Importance of RPA — Robotic Process Automation — in Digital Enterprise
Robotic Process Automation, also known as RPA, is a critical but often overlooked component of a digital enterprise. Many people think that digital enterprises involve writing a bunch of applications, which are then deployed by various means (cloud, mobile devices etc.). Actually, RPA is a piece of highly customized software, often called a Software Robot or a BOT, that when deployed perform a variety of tasks as a part of the Digital Enterprise. BOTs facilitate inter application messaging, manipulate data and output, or trigger responses.
BOTs can also mimic human actions within an enterprise. Over the past 5 years, BOTs have become increasingly common as they are great at handling repeatable and predictive tasks. BOTs have also been shown to dramatically reduce costs, as well as increase effectiveness and agility, regardless of the use of onshore or offshore labor.
How Do We Use It?
RPA can be deployed in any type of enterprise. There are numerous use cases ranging from IT infrastructure to services to procurement services. Use cases span any and all industries. Let me provide one quick example of RPA to which it may be easy to relate .
Bill, for example, is in charge of paying invoices for his company. When invoices arrive, he contacts the person who received the service in his company either by email, phone call or chat. Once Bill receives confirmation, he authorizes the payment for the invoice. This process can be automated in many ways.
For example, you may want to auto-authorize payments for invoices less than $1,000. A BOT can be used to do this based on that condition. Another way a BOT can be used in this example is to eliminate the need for Bill to contact the service recipient and have the BOT directly send the message. The recipient can simply press “Yes” or “No” for the payment. All Bill would have to do is oversee this automated process. Although this example is pretty simple in nature, one can automate far more complex processes as long as they are repeatable.
Benefits of Implementing RPA
Anatomy of RPA
By and large, RPA is comprised of three elements — BOT controller, BOTs and a Developer toolkit to develop the BOTs.
BOT Controller is the heart of RPA and is responsible for controlling BOTs across the enterprise. It holds the repository for the types of BOTs and their version control. It also houses credential information of the applications and servers (user ID, Password to login) to perform tasks. It also monitors all BOT activities and produces analytics reports on BOT activities which aids in understanding how effective RPA / BOTs are in the enterprise. IBM Dynamic Automation uses IPCenter by IPSoft as a BOT and RPA controller.
BOTs, or Software Robots, are also known as Clients or Agents. BOTs directly interact with applications to perform predefined tasks. For each step of task execution, BOTs create and maintain extensive logs. These logs are very useful for audit and tracking purposes. They also help in running analytics in evaluating effectiveness of BOTs.
Developer Toolkit is vitally important in creating highly scalable and highly integrated Robotic Process Automation. They enable step-by-step job or task development and description. These tools have often been confused with scripts commonly produced and used by System Admins or Middleware engineers. These tools and toolkits allow formation of business logic to define jobs and tasks.
There are many advantages to deploying RPA in the enterprise, and here are a few:
Due to all the advantages and benefits described above, you can see how RPA will continue to evolve and expand in enterprises. Before using this technology, users have to be very clear in understanding and identifying repeatable processes. Strong governance is also vital as the smallest error can be magnified and spread quickly via automation, since RPA is much faster than humans. By the time mistakes are identified, there is potential for great harm to the business.
We have already automated various infrastructure components, including middleware and application, with great effectiveness. We continue to identify processes which are repeated manually and look to automate them using RPA. In doing so, it reduces costs, makes us more accurate and agile. No enterprise of today would be considered innovative without a forward-looking automation strategy.