How Much Does Intelligent Automation Cost?
Automation is vital to business growth. In making the business case for RPA, you’ll not only highlight its benefits but also consider its implementation costs, such as software bots, which range between $5,000-$15,000 on average, licenses, add-ons, support services, and more. Find out the cost of implementing an intelligent automation project and how to get an ROI from it.
There’s a conundrum: business owners want to grow their organizations better, faster, and more cost-effectively, but employees aren’t moving fast enough.
One reason for employees’ slow pace is that 60% of their work still has at least 30% of automatable tasks. Asana’s report, The Anatomy of Work Index, found that employees spend about 60% of their time on “work about work.”
Replying to emails, searching for files or documents, inputting data or creating datasets, waiting for feedback or approvals, and other repeated tasks rack up the costs per employee associated with these activities.
The sheer volume of these tasks and business processes is not only time-consuming but also costs businesses millions of dollars annually.
Robotic process automation (RPA) takes the burden of rote, repetitive tasks, turning wasted time and money into profits. From a Deloitte survey, 78% of companies already implement RPA, while another 16% plan to implement it by 2023.
But setting up and maintaining an intelligent automation solution comes at a cost.
In this guide, we’ll share the cost factors of RPA projects, and how to calculate the costs it will take to implement RPA for your business.
Cost Factors in an Intelligent Automation Project
Intelligent automation encompasses methods that involve people, organizations, and technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
The aim is to automate end-to-end business processes so your employees can work better and faster on high-value work while improving the customer experience.
Inevitably, a range of factors influences the cost of an intelligent automation project. These are:
- Support Services
Below is a detailed breakdown of these cost factors and everything that goes into pricing an intelligent automation project.
Licensing Costs: Minimum $20,000
To start or expand your RPA footprint, you’ll need several licenses for all the employees that will use the RPA software.
HFS Research estimates that licensing costs account for 25%-30% of the total RPA implementation costs, with the minimum licensing spend per year starting at $20,000. This includes:
- Bot licenses
- Workflow Designer tool
RPA software bots are licensed, not sold. You’ll need two types of bots to set up your RPA project:
Attended bots: interactive virtual assistants triggered by individual employees or teams to help with front-office tasks whenever they’re needed. These bots boost productivity, increase compliance, reduce average call handle time, and enhance the customer experience.
Unattended bots: these bots run independently on a preset schedule or as triggered by process flow logic and automate back-office processes to completion with little or no human involvement. These bots reduce operating costs, eliminate human errors, increase productivity, and improve compliance.
The average cost of a bot ranges between $5,000 and $15,000, but the cost savings per process will vary depending on the number of bots deployed. For example, KPMG found that financial services providers can save up to 25%-80% of their current operational costs by automating their processes.
Other significant costs, such as training, governance, and management, also vary based on the current nature and maturity of the process you’re automating.
Workflow Designer Tool
As digital models mature, it creates a never-ending backlog and constant pressure on your IT teams to modernize tech applications and infrastructure—which they can’t do by themselves.
A Workflow Designer tool helps you design and build workflow flow diagrams in an intuitive graphical environment and use them to automate and improve your business workflows.
You can hire citizen developers to help build business-critical applications so your regular developers can focus their energies on projects that demand their expertise.
Add-ons are complementary tools in an intelligent automation toolchain that help you find insights and uncover automation opportunities. These tools may or may not be from your RPA vendor and include:
- AI/ML models: Unlock the true value of data and extend RPA to build predictive models and make smarter decisions quickly.
- Task mining: Identify and aggregate workflows to deliver end-to-end visibility of how work gets done. It also applies AI to identify repetitive tasks that are ripe for automation.
- Process mining: Use existing data in your systems to analyze and track processes across your business, identify problem areas within processes, and monitor them with accuracy. That way, you can improve, monitor, and measure business process performance.
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) with ML: OCR enables RPA bots to scan, read, classify, and extract text from documents and convert them to a format readable by machines. Combined with ML, bots can perform intelligent actions like eliminating duplicate entries or solving unknown exceptions in your processes.
- Automating testing: Monitor ever-changing processes to spot and fix specific issues before they impact operations and reduce maintenance time.
- Analytics: Get comprehensive quantitative metrics to help you make better business decisions about your automation investment and strategy.
Infrastructure Costs: $1,000 per VM box/year
The success of an RPA deployment hinges on whether it will scale to meet your requirements. Otherwise, it could become a bottleneck for growth.
To deliver and scale automation across your business or enterprise, you’ll need the infrastructure for your software bots. The bots can run on:
- A private server
- A virtual machine (VM)
- In the cloud
Each bot runs in its own VM, and the VMs run on one or more server machines to execute the processes assigned by the server component.
While infrastructure costs are dynamic, expect to spend around $1,000 per server or VM box every year to host your bots and other platform components. Consult your IT teams about VMs, servers, and better test environments to help you properly size the potential extra costs you might incur.
Implementation Costs: $15,000-$150,000 per process
RPA implementation typically begins in the pilot phase. An expert RPA tools vendor will automate pilot processes and show how RPA works in common business processes.
Here’s an overview of Leaniar’s RPA implementation process:
- Discovery: Our RPA lead and business analysts will review your processes to identify whether they’re automatable, analyze their complexity, and advise on the required tech stack.
- Design: We’ll devise an RPA architecture and implementation roadmap (budget, time, and the team needed for the project).
- Development: Using an iterative, results-driven approach, we’ll create a flowchart or object model diagram to understand the process flow. We’ll also create a proof-of-concept (PoC) version of intelligent software bots or agents and train them to perform tasks.
- Quality Assurance/User Acceptance Testing: We’ll test and monitor bots in the pre-production environment to assess how employees can use them to automate specific tasks and fine-tune their performance.
