Blue Prism is relying on channel partners to transform its robotic process automation solutions from fledgling software into mainstream technology.
As part of the market's evolution, the RPA software vendor is building up its channel program and luring well-known firms like Accenture, EY and IBM. "We have been making big investments in building up our partner programs because they are key to our success," stated Pat Geary, chief marketing officer at Blue Prism.
RPA is a nascent software category that automates routine tasks so organizations replace mundane, repetitive but important human actions with intelligent bot software. Making such changes enables businesses to improve data accuracy by eliminating errors that occur in keying data; streamlines data capture; and reduces personnel costs, sometimes quite dramatically.
But the tools are in early stage of development, and in the process of carving out their own market niche. The term RPA is only a few years old. While it is understood in select industries or certain departments in large organizations, many executives are not familiar with the acronym.
RPA software: Tracing the family legacy
So, explanation is needed. RPA's roots are in artificial intelligence, horizontal solutions that can be applied to any task in any industry. RPA works with structured data: usually information stored and searchable in a relational database management system. While RPA software could theoretically help any business, it is well-suited to healthcare, financial services and insurance, markets where standard forms are used to collect information necessary for business operations.
Manish Sharmagroup operating officer, Accenture Operations
For instance a bot could automatically route insurance claims from a healthcare provider to an insurance company. "Many RPA deployments have strong ROI with corporations recouping their investments in months," said Cathy Tornbohm, research vice president at Gartner.
Currently, the RPA market is small but gaining traction. Automation Anywhere, Conduent Business Services LLC, Epiance, Infosys, Jacada, Kryon Systems, Lexmark (Kofax Kapow), Nice, OpenConnect, Pegasystems, Redwood Software, UiPath, Verint and WorkFusion are some of the vendors selling such offerings.
Creating a new channel
Given the market's nascent state, its channel programs are fledgling or nonexistent. RPA software involves custom development projects, deployments where organizations examine their business processes, identify areas that can be automated, write routines, integrate the RPA software into applications and business processes and train employees.
"RPA offers partners the potential for a lot of consulting, integration and training work," Geary said.
As a result, Blue Prism, whose partners account for 90% of its sales now, has been building up its channel network. About 35 resellers have already teamed up with the software vendor. Accenture and Blue Prism deployed more than 40 RPA solutions, counting international retailer Circle K and Raiffeisen Bank International among their customers, according to Manish Sharma, group operating officer at Accenture Operations, which employs 120,000 professionals.
Blue Prism's Geary said that the company would like to increase its channel program, so it accounts for 100% of its sales. To help with that evolution, the vendor announced a certification program in March. The program features three certifications (Delivery Provider, Capability Provider and Service Provider), each with two levels: silver and gold.
As of March 2017, half a dozen partners had been certified. Accenture plans to certify 600 of its professionals. "We recognize the value that certification programs can provide in an increasingly complex, crowded RPA environment," Accenture's Sharma said.
Risk and Reward
While the RPA market offers resellers opportunities, it also carries risks. Partners need to become evangelists touting the software's potential to executives who may know little to nothing about it. The suppliers have limited track records, so their futures are unclear.
Businesses are interested in intelligent bot software since it can improve their operations. RPA software is a niche with great potential; however, at the moment, the channel infrastructure is not well-developed, so partners will take on some level of risk if they enter this space.
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