Last week I was fortunate to be a part of a significant group discussion with SI’s and Enterprises alike on the state of the market. There were a lot of interesting opinions and insights but what stood out the most to me was a consensus that the pandemic has generated a lot of, albeit overdue, interest in managing information and business processes.
Culturally we are in the throws of a rethink about what is important and what is not, be that in our personal or professional lives. Or as a professional side issue, the challenges, and priorities of managing and automating information. Before the pandemic, buyers were assailed by market and sales efforts from RPA and AI document automation vendors alike, which naturally spiked interest. But the pandemic has driven a more rational reason for a spike in interest. The pressing need to deal with remote working, distributed security, and even whether legacy on-premises systems are still fit for purpose and worth the maintenance fees.
The current drivers appear to be (in no particular order)
- Reconfiguring centralized working environments to hybrid and remote working realities
- An increased focus on Employee Experience alongside the normal focus on Customer Experience.
- The continued drive for more efficiencies and lower costs through automation
- Executive-level interest in the promise of AI & Blockchain
- A renewed focus on end to end – straight-through processing
- Increased regulation, security, and data privacy concerns
This is exciting stuff, and our industry is having a ‘moment.’ But to counterbalance these real-world drivers, we have a harsh reality to deal with. Business change projects are moving very slowly because of the pandemic. This concern emerged in the recent discussion with both systems integrators and enterprises alike – it’s hard to get everyone together and stick to a schedule. Or less diplomatically, people are getting covid, and it’s hard to plan big projects when you don’t even know who will be available, or when.
In our analysis, the information management and automation industry grew at the same pace it has for the past decade (around 8-10% year on year). That’s a growth rate many industries would envy, but it’s considered the norm in enterprise tech. The industry didn’t shrink, nor was growth stunted. But this year may see a bit of a slowdown as organizations (buyers) pause to figure out where they are going next and wait for a bit of normality to return. On the flip side, 2023 may see a significant lift in fortunes as planned, yet stalled, projects get back on track with a vengeance. That is not to say 2022 will not be a lively year. There is a timely surge of interest in task and process mining to help tackle these complex change challenges. Google, Microsoft, and AWS are pushing document capture and automation tools into the mainstream, and vendors in the sector are being bought and sold at a clip. So 2022-23 will likely be less a dip and more of a readjustment, in our analysis, that is a good thing for almost everyone.