How do 6 Global Heads of Automation from the Fortune 500 think about the future?

We at boldstart are fortunate to be in New York City and the metro area, home to 65+ Fortune 500 organizations. If you follow some of our key themes, a recurring one is how every Fortune 500 is a tech company that happens to be a bank, a health care firm, or “insert industry”. These large companies are moving faster than ever before and looking to innovative technology and the cloud to maintain their competitive positioning. Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, encapsulates this thought well in his annual letter:

One final but key issue: Agile platforms and cloud capabilities not only allow you to do things much faster but also enable you to organize teams differently. You can create smaller teams of five to 20 people who can be continually reimagining, reinventing and rolling out new products and services in a few days instead of months.

It’s quite astounding that a CEO of a $345 billion market cap company is talking about agility, cloud, and developers. Near the top of their list along with cloud and AI is intelligent automation. How can software automate routine business processes and execute human tasks? Most recently we co-hosted a dinner with Wipro/Wipro Ventures and had the global heads of automation from 6 Fortune 500 companies join us along with 2 of our portfolio companies, FortressIQ and Catalytic.

We had a lively discussion and I thought I’d share a few nuggets of wisdom from that evening:

  1. Every company in the room was standardizing on either Automation Anywhere or UIPath
  2. Most had multiple tools in their organizations — 4–6 and expect to try others (hey startups, there is room for you!)
  3. There is no intelligence in intelligent automation — can’t do exception handling, still need orchestration — next wave will be incorporating ML/AI to enable bots to make decisions
  4. Many bots break on a daily basis, some of these corporations have automation centers of excellence fixing and others are working with outsourced providers like Wipro and others
  5. Need to make it easier to deploy, install, and manage, still 50% of cost of RPA comes from services for an implementation
  6. No right unit of measurement — # of bots, human FTEs, # of tasks to measure ROI
  7. RPA is task oriented vs process oriented, bots do a good job of executing tasks but if errors, you can’t inject humans into a process and make it end-to-end
  8. All of the current tech still built on old tech, both AA and UIPath were started many years ago — AA in 2003 and UIPath in 2005
  9. RPA or RIA was mostly focused on back office — finance, HR — onboarding, offboarding, invoicing
  10. Still friction from employees as they worry about losing their jobs, retraining super important
  11. Before automating, need to understand the work process, many of which have been ingrained for years — could be opportunity for process reengineering before automating
  12. Observation that Silicon Valley missed the RPA space early even though it’s been around for awhile in various forms from BPM to RPA. Traditional market evolution has been that new enterprise technology spawns out of Silicon Valley web-scale companies moving to to enterprise vs. starting in the Fortune 500 like RPA did (UIPath, Blue Prism, AA).

My perspective is that there are a huge number of opportunities ahead as the notable leaders, UIPath and Automation Anywhere, will not own the whole market. Areas of opportunity could be orchestrating workflows which would incorporate RPA tasks along with humans (Catalytic), process mining using ML/machine vision to get accurate view of how work is done (FortressIQ), monitoring bot deployments like New Relic for systems, building a full end-to-end RPA suite from scratch on top of latest architecture — distributed architecture, containerized or serverless, k8s orchestration with ease of use so business analysts can create processes, vertical where specific domain knowledge is needed along with access to proprietary data in perhaps insurance claims, health care, and other areas.

Bottom line is that automation is here to stay and the future is bright!

Please reach out to CXO@boldstart.vc if you are a Fortune 500 starting on your automation journey or interested in meeting next generation startups.