MSPs often deal with customers who are using older technology, sometimes years or decades old. In small and medium businesses if it’s not broken you probably aren’t going to invest resources by modernizing the toolset.

But one thing you can do is bring a taste of automation to these legacy processes with a technology called robotic process automation, or RPA, which automates a bunch of manual processes.

For instance, you may get a check, enter the amount paid into a spreadsheet and send a note to accounting that money is available. This might involve sending an email and creating an online deposit ticket. You could also record this process with RPA. As soon as the number hits the spreadsheet, it would kick off the process automatically, rather than making employees do all of this manually.

It’s not fancy. It’s more like a sophisticated macro recorder from the 1990s, recording a set of processes and then carrying it out for the end user. What RPA really does is speed up these manual processes with a taste of automation. This can be useful for a lot of companies who aren’t ready to invest in new systems.

Vendors in this growing space include startups like UIPath and Blue Prism, who have both benefited from big VC investments. Just this week, Microsoft announced it had acquired RPA vendor Softmotive to beef up RPA in its cloud portfolio of products.

This is a case of Microsoft catching up with a niche, which Gartner reported last year was the fastest growing enterprise software category. It was growing 63 percent, and the research company predicted the category would surpass $1 billion in 2019.

Some numbers

Abbyy, the scanning software company, conducted a survey recently involving 400 decision makers including senior directors, managing directors, owners and C-Level professionals. These companies all had over 50 employees.

The survey bore out what Gartner was predicting and what their research revealed. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents reported they were using RPA or intended to use it within the next 12 months. That means it’s something you should probably be thinking about, especially for larger clients with more complex workflows who are looking for ways to increase efficiency in a world of economic uncertainty.

These findings also certainly suggest that at the very least you should be looking at RPA options and see if it’s a software that could help your clients navigate this tenuous environment and look for ways to streamline operations and cut costs.

Photo: Bas Nastassia / Shutterstock

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Posted by Ron Miller

Ron Miller is a freelance technology reporter and blogger. He is contributing editor at EContent Magazine and enterprise reporter at TechCrunch.

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