Using robots to automate the business’s function: modern RPA sets the humans free

4 July 2018 | 3518 Shares

Across different departments in the enterprise, the process of digital transformation proceeds at different paces.

Reasons for this are various, but not necessarily due to any reluctance on the part of business managers to embrace digital solutions. Sometimes, internal structures are a limiting factor: the strategic role played by the finance division, for instance, plus the incredible importance of financial processes’ inviolability therein has probably (quite rightly) led to a needful application of the brakes. But digitization remains a “when,” not an “if.”

However, instead of entirely revolutionizing the technological underpinnings of a large enterprise’s often complex workings, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions provide a new way of bringing about digital transformation. RPA create incredible business savings, increases staff productivity, and has proven positive effects on customer retention and satisfaction — all without creating the potential for havoc of the installation of a full-blown enterprise resource planning (ERP) software solution, or tech deployment of similar scale.

In some departments – or even at the level of discrete projects – RPA finds a role, initially, as a stopgap technological solution, but, over time actually get used more and more. Sometimes, the benefits delivered by this type of granular application of technology are enough to achieve significant savings. The first positive take-home is that there’s no danger of disruption of ongoing business processes.

That’s not to say that modern RPA systems will not integrate or shouldn’t be integrated with other systems such as ERP, specialist financial software, CRMs, or any of the other technological solutions which are changing the face of business today.

By using the new generation of robotic process automation systems, companies are finding they can work more accurately, with lower costs (sometimes, but not always, in reduced HR overheads) and significantly more quickly. The latter is perhaps not surprising; computers excel at repetitious data ‘crunching’, after all.

 

Ever since technology began to have a positive effect on industry’s internal processes, it’s become apparent that the astute application of a modicum of well-placed technology can make game-changing differences. Repetition for human workers leads to mistakes creeping into what are often mission-critical processes. For RPA, mere repetition is bread-and-butter work; robots leverage intelligence and can be used ‘lights off’ – unattended – in many difficult scenarios.

According to a Gartner report, “Robotic Process Automation: Eight Guidelines For Effective Results,” the definition of processes ripe for improvements is:

“[They] have a high transaction throughput of structured digitalized data, with relatively fixed processing paths and/or user interfaces, which do not change frequently, and are rule-based activities.” [our italics]

As well as the distinct economic benefits associated with RPA deployment, massively increased efficiency and cost-savings have a positive effect on end-users of a product or service; customers, or in many cases, to suppliers and partners as well.

Because a greater number of transactions can be handled without errors or human intervention, customer satisfaction levels have been proven to rise as a direct result of improvements in business processes.

Internally, of course, performance improvements lead to lowered average times spent per transaction or activity. The decision-making algorithms behind/within RPA produce lower numbers of exceptions and higher totals of completed transactions. People & processes work faster, increase productivity and lower costs.

CEO of Softomotive (see below), Marios Stavropoulos highlights one of the easy wins which RPA offers:

“In today’s global business environment, the continuous productivity that RPA provides is essential to remain competitive, as there are always transactions that need to be processed.”

In short, RPA deployment is a great deal more than simply serving as a stepping stone to the installation of a larger, more far-reaching technology solution. RPA can automate any application or task with technological underpinnings: Desktop or web browser-based tasks, Java apps, mainframe terminal-based processes, API connected apps. RPA enables efficient and error-free automation of just about any tech in use.

Many ERPs and similar systems deployed by organizations do not allow high levels of bespoke configuration. This means that there is usually a degree of repetitive cross-entry in particular where two, three, or even more systems are run in tandem. RPA solutions, however, can pull data from one ERP to another, drawing data from source A, processing it and combining it with (previously) manual Excel file manipulation on desktop B, posting it in a new format to system C, and compressing and archiving to cold-storage facility D.

From simple interactions right up to server-managed enterprise-wide automation deployments, RPA doesn’t require the complex, deep planning associated with bespoke software deployments, yet is powerful enough to surpass even the most heavyweight apps’ capabilities. And like any enterprise-level technology worth its salt, RPA can use existing tools (AD/Kerberos authentication, API access to legacy apps, cloud compute & storage, etc.) and create a few new ones, too.

