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Notes from Accel Symposium: The Rise of AI/ML & RPA in the Intelligent Enterprise

First published on July 2, 2018

This past month, Accel had the pleasure of hosting thought-leaders in finance, technology, and operations from many of the world’s largest corporations at our HQ in downtown Palo Alto for a discussion on the rapid growth in applying AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning) and RPA (robotic process automation) in the enterprise.

The event was co-hosted by our portfolio company UiPath, the global leader in RPA, and included founders of other leading startups building in this ecosystem. Speakers included UiPath’s CEO Daniel Dines and Chief Product Officer Param Kahlon, as well as executives from Adobe, Autodesk, VMware, PwC, McKinsey, and Cognizant (link to the original agenda here).

In addition, Google Cloud AI’s Apoorv Saxena and Salesforce Einstein’s Philip Cooper weighed in on the implications enterprise AI are having on product and go-to market development, and renowned automation researcher and University of Arkansas professor Dr. Mary Lacity discussed her studies on how to effectively navigate real life enterprise deployments.

While the discussions ranged across a multitude of themes, here were our Top 3 takeaways with respect to customer adoption consistently heard throughout the afternoon.

  • Early Innings, Yet Substantive ROI Examples Proving Out — The impact of automation is real, and leading corporations are in rapid proof of concept / early deployment stages. We discussed the comparison to ten years ago in the shift from both desktop to mobile and datacenter to cloud, with consensus that we are only in year one of the ten year enterprise automation journey. Dr. Lacity also spoke to how her research has found that on average, the majority of enterprises deploying this technology have already experienced business value and realized cost savings on their automation journeys (see resource #7 below). McKinsey’s white paper (#6 below) on intelligent automation at the heart of the next gen operating model also speaks to this point.
  • Walk Before You Can Run: Focused Use Cases are Crucial — Every global enterprise is sitting at different levels of preparedness to adopt automation technology. Some have established Automation CoEs (centers of excellence), while others have only just started to identify a few specific use cases. The conclusion here is to calibrate expectations and pace of deployment based on readiness level to ensure a successful outcome. See UiPath’s research on the process here.
  • Cost Savings are Good, Productivity & Improved Customer Satisfaction are Better — Automation has often been quantified by the cost savings it can realize within a team/department/corporation. While a helpful starting point, the real value of this type of technology is its ability to unlock your employees’ productivity potential. The less time spent on mundane tasks, the more brain power can be geared toward higher-level decision making. Some of the best case studies and examples can be found here.

The dialogue helped to strengthen our thesis: we believe we are in the early innings of a paradigm shift happening around the modernization of global corporations. Accel is excited to continue backing entrepreneurs who are working on solving both front-office and back-office bottlenecks in the enterprise, while utilizing advancements in AI/ML to help do so. We’re fortunate to back UiPath as they lay the foundation for these advances, and look forward to seeing what companies come next on the journey to the “Intelligent Enterprise”.

Resources To Learn More

Below, we’ve included links to some of the content discussed at the Accel symposium for those that have interest in learning more. For startups interested in continued discussions on this topic and future Accel events, please feel free to add your email to the distribution by shooting a note to bcq@accel.com.

  1. Forrester Research Report on the RPA Landscape
  2. UiPath Academy — for those interested in learning more about how to implement RPA, UiPath resources include an open online training program for robotic process automation
  3. The definition of Enterprise RPA by Everest Group
  4. Introduction to Salesforce Einstein and Background on Einstein Analytics
  5. Background on Google Cloud AI
  6. McKinsey — “Intelligent process automation: The engine at the core of the next generation operating model”
  7. Robotic Process and Cognitive Automation — The Next Phase, Dr. Mary Lacity and Dr. Leslie Willcocks
  8. PwC — “Organize your future with robotic process automation”
  9. Cognizant — “The Future of IT Infrastructure”

Thank you again to all our speakers including:

We hope this is a summary is of use to the community.