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How to ensure RPA delivers

With all the industry hype and confusing claims coming from various robotic process automation vendors, gaining clarity on the “different flavors” of this software is now a major issue. Without a definitive understanding of what robotic process automation is, organizations risk choosing the wrong options. Gartner agrees and predicts that through 2021, 40% of enterprises will have robotic process automation buyer’s remorse due to misaligned, siloed usage and inability to scale. Unfortunately, these issues typically reveal themselves after a proof of concept has been completed and attempts are made to scale automation programs more broadly.

To avoid these pitfalls, robotic process automation (RPA) must enable operational agility while not replicating slow and expensive IT projects, and still meet all the governance, security and compliance requirements. To achieve these goals, RPA must be underpinned by no-code, collaborative, business-led design principles that offer a platform for humans and digital workers to deliver automation capabilities. RPA must also deliver on its promise of being a potentially transformative tool — especially at scale — by enabling business users to inject greater speed, accuracy, productivity, efficiency and innovation.

To fully realize these outcomes, here are few key must haves to consider when selecting RPA technology:

A no-code, business driven initiative

Due to a scarcity of software development skills, those RPA technologies that require coding effort will soon be stuck in the work queue and suffer the same delays as traditional IT projects. The IT department’s proper role in RPA should simply be to uphold the necessary governance, security and compliance requirements for business-sustainable transformation.

Therefore, consider a connected-RPA platform that solves the long-standing integration challenge of system interoperability by repurposing the user interface and providing code-free connectivity with any system. This innovation also enables digital workers to use and access the same IT systems and mechanisms as humans, so they can automate processes over any past, present and future system independently of machine APIs.

Being business-led also means that non-technical users shouldn’t have to build or program digital workers. They should be able to use an intuitive OS to train and control them by creating automated processes by drawing and designing process flowcharts, then publishing them to a secure, central system. While designing the processes, users orchestrate a unique process definition language that both robots and humans understand, which also eliminates the need for coding.

Deliver real value

To offer real business benefits, a digital worker should also be a pre-built, highly productive, human-like, multi-tasking, full-service, modular and autonomous device that understands the context of processing tasks. These intelligent capabilities enable them to perform activities in the same way as humans rob, though faster and more accurately while also working with and learning from humans, other robots and systems.

The universal system connectivity of these digital workers can also enable business users to deploy AI, natural language processing, intelligent optical character recognition, communication analytics, process optimization and machine learning capabilities.

Drive collaboration and scale

Agile transformation at scale is only ever achieved through centralized effort, so insist on collaboration. RPA must enable users to share, reuse and expand automation capabilities by contributing their published process automations into a centralized repository. This enables the whole enterprise to manage, share, improve and re-use these assets. This centralized design also provides clear audit trails of all process automations and greater security, both of which are key factors in driving successful RPA outcomes.

To ensure that business-led and IT endorsed RPA projects are successfully sustained as they evolve, consider a vendor that employs a Robotic Operating Model delivery methodology. This defines how to most effectively identify, build, develop and automate processes at scale across an organization.    

Alternative RPA options

Within this rapidly growing market, buyers are being misdirected towards a whole swath of RPA- branded tools which diverge from RPA’s original no-code, collaborative and business-led philosophy. These RPA vendors promise easy-to-use, instant record-and-deploy automation tools, but the reality is that they have code-heavy deployments, endless debugging activities, code-based versioning and project-artefact management, as well as dependency and change management overheads.

Let’s be clear: These automation technologies offer limited scaling capabilities, which is no good for businesses looking to use these tools to transform their operations.

The problem with desktop recording and the notion of a personal software robot is that a single human user is given autonomy over a part of the technology estate — their desktop — which introduces a lack of control and creates multiple security and compliance issues. Desktop recording spells trouble for the enterprise as it captures choices based on an individual’s interpretation of a process versus a central consensus for the best path. This obscures a robot’s transparency and hides process steps that, when duplicated over time, becomes a potential security threat and limit to scale.

There are two more major drawbacks of the desktop approach to automation. Firstly, if a robot and a human share a login, no one knows who’s responsible for the process, and this creates a massive security and audit hole. Secondly, if a robot and a human share a PC, there’s zero productivity gain as humans can use corporate systems as fast as robots. This approach doesn’t save any time or make the process any easier for the user.

Many of these desktop automation deployments never get beyond simple sub-tasks, which have been executed using an agent’s login and run on their own desktop. Although helping with that task, they deliver very limited capabilities and are not transformative at all.

Ultimately, choosing the wrong brand of RPA can limit the scale and potential of automation to the confines of the desktop and introduces a variety of risks. However, connected-RPA provides the platform for business-led collaboration, securely and at scale. In fact, by using this version of RPA, more than 1,800 of the world’s large organizations are achieving major productivity increases, greater innovation and improved processes so that they can stay agile and ahead.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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