The backbone technology of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been around for more than a decade. It has experienced significant growth in the last 6-8 years and is viewed by Gartner as the fastest growing software market.

Except for financial services companies and some specific firms that have gone all-in to transform or build business processes from the ground up with automation as the starting point, RPA has often not delivered its promises of revolutionizing how (computer-based) work is done.

In my personal experience, speaking with platform companies, integrators, and, more importantly, users of RPA technology, there is a familiar pattern. Excitement at the beginning, some early wins, then after a couple of years, the realization that the RPA Center of Excellence is, in fact, a rather smaller team than originally envisioned doing very tactical work. Add to that the fact that the IT department in these companies is often no more than tolerant, that there are always big systems transformations that get in the way of RPA-type opportunities, that business support is often at lower levels than optimal and it is not a huge surprise that RPA has, in many cases, been relegated to "just another tool."

However, as the quote from the CTO of Kryon suggests, perhaps this technology is simply following the well-trodden S-curve of technology maturity. Whereas the original adoption of this technology was for cost reduction, the pandemic has perhaps accelerated the shift in adoption (think: shared services centers with lots of people in close proximity) but also helped create a shift from viewing RPA as a cost-reduction tool to something that can help a company scale, grow and offer new services

Wouldn't it be nice if RPA can pivot from being something to reduce cost to something that can really help with scaling and growth? So, perhaps the beginning of the RPA boom is nearly ended, but companies who have that in-house tactical capability have a potential jewel that can be used in far more interesting ways.