall market for RPA platforms and services appears to be very robust. In essence, the pandemic has acted like a business-resiliency test for many companies, accelerating the adoption of digital technologies like RPA. According to a Deloitte survey in mid-2020, nearly 80% of 440 global corporate executives said they had implemented some form of RPA in the past year, and another 15% said they plan to do so in the next three years.
All of this suggests a very promising future for Automation Anywhere, Inc.
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