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POINT OF VIEW

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) allows organizations to configure digital workers, letting robots take the strain and freeing up people for the things they do best – innovation and dealing with the exceptions.

“Gartner predicts that 90% of large organizations globally will have adopted RPA in some form by 2022 as they look to digitally empower critical business processes through resilience and scalability, while recalibrating human labour and manual effort.”

Robot workers are taught to use interfaces intended for human use, meaning that there is no cost for creating new interfaces.
Each RPA robot can push or pull data through an interface. It can trigger actions and communicate with other systems as well as executing a variety of repetitive tasks, resulting in:

  • Fast time to benefit
  • Low cost of implementation
  • No infrastructure disruption

However, the disadvantage is that robots are not as adaptable as humans, and may find interfaces designed for humans to be sub-optimal compared to well-designed Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

RPA robots can automate, at a fraction of the cost and time of more “technical” solutions. They leverage existing infrastructure and can be enabled by non-IT specialists.
Robots do not sleep, operate faster than humans, and don’t get bored by repetitive tasks.

It may take a human a while to proceed when a website form gains a new mandatory field; your robot will need new instructions to handle the change.

There are substantial benefits from using RPA

RPA robots can mimic human user actions.

A key driver for RPA projects is their ability to improve process quality, speed and productivity, each of which is increasingly important as organizations try to meet the demands of cost reduction during COVID-19.”
(Gartner)

They can access applications to:

  • Manipulate files and folders.
  • Copy and paste information in User Interface (UI) screens, including driving applications like Microsoft Word.
  • Fill in forms, scrape browsers, and mainframe screens.
  • Extract structured and semi-structured data from documents.

You can use RPA robots to integrate with remote systems that cannot be accessed any other way, to deliver quick automation to satisfy an immediate need, or to allow members of staff to create their own ad-hoc automation.

Using RPA can result in:

Improved accuracy
RPA robots follow rules. They follow the rules faithfully, without tiring and are not subject to human error.

Improved regulatory compliance
RPA robots follow rules consistently and reliably, reducing risk and allowing a faithful record of their activity to be constructed. Regulatory and oversight requirements can be delivered in ways that humans struggle to achieve.

Fast cost savings
RPA can reduce processing costs by up to 90%, and return on investment is often less than a year.

Scalable and immune to disease and holidays
RPA robots can be scaled to meet new demand far more simply than recruitment and training programmes can achieve. Use robots to allow workforce flexibility and to manage seasonal demand.

Increased productivity
RPA robots take away the mundane to allow humans to focus on tasks that add value.

But there are also challenges

API robots are flexible, non-disruptive, and simple to use. But these beneficial characteristics are also dangerous in the wrong hands.

While RPA robots can be implemented without disrupting underlying infrastructure, they can cause problems:

  • By applying unexpected load, or accidently pushing thousands of records into a system.
  • The RPA robot needs to be authorised to access the systems it needs, in the same way as the human. This means that the robot has your password and is part of the security infrastructure.
  • Simple and accessible can be considered to mean “use it for everything”. Be careful to control proliferation of the technology.
  • RPA robots can be brittle. Changes that are easily tolerated by humans are catastrophic to robots.

Their simplicity can be mistaken for “being safe”. Please do not make that blunder. Robots are almost never transactionally safe, and their failure may lesd to loss of data, or repeat keying. Be sure to investigate the specific product you choose for such features.

The decision to use robots should be based on several considerations, and of course your preferences.

Consideration
Time to value
Temporary fix
Non-strategic/short term
Critical integration
Complex human interfaces
Interface subject to change
System owned by another company
API Available
No API available
Use Robot
Robot or API
API

 

Talk to Responsiv about your RPA strategy

Like any powerful tool, RPA robots should be planned during your technology adoption process. Questions of security and reliability, proliferation, and emergent complexity need to be answered – at least in part – before diving in.

  • RPA robots are powerful tools with strengths and weaknesses.
  • Always make sure that the business value of solving the problem justifies the cost, that the solution can be integrated and managed as part of the larger estate, and remember to consider skills requirements and ongoing costs.
  • Use experts with experience. Experience counts. Look for companies prepared to share delivery risk.

If you would like to work with a team that has built simple and effective RPA workflows for companies or if you would just like to have a further discussion with one of our experts, please contact us.

Richard Whyte
Richard Whyte

Richard Whyte has been building enterprise IT solutions for over 20 years. He is known for creating innovative practical solutions that provide a strong foundation for future development, whilst solving immediate problems. Previously the European CTO and Principal Architect for IBM Systems Middleware at IBM, he has an MBA, a degree in Statistics and Computing, is a Chartered Engineer, a Chartered IT Professional, and Fellow of both the Institute of Technology and the British Computer Society.

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