Disclaimer: The following content is solely the observations and opinion of the author. Ashling Partners is a UiPath partner.
The UiPath Forward III conference was in Las Vegas last week, and it is hard to imagine that the largest gathering of RPA practitioners can be topped. Trying to condense key trends for this year’s event into a blog has proven to be much more challenging than previous years based solely on the sheer volume of product announcements. I have learned to take a couple of days to write these ‘lessons learned’ reviews for any conference to allow for the concepts to marinade and , when Las Vegas is involved, to ensure that sleep deprivation doesn’t affect my thoughts. I added a day or two to this year’s UiPath Forward III marinade time frame to allow for proper digestion. There was surely plenty of exciting news to lose sleep over in a good way.
This absorption period has also allowed the collective Ashling Partners’ team to compare key trends based on our market experiences while also comparing the evolution of the topics and overall sentiment to last year’s UiPath Forward conference. The upward trajectory of both UiPath and holistic intelligent automation is a movement of historic significance. The market is aware of the growth based on announcements like this from Gartner. However, in my humble opinion, anyone in the enterprise technology or business leadership space should double click on what they think they know about RPA and intelligent automation. They should have a decision matrix on if/how/when/why they should adopt the rapid pace of innovation occurring in the market. Below is a condensed version of the key points that the Ashling team took note of while we were there:
It’s not about just RPA anymore
It’s always been about business outcomes. We can lose sight of it due to the throws of project work, but a business outcome orientation has typically taken many technologies and process know how. Those of us in the space for some time have recognized the need for orchestrated intelligent automation as the path forward. RPA is a critical lever you can and should pull, but other automation technologies are needed upstream and downstream in order to enable a higher percentage of automation and thus achieve more business outcomes. UiPath has extended their platform to take on more complex, end-to-end automations and some the orchestration themselves. Their traditional platform enabled organizations to Build, Manage, and Run task automations. Their new platform will enable organizations to Plan, Build, Manage, Run, Measure, and Engage more complex automations.
What a difference a year makes
While last year’s UiPath Forward event was great, several differences stuck out to me about this year’s event:
Market Size: Craig LeClair from Forrester spoke again at the conference. The market size continues to increase, with forecasts of the RPA market being $16.2 billion by 2023. UiPath’s customer count was at 1760 in 2018 and is now at 5,027. This growth is does not seem to be slowing down
Event Size: This year’s conference had close to 4,000 participants. That is more than triple last year’s event. More notably, according to Bobby Patrick, 91% of the registered attendees actually showed up to the event, while the average industry event attendee rating is 75%. That shows the excitement and interest in this market and in UiPath.
Scale Success: Last year, the discussion was about taking successes within RPA to scale. Most examples were still in ‘Pilot’ phases. This year, there were dozens of scale stories ranging from Amazon to United Health Group to the United Nations. This is a tipping point and the first movers are already on their second and third moves.
No CeeLo Green: It’s hard to top last year’s performance by CeeLo Green. At least around Ashling, it is the stuff of legends. The ‘America’s Got Talent’ performers during the ‘Celebration’ event were spectacular. It’s clear that UiPath is committed to making this an insightful AND fun event gathering for years to come.
Acquisitions Announced in the Explorer Portfolio
UiPath has historically built most of their product features in-house and added enhancements to their platform based on customer feedback. This year’s event was the announcement of 2 key acquisitions that will allow for quicker access to capabilities that they deem critical in extending the automation capability within our clients. With the announcement of StepShot and ProcessGold (see point below), UiPath enhances their capability to identify, document, analyze and prioritize processes as a part of the UiPath Explorer family of products. We have already received many inquiries about the Explorer family of products as process understanding and selectin has long been a bottleneck for many businesses.
The New Frontier of the ‘Explorer’ & Process Discovery
Expanding on the point above, UiPath has created a whole family of products under the ‘Explorer’ moniker. This includes the acquired solutions as well as the Connect Enterprise solution which is hub to ideate can manage the entire automation life cycle with instant transparency and control.
Process discovery deserves its own call out as the #1 reason that specific automations and overall intelligent automation programs stall is a lack of a process foundation. This typically comes from a lack of understanding on what is really happening within business processes (and politics). That’s where process discovery comes into place. Traditional, we have leveraged techniques ranging from interviewing process owner/actors/participants, business process modelers, and process mining. Process mining specifically is an established but emerging category (if Gartner doesn’t have a Magic Quadrant for your category yet, then can it be called established?). The business benefits can be immense. This should enable a quicker time-to- market and allow enterprise to build more impactful bots. This is also the baseline data for better process analytics and will allow an easier path to chart continuous process improvement plans as organizations can layer in predictive analytics. From a business sense, it also makes an organization nimbler in acquiring and onboarding entities and transforming broader global processes.
It’s in the Cloud
There have already been several components like UiPath Orchestrator available as a SaaS solution. UiPath has taken it to the next level by enabling a full cloud platform for its customers that sits on Microsoft Azure. While it’s clear that many larger enterprises may still want to leverage a private or virtual environment, this does allow all organizations to remove the barrier of infrastructure as they test departmental relevance of RPA automations. According to UiPath, more than 30,000 robots were connected via the enterprise cloud in the last 30 day. The UiPath Cloud Platform is fully available for on-premises customers in November 2019.
Triple A: Analytics, Apps, and AI…oh My.
“Automation is the Application”, stated Daniel Dines during his partner keynote. What he means is that it’s no different than going to Oracle for your Databases or Tableau for Analytics. You will go to UiPath for automation. With that, there were adjacent product announcements involving this trend. Similar to HfS's 'Triple A Trifecta' model, many of the announcements centered around broader Automation, Analytics, and AI. Below are a few of these key announcements:
- UiPath Apps: Managing exceptions and approvals within RPA platforms has always been a challenge. Apps enables more of the Human-in-the-Loop process to allow for greater end-to-end automation beyond an email kickout to identified approvers.
- AI Fabric: In order to take on more complex automations, there is a growing need to invoke machine learning models directly into RPA workflows. AI Fabric connects RPA and data science teams and helps customers operationalize and consume their machine learning models directly in RPA workflows.
- Insights: In many engagements, we have had to build custom Power BI or Kibana dashboards to help monitor the health of RPA operations within a COE. This new pre-built analytics and reporting package enhances the request from process owners to better gage the health of the operations beyond Orchestrator reports.
- Studio X: UiPath’s answer to the Citizen Developer question, this simplified version of the development studio promises to put the automation in the hands of the business by enabling a no-code/low-code capability.
Is your heard spinning, yet?! The confusion will continue to increase, but so will the excitement and opportunity for businesses to make an impact. Case and point- at a different conference across the country this week, Gartner’s IT Symposium announced their much anticipated ‘Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020’. Hyperautomation was #1, and that Gartner-ized term is code for broader intelligent automation. To say that there were a lot of ‘Hyperautomation’ announcements stemming from this year’s UiPath Forward III conference is a gross understatement. We have been working with some of these announcements under private preview for some time, and even we were overwhelmed with all the product enhancements and launches at the event. It’s hard to get past the product announcements, but listening to client stories and growing expectations will always be my favorite part of this conference. We believe in the ‘automation first’ era, and were very motivated by the humble and community-centric approach that UiPath has taken to shaping their vision of the future of work. We said it last year and will say it again, the RPA market continues to shift into the next gear, but the car is now much bigger.
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Disclosure Statement: Ashling Partners is a partner of many of the technology companies mentioned in this article.