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RPA- Getting It Right

Depending on whom you talk to, Robotics Process Automation (RPA) may sound like a lot of hype or very real

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RPA is getting plenty of attention among process folks - particularly those looking for further means to automate those aspects of processes that are handled by people. But, what really is RPA? In order to answer that clearly, we would need to go beyond the definitions and specifically look at characteristics of RPA.

Going to the nuts and bolts of RPA

  • RPA is typically used in conjunction with automating the routine and repetitive tasks that are otherwise performed by Knowledge Workers
  • This robotic software can execute as part of a broader process
  • These are software/ algorithms/ programs that execute tasks based on certain rule-set, automation or orchestration model, and as per an assigned role as part of a business process
  • Can be configured and modeled (trained) to behave in a manner faster and without having to rest or take leave of absence
  • The tasks performed by these robots are typically in scope of a PC or a machine

Where does RPA fit in BPM?

Let's take a typical business process. There are three types of tasks or operations that are performed by various participants of the process.

  1. System Tasks. Tasks that are handed off to a system or application through an API or a web service integration. Typically, a workflow is configured with these tasks as system task in these cases.
  2. Knowledge Worker Tasks. Tasks that are performed by humans. They are assigned the task, which they perform either directly on the workflow task screen or elsewhere and then through any mechanism, confirm having performed it.
  3. Mundane Human Tasks. These are the tasks that are important enough to be performed by certain roles but are still repetitive or mundane to make it seem like a waste of human energy. These are the candidates for RPA.

A typical BPM effort involves straight-through process automation of tasks that need to be handed over to the systems or applications. Typically, knowledge workers end up performing numerous repetitive and mundane activities that can actually be automated. Examples of such scenarios are dual data-entry, swivel chair scenarios for data transfer and some of the mundane approval operations. RPA attempts to resolve this problem by freeing up the bandwidth of knowledge workers and allows for more efficient way of performing repetitive mundane tasks. So, in essence, RPA is the last mile task automation of human tasks in Process Automation.

Maximizing the value from RPA

To effectively leverage RPA following considerations are important:

RPA- a Process exercise. An effective RPA implementation works in conjunction with a robust BPM platform that supports structured as well as unstructured processes.

BPM Platform is critical prerequisite for RPA. Without an effective BPM platform, an RPA implementation would be like a town without an interstate freeway. Process orchestration at the business unit level is what drives the overall business value, while RPA implementation at the tasks level, supported by the orchestration and modeling platform, gives the incremental leverage that it promises.

RPA is a perfect foil for effective Case Management. Considering that RPA is primarily targeted to free up the knowledge workers resources, it is critical to have a process solution that allows such work to happen in a well-defined manner. BPM platform needs to have Case Management functionality to allow execution of unstructured tasks and processes in conjunction with automated and structured parts of the processes. 

Hidden advantage of Document Management in the context of RPA. Most of the prominent candidate processes of RPA happen to be documents intensive. In order for the robots to be able to focus on the core functionality of getting through the tasks, you need to have a document management capability in place for basic functionality of documents retrieval, the document type identification, auto field capture and so on.

Imaging is one of the key leverage points for RPA. Most processes today involve images.  A solution that is natively capable of performing basic enhancements, processing and field capture is again very important. This is especially critical where people are being used to extract information from images and translate them into application data.

Straight-through processing and integration is key. The process platform should have the capability to integrate with various systems as well as to allow for smooth passage of data from systems to robots and vice-versa and to process platform, in order for the process to work seamlessly.

Finally, what benefits can organizations expect from RPA?

Lower Cost through reduced requirement of operational manpower, specifically in high-scale operations is one of the foremost advantages of RPA.  RPA also ensures greater work quality and throughput, higher control and flexibility and happier knowledge workers. And all this eventually leads to happier customers!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
robotics Robotics Process Automation

Virender Jeet

Virender Jeet, Senior Vice President, Technology, joined Newgen in 1992. Jeet is the dominant force behind Newgen’s robust and innovative products, as he spearheads the organization’s product design and development.

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