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It was just over a year ago when former GigaOm Analyst JP Morgenthal published an in-depth Key Criteria/Market Landscape report, titled “Robotic Process Automation in Digital Transformation.” In it, JP detailed both the benefits and challenges awaiting enterprises seeking to digitize and automate manual processes, and the tooling available to help do so. He also wrote this:
“As for the longer-term prognosis for RPA tooling, adoption will depend on enterprises adopting RPA to support their needs for automating end-to-end processes inclusive of long-running transactions. As illustrated in Figure 1 below, the RPA market currently overlaps with the aspects of Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) and low-code development tooling.”
Figure 1. Confluence of RPA, IPaaS and Low-Code Development
JP in his report contended that enabling full end-to-end process management would require consolidating these three aspects into a unified platform. So when RPA provider UiPath this week announced the launch of UiPath Apps, a low-code app builder that integrates IPaaS capability, it rang a few bells here at GigaOm.
I asked JP about the call he made a year ago and what IT decision makers should take away from this latest development.
“RPA is great for gluing together disparate applications that were never intended to work together, and for which the business world would never see enough return integrating as a formal project within IT,” JP told me in an email interview. “However, not everything can be relegated to a black box. There’s still plenty of need for human intervention to derive end-to-end automation whether it be approvals, escalations, corrections, etc.”
Low-code development tools step in right here, enabling companies to provide user interfaces for human interaction—be it on a PC in the office or a smartphone in an airport. The other component, of course, is data. As JP notes, much of the data used to drive processes is stored in “disparate systems of record,” and that means RPA tooling needs a way to aggregate and transform data as part of the end-to-end automation activities. Enter iPaaS, which provides tooling for data mapping and restructuring.
JP notes that UiPath is not the only outfit working toward an integrated platform that comprises RPA, IPaaS, and low-code development. As vice president and CTO for the Americas at RPA provider Automation Anywhere, he’s had a hand in his company’s partnership with Mulesoft to enable connectors for data aggregation and transformation. And he touts the progress his company is making with “human bot collaboration technology,” which he says manages the handoff in complex processes between bots and humans.
As the race continues to provide more robust, intuitive, and intelligent automation platforms, the compelling value of a unified platform seems clear.
“When I wrote the report, it wasn’t obvious that the RPA market was positioned to move in this direction [toward consolidation],” JP says. “But having delivered solutions for a number of years, it was obvious to me that the audience for these types of products were not going to be interested in a best-of-breed approach. They don’t have the technical support to make that work and it was clear to me that it was not going to take customers long to come back and ask for these features so they could continue their automation journey with a single vendor.”