Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of the most exciting developments in Business Process Management (BPM) in recent history. Some industry experts believe it may be even more transformational than cloud computing.
However, is this game-changing technology all that new? Any BPM practitioner with a sense of history knows that RPA has been around for a long, long time. For instance, inbound call centers have been using Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS) for years. These systems employ robots to guide customers, accept key tone or voice-based responses, and pass on instructions to the underlying application to complete a transaction. Similarly, optical character recognition (OCR) technology—also classified as software robots—have been used for a while now to deliver high auto-extraction efficiencies. Moreover, since the advent of web-based solutions, the industry has always used internet BOTs (short form for Robots) for auto-posting of data. Software Testing industry has used similar type of automation for many years to post data in applications to manage functional, integration, user and more significantly regression testing.
What is different about the latest wave of RPA is the maturity of both technology as well as the business processes it is applied to. The market for RPA is advancing rapidly—and widespread adoption of robotic automation could radically reshape the BPM marketplace. In my view, this transformation will be driven by a pursuit of five outcomes:
- Cost reduction: Software robots are typically at least one third the price of an offshore FTE.
- Efficiency: RPA can operate 24X7 without breaks provided the underlying core applications are available.
- Accuracy: Human FTEs make data entry mistakes, whereas robots perform the same task the same way every time provided there is no judgment call required while processing transactions.
- Improved audit and regulatory compliance: Robots can provide a detailed audit logs enabling advanced business analytics and improved compliance.
- Ease of change management: Robots preserve application and data integrity by leveraging the existing application presentation layer and re-using existing application logic, databases and validation without deep understanding and re-engineering.
To sum up: RPA is not new. Without a doubt you and your organization have already been touched by robotic automation in one form or another. However, they say there’s nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come. And the time for RPA-powered transformation is now.