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What to Do With RPA

by Debbie Wilson  |  October 18, 2018  |  Comments Off on What to Do With RPA

me2 Ohio State

RPA (robotic process automation) is hot!  This term – which refers to small “bots” that automate manual tasks – has ranked between #5 and #7 in searches on over the summer.  To satisfy the demand for information on RPA, Gartner has published many works on the subject, including a market guide and several deployment best practice notes.

Our published work however cautions clients not use RPA as an alternative when more robust, configured enterprise applications are available.  The notion behind this advice is that RPA is inferior when compared with configured, enterprise-class solutions purpose-built for a particular process.   Let me give you an example.  One could create an RPA “bot” to transcribe invoice data into an accounts payable system.  OR the accounts payable department could deploy a modern e-invoicing system or B2B network solution that does the same thing.  Neither approach is “correct.”   But I think all of us at Gartner for technology leaders could agree that the enterprise application is the more architecturally clean and flexible way of doing things.

Traditional Gartner for Technology Leaders research, like what I describe above is developed by teams of expert analysts who interpret trends and predict market changes.  This is not the only way we conduct research.  When Gartner acquired CEB in 2017 it got a group that takes an entirely different approach.  CEB practice leaders use client input to determine what topics are most pressing.  CEB then works with its members to identify and share best practices surrounding those topics.  And guess what.  RPA is coming up as a key topic for our members. See the brand new newsletter piece, “Why and How Finance Must Build Robotics Capabilities.”   

So what gives?  Is RPA a crucial technology or not?   Is Heritage Gartner research at odds with CEB research?  Are our contrasting research methodologies compatible?

I find no problem or contradiction here.  In fact, I am thrilled at how our research across the company is unfolding.  Our CEB team is finding some members who are successfully achieving goals through RPA.  What a great check and balance.  This is our CEB team injecting a dose of “well this is what is really happening out in the field,” without any influence from what expert advisors think SHOULD happen. For me, it’s a reminder that sometimes that the best or most logical technology evolution is not always what we see adopted.  And it’s tangible evidence that the combination of Gartner and CEB research methodologies are not just compatible.  Together we provide better advice than ever to our clients: expert recommendations AND field insight.   Regarding RPA – stay tuned!

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Deborah R Wilson
Managing Vice President, ERP Strategy Team
12 years at Gartner
20 years IT industry

Deborah Wilson, a recovering Gartner research analyst, leads the Gartner ERP strategy research team. Read Full Bio

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