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RPA - Just another low-code/no-code tool?

Remember a while back when Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was such hot tech. Gartner defines RPA as “the market for licensed software platforms used for building scripts to integrate any application via a user interface and a control dashboard or orchestrator. RPA platforms automate repetitive, rule-based, predictable tasks”*. In Gartner’s RPA magic quadrant report they state that “Robotic process automation remains the fastest-growing software market, as RPA is one of the most popular choices for improving operational efficiency with tactical automation”*. Finally in their 2022 Tech trends report Gartner emphasis Hyperautomation**. So yes, RPA was hot and still is hot.

In Gartner’s definition lets start with “building scripts to integrate any application”. At the beginning I was a bit critical of RPA as to me it was just a simplistic way for users to build integrations. “Why can’t our IT department just integrate this stuff and make it more robust vs poor business folks having to build it?” was what I always asked myself. So if you read the RPA definition again we now get to “via a user interface”. Nice user interface and simplistic are the key words. It is so much more efficient to have the business serve themselves to solve simple automation scenarios. That is the whole beauty of Low-code/No-code. (If you click the link to my blog you’ll see that I’m a big fan)

So is RPA just a subset of low-code/no-code platforms? Most people know flow or automate from Microsoft’s O365 suite. So are low-code/no-code offerings from Microsoft, Outsystems, Mendix, Salesforce now competitors of RPA vendors?

Or should we continue to re-read the RPA definition to get to “control dashboard or orchestrator”. This gets my brain thinking back to RPAs being used to integrate applications. So are the competitors integration platforms like Boomi, Mulesoft, IBM Cloud Integration, Azure Integration Services, …?

The takeaway from all of this to me is that every IT platform is going to have a low-code/no-code offering. So now the question is which one to stick with.

  • Do you use the integration platforms to do RPA?

  • Does your RPA vendor become your integration vendor?

  • Will RPA just be a component of your low-code/no-code development platform?

  • Is your RPA vendor your low-code/no-code development platform?

Although we see this huge growth for RPA vendors I think your pure breed RPA vendor is going to get replaced by one of your other low-code/no-code offerings from broader platform vendors. Or you’ll get lucky and your RPA vendor will be purchased by one of the big guys and they’ll consolidate the tech for you. Your thoughts?

*Gartner Magic Quadrant for Robotic Process Automation. Published 29 September 2021 - ID G00733929

**Gartner Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2022

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