The Asia Pacific region and markets in its constituent countries have been growth engines for robotic process automation (RPA) in recent years, accounting for roughly 17% of the global market for RPA services. Particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic, firms both large and small have shown interest in automation. However, companies continue to face challenges of scale and some region-specific obstacles along the path to maturity.

Forrester surveyed 45 companies in Australia, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Singapore to understand the challenges of RPA adoption in the Asia Pacific region. Here are some key highlights:

  • COVID-19 has not driven scale. In the aftermath of the pandemic, many first-time firms in Asia Pacific dipped their toes into automation. However, COVID-19 has not resulted in significant expansion of tenured programs beyond existing plans.
  • Executive visibility for RPA is high. 71% of firms agree that their RPA program has C-level executive visibility and support. This implies that companies have started to take a more strategic view of automation as a future driver of transformation.
  • The cost/benefit equation in Asia Pacific is nuanced. The cost of labor in many APAC markets is lower than in North America and Europe, so the cost/benefit ratio of automation-induced labor arbitrage was not always immediately evident in early days of RPA. More than half of the respondents rated the value realized through RPA as “measurable” but not “significant”.
  • Automation-fueled transformation remains elusive. Across APAC, the use of automation remains largely an efficiency and cost takeout play rather than a transformation play.
  • Companies struggle to acquire talent and gain people support. Despite major RPA tool vendors’ heavy investment in skills, talent remains in short supply in Asia Pacific. It’s particularly acute for technical-functional roles like business analysts and RPA operations staff.
  • Most tenured RPA programs show moderate levels of maturity. In Asia Pacific, many RPA programs are IT-led. This has ensured a greater focus on aligning RPA with existing organizational standards for technology deployment. However, collaboration between business and IT is still evolving.

Members of the media can contact for a copy of this report. Principal Analyst Leslie Joseph is also available for media interviews on the topic.