Applications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have exploded — from autonomous vehicles to robotic surgery to virtual assistants like Alexa and Siri — our world is being shaped by this promising technology. Fueled by the advent of big data and advances in processing power, AI uses algorithms to sort through data, learn from it, and make predictions that mimic the way humans think.

One specific application of AI is Robotic Processing Automation or RPA. Unlike our image of robots from sci-fi movies, RPA does not involve actual robots. Rather, the robot or “bot” is essentially automated software programmed to carry out specific tasks in the way that a human would, yet in a high-speed, high-volume and error-free way. (This article from The Enterprisers Project explains more about RPA in plain English.) RPA can automate functions including accounts receivables and payables, order processing tasks, shipment scheduling and tracking, report aggregation, customer and employee data maintenance — and yes, Information Governance (IG) tasks.

Robotic Processing Automation for IG

As referenced in Cohasset Associates’ 2018|2019 Information Governance Benchmarking Report, professionals in IG and Records and Information Management (RIM) are still in the early stages of exploring and deploying advanced technologies such as RPA. According to their research, only and 2% have already deployed RPA; however, 22% of respondents are in progress with an RPA deployment. (Interestingly, these deployment figures were higher than the other advanced technologies respondents were asked about, including cryptocurrency, distributed ledger, technology, and customer service chatbots.) Here’s what respondents said about RPA deployment:

  • 2% – RPA deployed and IG participated
  • 11% – In Progress and IG participating
  • 11% – In Progress, but IG not involved
  • 46% – No planned use
  • 30% – Don’t know

In the world of information management and information governance, RPA can be applied to large data repositories. This makes tasks such as data cleansing, normalization, data wrangling, and creation or updating of metadata more efficient. In the regulatory and compliance area, RPA can help automate manual repetitive reporting of regulations and improve controls, as discussed in this white paper from TATA Consultancy Services on RPA as a Compliance Enabler.

The Fastest Growing Software Subsegment

According to market analyst firm Gartner, robotic process automation continues to grow its footprint as organizations look for ways to improve operational efficiency and integrate legacy systems with new enterprise applications and digital business. As a market, RPA is still relatively small, with total revenue of slightly less than $850 million in 2018. However, RPA is the fastest-growing software subsegment officially tracked by Gartner, with year-over-year growth of more than 63% in 2018.

Gartner believes that RPA has effectively bypassed the traditional IT buyer, appealing directly to business users, with its emphasis on resource reduction, easy efficiency, and accessibility of the scripting environments. Some RPA vendors have developed their own machine learning approaches, often based on open-source libraries, or they have leveraged capabilities sourced from the megavendors, such as Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft. Given the rapid growth in the market, Gartner also expects to see further acquisitions, with many of the megavendors buying up the small RPA players.

Mitigating RPA Risk

Because RPA is a developing, fast-growing software category with emerging vendors and a high level of merger and acquisitions, it is critical to be cognizant of the software risks. In the article “RPA: Taking the robot out of the human,” Andy Lucas, a partner in the law firm Dentons, comments, “The approach here should be as it is for any technology: work out the risks, decide who should take on those risks and apply suitable protections against them. Protection measures should not be exclusively contractual. Using cloud as an example, practical remedies are equally as important. If your customer information is all hosted in a data centre which is burnt down, do you have a back-up of the data? For RPA, if an automated process fails, is there an alternative system which can be applied at short notice? If so, who pays for it?”

These are issues we deal with every day in the software escrow business. As explained by the National Law Review, “Software escrow arrangements are gaining increasing importance in complex technology deals. Software escrows can be an effective way to mitigate certain future risks involving the licensing of commercial software, a SaaS service, or some other technology product. The application of escrow principles to technology deals comes with unique considerations for parties seeking such services.”

You can protect your technology investment and proactively mitigate risk as you explore and implement technologies in the Artificial Intelligence space.