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The key trends for RPA and collaboration software in 2021

While demand for online services has grown since the start of the pandemic, tech budgets haven’t. In fact, Gartner has predicted that IT spend will shrink eight per cent this year, presenting tech leaders with a conundrum: how do you keep pace with consumer demand with fewer solutions at your disposal?

The answer, says Nintex’s Florian Haarhaus, is low-code, cloud-based tools. We caught up with Haarhaus, who serves as EMEA vice president of the software firm, to discuss remote working, a recent acquisition and the key industry trends to watch in the year ahead.

In your experience, how has 2020 changed the rate of adoption of enterprise tech, from RPA tools to collaboration services and optimisation software? 

2020 and the Covid-19 crisis that dominated it has significantly accelerated digital transformation and process automation. Especially from the business and IT side, there is a need to do more with less to help with remote working and to make companies more resilient.

Do the benefits of these technologies outweigh the complexity and cost of implementing them, especially when many IT budgets are shrinking? 

Not all of them, no. There is a real risk of quickly adding more complexity, cost and risk without getting the full benefits. However, there is a new crop of low-code, agile and quick-to-implement cloud-based tools that leverage available infrastructure to help you do more with less. This is where we’re seeing the most growth and opportunities for our customers.

Are there businesses you’ve worked with that have managed to overcome challenges associated with Covid-19 by deploying RPA tools? 

Zoom and Amazon are two great examples, not specifically for RPA, but intelligent process automation generally. These two businesses have had to scale rapidly as they met increased demand due to Covid-19, using Nintex’s low-code platform to drive increased productivity through process automation.

Nintex recently announced the acquisition of K2 Software, a provider of low-code automation software. Could you talk us through your plans for K2?

Nintex’s aim is to provide the easiest, most powerful and most complete end-to-end process automation platform, starting from process design, through to automation and optimisation. With the addition of K2 Software we’re able to do this across more platforms, and even more advanced use-cases. We will look to bring the same level of ease-of- use, agility and affordability to our K2 Software customers as we have been delivering to our legacy Nintex clients.

With the recent vaccine announcements, some epidemiologists have speculated that life will start to return to normal from March (although others are more sceptical). When do your clients expect they will be able to return employees to the office in significant numbers? 

My personal view is that we’ll start to see a staggered return to the workplace from March / April onwards, the extent of which will depend on country and industry. Speaking for Nintex, we’ll be reviewing and changing our remote to office mix quite substantially, at the request of our employees. I suspect many companies are going through a similar process.

We’ve seen a number of companies, particularly in the tech sector, commit to offering permanent home-working arrangements. Roughly how many of your clients have done so?

I think a lot of this is still being reviewed. However, from an employee perspective my sense is that the pressure to remain more flexible and less office / commuting-bound will be substantial, and companies will need to respond to that in order to retain the best talent.

What do you expect will be the key trends for RPA, collaboration and optimisation software in the coming 12 months?

Speed! It feels to me everything has sped up – however budgets have been cut as many businesses have seen revenues drop. So the need to do more with less will increase exponentially. There’s no point taking six months to redesign and automate a new process if that process is going to change again in three months. The post-Covid world is going to be lean and fast.