Why is APAC currently spending big money on RPA?

For decades, the world has hoped for a reality where technology can function without the need for human intervention. This distant and imagined future will soon become a tangible reality as tech organisations reach unprecedented levels of innovation and performance over time.

From automation to artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning technologies, organisations have become smarter in adopting less manual means of operation. Automation technologies like Robotic Processing Automation (RPA) have been around for the last ten years and organisations are now anticipating the returns from integrating this into their business.

What is RPA?

As defined by Deloitte, RPA is a software that automates repetitive, rules-based processes – usually performed by people on a computer device. By interacting with applications just as a human would, software robots can open email attachments, complete e-forms, record and re-key data, and perform other tasks that can mimic human actions.

Why are companies investing in RPA?

In a global study conducted by Protiviti and ESI ThoughtLab, companies are committed to spending an average of $5 million on RPA software this year. In comparison, large organisations with a greater budget scope, plan to invest between $10 million and $20 million annually in RPA systems as they look to also automate their business processes.

The reason for the focus on RPA is due to the fact that technology has now advanced to the point where businesses processes can actually reap the returns of investment. For instance, it frees up the resources that were once focused on manual and repetitive work, therefore allowing businesses to achieve cost savings.

Within the Asia Pacific (APAC) region, Australia and Singapore have been the forerunners in adopting RPA – while those in India, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are currently planning to make the leap. This is catalysed from a positive outlook in the RPA sector where APAC’s market size is estimated to be USD $2.9 billion by 2021 and projected to grow by 203% by 2021 reported, as reported by PwC.

What are the benefits of RPA?

  1. Increased productivity with AI

RPA software can run in the background 24/7, following “if-this-then-that rules-based algorithms” that help to automate back-end processes. It frees human workers to engage in higher-value tasks where they are more needed, especially in client-facing roles where admin can distract from servicing customers.

For example, IBM partnered with global RPA provider Automation Anywhere to bring RPA software to banks and firms who wish to adopt automation in their operations. IBM now provides its RPA products to clients across the financial services sector, thereby covering a multitude of areas such as payments, account management, wealth, operations, risk and compliance, and even Anti Money Laundering (AML).

DBS, one of IBM clients, is also leveraging on IBM’s offerings to develop RPA applications. DBS enjoyed the benefits of automating 100 complex business processes, freeing up 2,500 work hours that its employees can apply to higher-value tasks. Its money laundering analysts used to spend between 30 to 45 minutes manually gathering account and transaction data for analysis. In contrast, an RPA-enabled data search takes just 15 minutes as highlighted in IBM’s report.

  1. Improved customer experience

Customer demand today dictates the speed of action, rapidly changing requirements and bespoke offerings that businesses can provide. This is particularly evident within the finance industry where banking is moving towards the digital. With RPA taking over tasks such as generating statements, banks now have the capacity to send automated reminders to customers, as well as balancing the transactions they make real-time.

For example, CIMB has enhanced and simplified banking operations to provide our customers with faster and more seamless banking experience. The positive improvements with RPA are also witnessed by other banks through the automation of routine back office tasks as reported recently by Credit Suisse, OCBC, and even Japan's Sumitomo Mitsui.

  1. More opportunities with more jobs created

A report from Gartner, which predicts that RPA and AI will create 2.3 million more jobs than it will eliminate 1.8 million by 2020. This corroborates with Accenture’s study which notes that the total number of jobs lost to intelligent automation will be lesser than what it will create in the future.

Many RPA companies are expanding in the region due to substantial funding and commitment from the government. Singapore in particular will soon emerge as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) hub for RPA as organisations continue to establish their Centre of Excellence (CoE) in the country. Hong Kong, Japan and Australia are also jumping onto the bandwagon to set up their own CoEs in light of embracing the digital era of technologies.

While there is an optimistic outlook in the RPA market within the APAC region, the success of RPA is dependent on organisations’ ability to implement RPA solutions in their operations as well as their ability to hire and train existing talent.

While tech skillsets can be transferrable from the old and new technologies such as AI, talent with html5, Blue Prism and UiPath knowledge are still valued by many organisations. Soft skills like relationship management is also essential as RPA is not sold directly to enterprises but through an advisory firm that supports their solutions.

Interested to find out more?

If you are looking for opportunities within the RPA market, or if your company is looking for niche talent to support your organisation’s RPA strategy, do follow us on Linkedin or drop us an email at [email protected]

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