Robotic Process Automation

  • October 18, 2017
  • Scott

The Institute For Robotic Automation defines RPA as:

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) refers to automation where a computer drives existing enterprise application software in the same way as a user does, via the existing user interface.

We’ve had a lot of customers begin their RPA journey (you can read one case study here). At this year’s Driven Conference, speaker after speaker asked the audience who was engaging in an RPA project or initiative. At least three-quarters of the room raised their hands. When we dove deeper with some attendees there was a huge variance in where they were in their journey, but everyone is getting on the train.

As RPA is a disruptive and innovative technology, let’s take a step back and see where this tech came from to get a sense of where it could go from here.

Not to go too in-depth but there are three technologies that RPA was born from:
Screen Scraping, Process Management, and Artificial Intelligence (or rule-based systems). And while each of these has a long history of research and market presence, they didn’t come together as RPA until recently. None of these technologies are going away – RPA doesn’t replace them – but they are all part of the RPA story, as RPA builds on the advantages of combining these technologies and techniques.

Where do we get started? The first step we take with clients is finding the repeatable non-complex or dynamic routine work their knowledge workers are doing every day. We look for their interactions with systems that don’t provide a clean API. We look for work that is getting in the way of the value-added work they do for their own customers. We look for work that is overwhelming current staffing levels. Applying this across a department or company, we can uncover the landscape of opportunities for RPA.

We also offer our clients a pilot program for RPA. It starts with an assessment where we work with your team to determine the best first opportunity or project. We then work with you to either establish your COE using our best practices or work with your COE to pilot the first project. The introduction of RPA should be measurable and quick. Your goal is to see measurable improvement within weeks and ROI in the first year. The measurement and success of your first deployment will set the cadence for your RPA program as you roll out RPA functionality to more and more of your business.

We also see great applications of RPA within the context of business process programs we work with. Sometimes RPA can replace a portion of the process – but in these cases it is more like Robotic Task Automation – automating work within the context of an orchestrated process – with an overall process that provides context to the RPA work, teeing up the right parameters for it to be successful. We’re going to see RPA in conjunction with decision management as well – where some decisions determine that an RPA task is the appropriate next best action.

Rather than consider RPA in isolation, we’re finding that considering RPA in conjunction with the other capabilities available to our clients (business process, decision management) is really driving the value proposition. The benefits are additive.

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  • Anoop Prasanna

    Great summary, pretty much how most of the RPA journeys are starting at the Enterprise level. Question, of the various RPA tools, which ones are you seeing the best additive value in cohesion with Business Process management and Decision Management?

    • Anoop – interestingly, much like the BPM space, each vendor comes to the table with different perspective and disposition. Automation Anywhere has a new partnership with IBM that makes tying it together with IBM’s process and decision assets very attractive, but there are other products with strengths and weaknesses depending on your goals and your IT landscape. Over time I think AA has a real advantage in the structure of their partnership with IBM.
      And of course happy to do a more in-depth analysis based on your situation if you’re interested.

    • Oliver Harris

      We’re working with UiPath exclusively, after reviewing a number of RPA vendors. We find their technology is top-of-class, enabling fast and accurate automation, and it’s backed by a competitive pricing structure, for both entry level and long-term installations. We were also inspired by UiPath’s vision to strategically evolve beyond purely rules-based automation and towards cognitive and machine learning automation, with the ability to plug in and take advantage of leading AI technologies such as IBM Watson, Google and optical character recognition ABBYY. More on the subject in our article