Here at Tech HQ, we have considered four providers of RPA solutions, with specific reference to automating business processing. While clearly not being able to showcase every product available, we hope that the following will give you some idea of the range and breadth of services currently on offer.

SOFTOMOTIVE

 
Softmotive is one of the leading worldwide providers of Robotic Process Automation solutions, trusted by more than 7,000 companies worldwide.

Softomotive’s leading automation technologies for professionals, small teams and enterprises of all sizes range from self-contained, user-driven desktops to a distributed, server-based enterprise RPA solution.

  • Serverless desktop automation for professionals and small teams,

WinAutomation is the world’s best desktop automation tool and provides a powerful, robust and easy to use Windows-based platform for building software robots.

  • Server-based Enterprise Automation

ProcessRobot is a leading enterprise RPA platform, including enterprise-grade security and controls, with links to best-of-breed AI technologies if required.

This integrated RPA platform shares a common architecture so clients can start small and scale quickly.

With more than ten years in the software automation market, Softomotive provides powerful, robust and extensible automation software with the best time to value through unparalleled ease of use, speed of deployment and scalability. It is also the most affordable process automation software available, without any loss of functionality.

Learn more about Softomotive’s offerings in this longer article.

KOFAX

Kofax offers close on a dozen solutions which automate many aspects of a company’s financial activities, in the three key areas of customer experience, operational efficiency, and risk & compliance.

From the first time a customer contacts a company, through to account opening, due diligence processes, equity and financial data research, and loan and mortgage application automation systems, Kofax has an automation solution designed to improve customer interactions and internal processes. This is all achieved while maintaining local compliance.

Survey of 100 senior banking officials across the US and Europe found that around 20 percent are having to increase their spending because of increasing compliance requirements. This makes the consistent application of banking business rules a key area which can be addressed at lower cost, by means of RPA deployment.

As well as many trends affecting the financial sector, customers are increasingly preferring self-service — especially on their mobiles. However, many systems which help run financial institutions or departments were not designed for this type of customer-led demand.

By standardizing interaction arenas, and computerizing processes, not only are potentially problematic areas avoided (where human error might creep in), but Kofax’s clients can operate in a manner which is increasingly expected of them by technologically-savvy consumers.

BLUE PRISM

Based on the Microsoft .NET framework, Blue Prism’s solutions can automate any software non-invasively. The company neatly hits the RPA paradigm nail on the head, terming its solutions a “digital workforce” — automating any process in any department where clerical or administrative work is performed repetitively.

Deploying the solution does not require any coding ability, yet it supports most platforms, including Java, mainframe, Windows desktops, etc., and can be used in a variety of environments, from a web browser through to terminal or thin client.

Blue Prism claims to have invented the term robotic process automation, and was named by Gartner in its “Cool Vendors in Business Process Services” review:

“Who should care: end-user organizations and vendors need to improve the quality and efficiency of role-based back-office processes should be interested in Blue Prism.”

The company’s solutions work across a variety of sectors from healthcare through to financial services, and the company boasts offices in Europe, Australia, Japan, India, and across the US.

UIPATH

Like Softomotive, UIPath offers a range of RPA solutions which allow any organization’s finance division staged entry into the world of automation.

UIPath Studio uses a visual interface to automate the day-to-day processes on a user’s desktop. The software can either be taught unique ways of working, or the user can choose from a wide range of templates preprogrammed by the company, which describe many of the common processes undertaken, in business. These range from widely-undertaken processes such as accounts received and accounts payable, through to specific governance and tax processes peculiar to particular geographies.

As users move up the UIPath, those won over by the company’s software can utilize server-level systems, which can be deployed either in the cloud or in-house. Automation can either be attended (designed to cooperate with employees, triggered when needed by direct command), or unattended, where systems step in to run in the background, often in batch mode.

All activities can be configured and overseen using UIPath Orchestrator, which controls the full range of software, including applications which are hosted in the cloud, on a mainframe, Java apps, and on individual desktops.

The New York-headquartered company also has offices in Europe and is rapidly making inroads into the Asian market as it spreads across the globe.

*Some of the companies featured on this article are commercial partners of TechHQ