State of the Digital Process Automation Market


Long term, the biggest transformational change in the digital process automation market is that process will be subsumed into a bigger platform, which Deep Analysis calls the intelligent business automation platform.

The digital process automation market has eclipsed business process management (from which it evolved) and is experiencing renewed growth. That’s according to our new report that assesses the state of the digital process automation market in 2019.

The report, developed by Deep Analysis and titled “State of the Digital Process Automation Market: Current Assessment 2019” is based on a research methodology that included 35+ vendor product demos and briefings, customer, interviews, and secondary research.

See also: Using Continuous Intelligence for Decision Support and Automation

We attribute the renewed growth in the market as coming from two sources: the incorporation of low-code/no-code1 software in process automation platforms, and the rapid adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) software alongside process automation software.

In addition to the expanding technology footprint for process automation, we find more types of buyers are emerging. Business operations is still the largest market segment for process automation adoption, with traditional sponsors being the COO, CIO, CxOs, or line of business (LOB) department heads who seek greater productivity, efficiency, and cost savings. Some vendors are finding new growth by replacing or augmenting CRM, sales force automation, and customer service systems. These executive buyers are typically the CMO, CRO, LOB executives, and heads of customer service and support. A few vendors are also successfully targeting a growing number of senior executives who are implementing end-to-end processes for digital transformation while delivering outstanding customer experiences.

Additionally, we find that the adoption of artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) is the biggest technology change on the near-term horizon. Already, AI/ML has made significant inroads within business processes by:

  • automating high-volume capture of structured, unstructured, and free-form information from diverse sources
  • detecting instances of fraud
  • determining next best actions
  • performing sentiment analysis
  • recognizing both voices and faces

By 2025, process automation vendors will increasingly use AI/ML within their platforms and within automated business processes.

The biggest transformational change in the digital process automation market is that process will be subsumed into a bigger platform, which Deep Analysis calls the intelligent business automation platform. When this happens (by 2025), process will not become less important; in fact, process automation will be more important than ever. But, just as case management was absorbed into process automation platforms, workflow and process automation will be absorbed into something much bigger.

Dichotomy Drives State of the Market

In many ways, digital process automation is a mature market – well understood and well established. But in other ways, digital process automation is immature – still expanding, with a rapidly changing mix of technologies. This mature/emerging dichotomy provides the backdrop for determining the state of the market. Some of the major factors we believe are shaping the market include:

  • The newly evolved digital process automation market only recently developed from the ever-shrinking (but still quite present) world of business process management (BPM) products, methodologies, and skills.
  • Today’s business process vendors continue to morph quickly by expanding their addressable market boundaries, adding new partnerships, and rethinking the very scope of digital process automation. Very soon process automation will be subsumed into a larger business automation platform, providing buyers with more capabilities than process alone, and offering vendors greater differentiation.
  • Process automation vendors see a looming opportunity/threat from artificial intelligence and machine learning, but it’s not clear to them whether this is good or bad, or how it will impact their products and customer implementations.

The BPM software evolution to digital process automation did not happen overnight. Instead, the undercurrent strengthened over several years, eventually surfacing in 2014-2015. Why? Although many enterprises can point to dramatic, transformational BPM successes during the prior two decades, by 2015 too many BPM initiatives were either stuck from overreach or taking too long to deliver results.

As a result, almost all BPM vendors have sharpened their sights and switched their terminology, now calling their products and market some version of digital process automation. But this change hasn’t been universal, and vendors typically mirror the terms used by prospects. This matters because confusing terms can slow the buying process as prospects try to compare vendors’ marketing and product pitches. Complicating the situation, the analyst firms use myriad overlapping terms, such as intelligent BPM (iBPM), low-code BPM, digital automation platforms, digital business platforms, case management, workflow, orchestration, and many other combinations. This smorgasbord seems like blah, blah, blah to prospective buyers. Still, slowly a consensus has emerged around “digital process automation.”

As a result, Deep Analysis now uses that terminology, but we also believe the software category will soon expand well beyond process to become “intelligent business automation” or “intelligent business automation platforms.”

Business Drivers Fuel Demand for Digital Process Automation

In our research, we found that the rationale for investing in digital process automation remains the same, even as the technology has morphed and expanded from workflow, to business process management and system orchestration, to case management – finally emerging as digital process automation.

The market drivers across all industries boil down to these factors:

  • Competitive differentiation
  • Cost savings
  • Greater ROI
  • Compliance

The industries that turn to process automation have remained the same over the years. They include banking, healthcare, high-tech, government, insurance, manufacturing, oil and gas, pharmaceutical, telecom, and utilities. Additional industries, such as retail, have come on board in the digital age.

Across all verticals, the demand for digital process automation comes from three key areas including business operations, customer experience, and end-to-end cross-functional processes.

Additional topics covered in the report include:

  • Overlapping market/technology segments of the market
  • How to select digital process automation modules best suited to the process
  • Detailed analysis of vendor offerings

View the complete report here:

Connie Moore

About Connie Moore

Connie Moore is Vice President and Principal Analyst at Deep Analysis. She joined the firm after four years as Senior Vice President, Research, at Digital Clarity Group, and more than twenty years as Research Director and Vice President at Forrester Research. Connie is a widely acclaimed speaker, advisor, consultant, and expert in digital process automation, customer experience management, digital experience platforms, and content services. In 2014 Connie received the Workflow Management Coalition's globally recognized Marvin Manheim Award for influence, contribution, and distinction based on standout contributions to the field of workflow and business process management.

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