The uptake of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or bots by businesses in the Middle East has been slow but they are on the path to make large-scale deployments, an industry expert said.
Bot is a piece of software with artificial intelligence (AI) tools which mimics human action and can automate high-volume and repetitive manual tasks in the enterprise sector that previously required human input.
Milan Sheth, Executive Vice-President for India, Middle East and Africa at Silicon Valley-based Automation Anywhere, said that even after 20 years of automation, majority of business process are still manual.
Driving localised solutions
“When we talk about digital in the Middle East, the general idea of digital is that the software is available on a phone or a tablet but that is only the customer interaction while everything within the organistaion, the internal process, is still manual.
“One option we can do is modernising but that is time consuming and will take years while the other option is using RPA and cognitive,” Sheth said.
The Softbank-backed firm opened its regional headquarters in Dubai to forge partnerships in the region in a bid to accelerate the adoption faster.
“Over the next year, we will invest in driving localised solutions to meet unique customer needs in this region, appoint new leadership and develop new engagement models with our partners and customers,” he said.
Aiming to become largest digital employer
RPA helps enterprises raise their productivity, compliance and process efficiency levels; he said and added that Automation Anywhere will be the largest digital employer in the world [with 3m bots] by 2020 from the current 1.5m.
“We have built products to automate the workforce for a modern enterprise. One bot can do productivity of three people and in a much faster way. Between UAE and Saudi Arabia, there will be more and more demand for expanding digital workforce. It will create more jobs locally and instead of offshoring, you are bringing it back using technology and deliver productivity,” he said.
According to research firm Gartner, AI will create 2.3 million jobs in 2020, while eliminating only 1.8 million jobs.
Recent research by PwC Middle East estimated that the AI market in the Middle East could be worth $320b by 2030.
In the Mideast and Africa, the AI investment is expected to be $263 million this year compared to $200 million last year and expected to grow between 25 per cent and 30 per cent annually.
Doubling the regional presence
According to the Automation Anywhere’s research, 72% of global workers see the technology as something they work with, rather than something that will replace them.
Sheth expects RPA will create 133 million new jobs requiring higher level cognitive thinking and creativity, requirements at which humans uniquely excel and which drive the greatest employee satisfaction.
Gartner estimates that 40% of large enterprises will have deployed RPA software by the end of next year, up from less than 10% today.
Automation Anywhere has more than 50 customers in the Middle East, 32 from the UAE.
By 2020, Seth said that he expects to attain 100 customers from the UAE and 400 from the Middle East.
Globally, he said the company aims to attain 4,600 customers this year compared to 2,100 last year.
“We are in discussions with several initiatives in various departments in the UAE. The sectors we are targeting in the Middle East are public and government, banking and finance, oil and gas, retail and FMCG, discrete manufacturing,” he said.