- Deployment: We’ll deploy and execute RPA bots in the production environment.
Implementation costs start at around $15,000 but can run as high as $150,000, depending on the:
- Vendor you choose
- Effort and time spent on initial process analysis
- Initial setup and programming needed
- Number and complexity of intelligent software agents
- Bot configuration requirements (one streamlined process or multiple conditions, checks, and operations)
- Cost of application programming interfaces (APIs) and apps used inside the bots
- Disk storage (logs and performance messages)
- Employee training fees
- Server deployment and maintenance efforts
- Service hosting location (onshore, offshore, or near-shore)
Support Services Costs: $2,000-$8,000/month (depending on the number of processes)
Once the RPA bots are running in production, you’ll need ongoing professional support services to:
- Identify and implement other RPA use cases
- Handle exceptions that weren’t thought about initially
- Manage new eventualities in the production environment
Support services costs also fluctuate based on the maturity of your organization, the experience level of your internal team, and specific processes to be automated
RPA Setup Costs
RPA setup costs are the upfront costs associated with implementing automation software and typically include vendor costs, planning, consulting, development, integrations, and more.
Setup costs vary, with prices starting at $15,000 and climbing up to $150,000 based on several factors.
Here’s a closer look at the specific RPA setup costs for each phase of the implementation process.
Discovery is the initial phase of the RPA lifecycle where business analysts and process architects analyze your requirements to find automation opportunities in your systems.
If your processes are automatable, the RPA architect team will:
- Analyze the complexity and return on investment (ROI)
- Select the right processes to automate
- Define governance for the entire automation process
Discovery consultation costs can run as high as $500 per hour, depending on the vendor you choose. The process can take weeks or months to complete as it involves several interviews and shadowing of users.
In the design phase, the RPA team will focus on building the automation process, which involves:
- Defining and modeling the processes or tasks you’re automating
- Mapping any dependencies
- Developing a process definition document
The process definition document contains the defined workflows that RPA developers use to know what to automate.
Design costs also vary based on the number of RPA experts—developers, solution architects, and system engineers—and the time they’ll spend in this area.
At this stage, the RPA developer team will create automated scripts and program code using RPA tools based on your needs and RPA workflow.
Development represents a significant upfront cost depending on:
- The delivery model you choose
- Whether you’ll in-source or outsource the work
- The complexity of the automatable processes
Quality Assurance (QA)/User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
QA and UAT require RPA experts to test the automated processes and observe their behavior. These technical steps help to:
- Correct potential bugs and catch exceptions they might have missed during the design and development stages.
- Send potential bugs and performance issues to the development team to fix.
Once the automation solution is ready, the RPA developers will run it using RPA bots. Three fundamental elements are crucial at this stage:
- Developer tools: Typically hosted on a server, these tools define the sequences of instructions, rules, or conditional logic that bots follow to perform the business process.
- Robot controller: The master repository for the different bots, their version control, and defined jobs. It assigns jobs to bots, controls and monitors bot activity across the organization, and contains credential app and server information (user ID and passwords) needed to perform tasks.
- Software robots: A digital workforce that executes instructions and logs the actions and decisions they make.
Some tools like those of UiPath and Automation Anywhere include a process recorder. This feature captures a user’s actions or steps, translating them into an automation-ready workflow that can replicate those actions.
Expect to spend more on software robots and the environment (VM or server) to host the developer tools, robot controller, and bots at the deployment stage.
Ongoing Costs of RPA
Once you set up an RPA solution for your business, you’ll incur several ongoing RPA costs, which are divided into:
- License costs
- Support services costs
License costs start at $20,000 per year and are charged on a per-platform basis (one platform for each use case) and include:
- Development tools
- Each installed bot
- A management server
Bot implementation comes with additional costs, including Application Programming Interface (API) licenses. Some APIs are free, but you’ll incur recurring costs based on the volume of data processed if you connect to cloud services.
Additional software needs also rack up licensing costs. For example, if you need to work with Excel files or Power BI to present powerful data visualizations for reporting, you’ll pay for a Microsoft license.
Support Services Costs
Once you develop a digital workforce for your business and automate your mission-critical processes, you’ll need to monitor and maintain your bots regularly.
Support services costs are ongoing fees that you pay every month for technical support in identifying and implementing RPA use cases.
These costs range between $2,000 and $8,000 per month, covering:
- Issues with the RPA tool
- Changes in the automation script owing to exceptions in your processes, underlying application changes, or business requirements
- Robots stoppage because of application or infrastructure issues
Support service fees may vary per robot or automated process. In the initial phases of the project, you can cost-share with the development effort and save resources.
Getting a Return on Investment from RPA
Justifying the ROI of an intelligent automation deployment seems easy. Yet ROI is usually the hardest to calculate.
Ideally, you’ll look at metrics like cost savings, moving workers to more productive tasks, increased productivity, and quality improvement to determine the ROI of your RPA deployment.
Several intangible benefits of RPA also add up to the ROI of an RPA investment, such as data accuracy, eliminating re-work, fraud protection, handling volumes of repetitive tasks, and more.
McKinsey found that RPA offers a potential ROI of 30%–200% in the first year. However, the industry’s average ROI has since grown to 250%, which most businesses should expect or aim for. High-performing companies exceed even that, achieving a 380% average ROI on their RPA deployment.
Typically, you should expect results in less than a year (3 to 9 months), but that will mean taking several actions, including:
- Identifying high-impact RPA use cases
- Integrating AI/ML technology into core business functions
- Actively scaling RPA in your organization
- Training employees for RPA scalability
Investing in RPA can deliver quick and significant paybacks, allowing you to gain immediate benefits.
Contact us to learn more about what RPA can do for your business and how you can build a future workplace fueled by automation.