Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a hot topic in software development right now and should be. The current generation of RPA “Bots” have gone well beyond the old days of “screen scraping” and are now capable of improving many business processes through speed, accuracy, repeatability, multi-application support and AI driven adaptation to process changes. All of these improvements in process ultimately drive customer and employee satisfaction scores in a positive direction.
For your consideration, a small list of technical reasons that RPA might just be the bot you are looking for…
1. RPA will increase the speed of critical process steps. Most business processes have steps in them that are critical in terms of timing related to either an individual task or for the overall time to complete the process. In a client on-boarding process, a regulatory compliance review may be necessary. To perform this review, data must be collected from several external sources such as government business registries, OFAC, or other industry specific data warehouses. An RPA bot can be configured to use information provided from an internal business system to search any or all of these data sources (including logging in to secured sites) for the required information and aggregate that information into a form, spreadsheet or internal business application. The bot will do this while utilizing the speed of the computer to maximize the performance of the process step. Faster results mean increased customer satisfaction.
2. RPA will improve accuracy. All businesses (at least those that have not implemented an RPA development program) seem to have at least some time consuming, mundane tasks that kill employee morale. These tasks are often data entry related and require the employee to mindlessly copy data from one data source to another. An example might be updating report entries by copying data from a business application into a spreadsheet that rolls up to a report. This task might need to be done on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The employee dreads this task because it is so mind numbing that they turn on their internal autopilot and just go through the steps to get the job done. The problem is that this leads to copy/ paste errors. Because the employee is not mentally challenged, they are not as alert and are prone to errors. An RPA bot can be configured to copy data from almost any type of business application to almost any type of data source without the autopilot mental errors that employees sometimes make. Most importantly, employee satisfaction scores go up because they are now free to engage their minds in tasks to innovate and improve the business.
3. RPA is all about repeatability. Many business process steps or individual tasks are repeated either as required for the process or on a specific schedule. A business may have a daily task to gather reporting data on the performance of several foreign stock indices and add them to an Excel file that calculates the averages over a rolling month and then those averages are sent in an email to key members of a business team. An RPA bot can be configured to repeat all the steps in this task on a daily schedule. This saves time for employees that would retrieve this data and also provides timely emails for the employees consuming the data. Employee satisfaction scores increase.
4. RPA provides multi-application support. Modern businesses use many diverse IT tools to meet their business needs. Often times this disparate tools do not easily communicate (think API support here) with each other. There may be requirements to get data from a PDF, spreadsheet, CSV file, document, web application, custom business application, email, (etc.) and pass that information to any or all of those. A business process may start with a PDF document containing loan application details being saved to an internal file system. The business process needs to pass the loan application details to a web-based internal business application, run a credit check and report those results to the business application, and also save the original PDF to the corporate document management system. An RPA bot can be configured to do all of these things. Modern RPA tools support most applications, data formats and standard business functions. Utilizing RPA bots to automate many types of repetitive tasks will lead to improved process speed and better data accuracy which will improve customer satisfaction scores.
5. RPA provides Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven adaptation to process changes. We know that businesses that stand still do not grow. Most businesses are constantly working to improve and increase their effectiveness. As such, application user interfaces (UIs) change. A business may have a form that was originally implemented as a PC based form, but now needs to support mobile devices. The form now also contains some additional fields mixed in with the original ones. An RPA bot utilizing AI may adapt to these types of changes without the need to reprogram the bot. To be transparent, this is not always possible, but if there is a concern that a UI may change in the future, considerations can be made to allow this to happen as seamlessly as possible. This means fewer complications for the development team, which leads to improved employee satisfaction scores.
A final note based on our experience at Apex Process Consultants.
The combination of RPA with IBM BPM and ODM creates an incredible platform geared to transform businesses in a foundational manner. Implemented together, RPA can bridge the gap between system integrations where either time does not allow for such integration development or no possibility exists for those integrations. This can eliminate roadblocks on the development path and allow for more rapid roll-out of business critical processes.
For more information on RPA tools, IBM BPM or ODM, please feel free to contact us to setup a discussion and live demonstration.