If you read the studies that explore tech trends and evaluate their impact, yet real or only supposed, you could not avoid the acronym RPA – Robotic Process Automation.
IT analysts such as Gartner, Forrester and HfS, major consulting firms such as Accenture, Capgemini, Deloitte, EY and McKinsey agree that RPA is a tremendous move that allows to initiate digital transformation of enterprises through short projects whose ROI is fast.
The subject deserves to be looked at more closely to understand exactly what it is.
Robotic Process Automation
In large enterprises, users of computer desktops spend a lot of time interacting with the different applications of the information system. In order to carry out their mission, they frequently have to re-enter or to copy and paste data from one window to another, or to compare and verify information from two applications. Robotic process automation, or RPA, consists of implementing “software robots” to automate as much as possible these tedious and non-value-added tasks.
This “white-collar robotization” approach frees up 15% to 30% of the user’s time, which can be used more effectively for actions bringing real value for the company and improving the quality of the service to its customers.
Corollary, this automation improves the comfort of employees, and this is not the least of its advantages: the employee who spends his workday in front of computer tools will adhere better to the strategic vision of the management who wants to accelerate the digital transformation of the company.
Software Assistants, Robotic Desktop Automation or “attended RPA”
Enterprise’s business processes involve the entire information system, from database servers where data is stored to employees’ desktops, obviously via various applications and software solution: access to large transactional systems, client-server, intranet / extranet, CRM, ERP, ECM…
Automation can be done on the desktop, where the “software robot” will execute the interactions as the human being does: like a human he will read the content of an application window, identify the fields containing useful data, copy them into another window, launch a transaction, etc. While performing these tasks, the robot may, if necessary, “hand over” the person in front of the PC to make a decision based on his or her intelligence and experience. The robot can, if necessary, carry out checks on the data it handles: this gives the company additional guarantees regarding compliance with certain regulatory requirements and the quality of the result of the processes thus executed. This aspect of the Robotic Process Automation where the robot appears as a software assistant for a human being interacting with a PC while respecting the business logic is called “attended RPA” or “Robotic Desktop Automation” with the acronym RDA.
Its deployment is very fast, since it is done on the PC, and therefore on the periphery of the IS. The “attended RPA” has no impact on the information system and does not require any modification on applications, which continue to function without any change. As a result, Robotic Desktop Automation’s projects are short and their ROI is fast: it takes only a few months, if note weeks, to setup a solution that saves 20% of their time to tens or even hundreds of employees. And considering that the desktop is not going to be simplified by magic in the short term, “attended RPA” solutions will benefit the company for many years…
Autonomous software robots or “unattended RPA”
The automation of some processes can also take place at the server level and running without any interaction with a human being. A software robot can, autonomously, connect to databases to retrieve information, apply control rules, perform processes that produce new data, and then inject them into other applications using their own programming interfaces (APIs). This aspect of Robotic Process Automation where the robot works alone in the “datacenters” of the information system is called “unattended RPA”.
However, this autonomous robot remains under the supervision of human beings: it is indeed necessary to monitor the execution of the processes to ensure that they are properly executed. In case of anomaly, it is a human expert, a “robot supervisor”, who will be able to understand the cause of the problem, to correct it and then to restart the robots so that the processes resume where they had stopped.
As they are installed on servers and therefore inside the information system, unattended RPA robots require the provision of some infrastructure. And because they act directly on application data, they need to use their APIs, which requires programming work. As a result, as we observed, “unattended RPA” projects are likely to be more complex, and therefore a little longer, especially when it comes to going live…
Clearly, RPA has to be considered globally, taking advantage of the complementary approaches: starting on the desktop with Robotic Desktop Automation, and focusing first on the most repetitive and time-consuming processes, so employees are encouraged to embrace the digital transformation of the company from which the first benefits are quickly gained.
Then, deepening the effort by implementing unattended RPA on servers, we get maximum benefits from robotic process automation, which will evolve further with artificial intelligence algorithms…
PS : If you want to explore the benefits that RPA can bring to your business, feel free to contact us for more information, or even to launch a PoC!