I have recently completed an online course on SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and I must say that I was fairly impressed by how they introduced the topic and debunked some widely raised concerns. As such, I have decided to list down my top key highlights on RPA to give you an informal introduction. If you have additional insights feel free to comment down below.
What is RPA?
Before we dive into the highlights, imagine going to work with 80% of your daily tasks comprising of encoding some sort of data. This could be encoding purchase order details, employee details, invoices, etc. This can be an exaggerated scenario but, in all honesty, it gets repetitive and boring. Imagine that at the end of the day the remaining 20% goes to analyzing all the stuff you encoded. It is also possible that the total effort of a thorough analysis may require more than 20% of your time.
Enter “Robot A” who can do the 80% of your encoding tasks. Ideally, “Robot A” should be able to speed up the process of encoding, so you are able to devote most your time in analysis. This in turn may free up some extra time for you to think of innovations or do other tasks.
Robot A in this example serves as the RPA. In short, it is the technology that automates the repetitive and manual tasks you do. Robots will do the work for you and should allow you to maximize your time for the needed human intervention, analysis, and other tasks.
Intelligent RPA – Robotic process automation accelerates the digital transformation of business processes by automatically replicating tedious actions that have no added value.
RPA should not be associated to manual and repetitive tasks only
That was just a simple example. The use case of RPA’s should be associated and even cover challenges with high volume data or tasks. It should also cover areas that involve multiple systems and can serve as workaround for native integrations.
Let’s say that the encoding of tasks requires you to go through several other applications. The RPA can be created in such a way that it navigates through the other applications and their respective screens. If the tasks need some sort of integration and they involve legacy systems that no longer have formal support, the RPA can be created to act as a workaround for the native integration. This type of workaround could consider challenges in the following:
- It could be too expensive and there could be no time to add a web service between two applications.
- Migration from the legacy system has been planned but it will start years from now etc.
No. RPA is not another macro.
Hello VBA in Microsoft Excel. RPA is not to be confused with VBA in Excel. Yes, it can be considered to have similar capabilities, but RPA is more than that. It has the capability to integrate and utilize other systems outside of Excel. It should be able to handle different kinds of technology and tasks such as the ability to control and distribute system jobs.
Implementing RPA without involving IT is a no-no.
It is possible to create an RPA by doing a simple recording and execution approach. It is possible but there are additional aspects to be considered. It should be noted that business processes may not be a simple straightforward approach. Many processes are complex and could have many dependencies.
Given the process complexity and possible dependencies, it is important that the RPA behaves in a way that it can handle errors / exceptions properly. Moreover, the maintenance of an automation should be considered. In an end user perspective, I would like to use something that really helps me get the job done in an efficient manner. I wouldn’t want numerous errors preventing me from doing a certain task otherwise the Return on Investment (ROI) would have been a slump.
In short, an automation should be sustainable. In order to create a sustainable automation, the business and IT team with the right development / IT skills should work together. There are of course technical aspects that may be overlooked by the business. Take for example, infrastructure and system capabilities. Likewise, it is possible the IT team could overlook some business aspects. Thus, it is important for both sides to cooperate and work together as a team.
Ideally, RPA’s should take the robot out of humans
They say RPA will replace humans and in turn be the cause of job loss. RPA is no doubt a big change to the workforce, but the idea is that RPA should take the robot out of humans. Robot in this context pertains to the tasks that can be automated. This in turn should allow people to focus their efforts on doing more meaningful and high value work.
Looking forward and what it means to incorporate RPA
The image above shows a trend on the increase of high value tasks and automation from Industrial Automation to Intelligent Enterprises. One of the key approaches to reach the level of Intelligent Enterprises is to introduce a virtual or digital workforce through Intelligent RPA so that humans can work on high value tasks and increase productivity.
This is an exciting step. If we were to allow the digital workforce / bots to work on the manual, tedious, and error prone tasks, we can then work on the high value, and transformational activities for the enterprise. I think this allows and fosters an environment where work is more meaningful, and the results are more rewarding.