Consider Tackling Low Hanging Business Process Automation Challenges with Digital Robotic Process Automation
Every business these days is a combination of people, processes, and technology. People create and run the processes and they also procure technology to run those processes. Process automation can simply be achieved through buying a packaged software and/or build a software. But every time one buys or builds a piece of software a few things happen:
- Software requires lots manual data input by users
- One piece of software may solve one business problem and another piece might solve another
- Before you know it, you have a bunch of software (pre-packaged, SaaS, custom, etc.)
- You then realize that you need these pieces of Software to talk to each other; We call it “Enterprise Integration”
- Both IT and the business stay busy integrating existing software and buying and building new ones
After a while, we realize that the automation we achieved through buying, building and integrating software is not enough to keep up with the speed of change in the business. This is where many Enterprise Software companies start to talk about Business Process Management methodology to standardize software through low code development platforms. But in some cases, you end up retrofitting your Business Process within the BPM software which may or may not be the optimal thing for you to do in your business. Additionally, BPM software is highly intrusive and can require a “rip and replace” of existing processes (for good or bad reasons).
Outside of BPM, many companies have tackled “Point Problems” in automation using solutions including screen scraping, macros, scripts, etc. For those of you familiar with Excel, you can do wonders with Excel macros, but it comes with the headache of managing and distributing code locally that can be changed by multiple super users.
A few years ago, a new breed of Process Automation Companies started to evolve. These Companies took screen scraping, scripting, macros, API calls, etc. and brought them together under the Robotic Process Automation umbrella. The idea was simple; Tackle all the challenges above using a process similar to how humans operate software i.e. at the User Interface level. These Robots can pretty much do anything that a user can do, but do it more accurately, consistently and without breaks, so long as there are rules and no subjectivity is required in the process.
RPA has grown rapidly and is now evolving into what’s called Smart Process Automation (or SPA). Both RPA and SPA can be considered the evolutionary forms of Digital Process Automation. The simple idea that one can achieve high levels of automation by automatically manipulating the UI of all different types of existing software; it’s a very powerful thought. Add, Machine Learning and AI to the mix and you can now add some levels of subjectivity and decision making to the process as well, as compared to rules based RPA automation alone.
In summary, RPA and SPA, are low IT footprint, no-code based approaches to process automation. Due to that fact, these technologies have a potential to be adopted, not just in the large enterprises, but also in many small to medium sized enterprises.
The entry level costs are also well within reach for many.
Like anything else, this low barrier to entry causes a flood of product companies calling their existing software RPA as well as pretty much all of the Service Providers claiming themselves to be the RPA experts overnight knowing very well that automation, in some ways, can cannibalize their existing revenue streams.
The Market will consolidate and settle down over the next few years, but keep in mind that automation implementations require a disciplined approach, strong technical and business skills, as well as very strong governance methodology to avoid “Shadow IT” issues. In large enterprises, RPA can become a “Shadow IT” problem since it’s sold to businesses directly in many cases. This might remind us of the early days of Salesforce type SaaS adoptions which eventually caused a lot of headaches for Corporate IT. Corporate IT needs to be involved and work collaboratively with the business to ensure the overall success of any technology enabled automation programs.