Automate in minutes, save hours: How Catalytic’s human-centricity wins the robot wars

3 March 2020 | 214 Shares


When RPA vendors give their elevator pitch, often the first thing that gets mentioned is the user interface; how it allows the joining-up of very different pieces of software and technology in the enterprise’s workflow. The creators proudly show how the mismatch can be overcome between, for instance, naming conventions in SAP and the more mainstream CRM database that’s built on MariaDB.

There’s often a showcase too, of the easy to use, drag and drop interface that’s based reasonably closely on simple Boolean logic. The results often look great, with the type of decision tree-come-flowchart that would happily grace the walls of a development team’s office.

Every definition of low-code is going to be different. Still, even the most straightforward interface used to map business logic and its underpinning technology will need to be used by professionals with at least some knowledge of how technology works.

Nevertheless, automation has come a long way. Sean Chou, CEO of Catalytic, described RPA’s beginnings to us in a chat with TechHQ earlier this week. The early days of Appian, for example, he said, comprised a focus on Visual Basic instances in the cloud for developers interested in process automation. But that technical focus remains in many RPA solutions:

“This is where that low-code targeted towards developers, and no-code targeted towards the citizen developers stars to blur a little bit […] The new generation of workers and the new generation of leaders are very tech-savvy, and that’s led to a restructuring and a blurring of the lines.”

That’s because every person’s everyday use of smartphones, smart TVs, and even domestic IoT means that the levels of technical awareness are much higher than they were. But the human element remains.

It’s where products can cross from the technical to the citizen that especially drives the Catalytic next-generation Digital Process Automation technology. The human-centric approach is much different from RPA and forms the backbone of the platform. The focus of the Catalytic platform is very much on the users; on the people-centric processes that drive 90 percent of even the most technically-advanced businesses today.

In some ways, the Catalytic platform mingles the business processes that are very much based on the people in the business and the technology they use. Is there less distinction between people and processes than before, we asked?

“It’s definitely one of the industry’s challenges,” he said. “It’s often presented as an either-or. Here we get into the ways that companies originated. At Catalytic we started with the idea of how we get people to work better together. We were hyper-focused on people.”

That’s reflected in the headline act of the Catalytic platform, the “AI-powered” cognitive engine that helps power parts of the platform. AI (artificial intelligence) in this context refers to the ability of the automation engine to do things like analyze sentiment from various media, as part of the overall decision structure. If feedback is positive, then do this; if feedback expresses dislike or a poor experience, do something different.

That’s a refreshing approach to a very human situation in most enterprise-scale companies, where RPA is most commonly deployed where repetitive and dull work can be undertaken by tireless robots, who not only never tire, but will also not make mistakes. People don’t make mistakes on purpose on the whole, but their tendency to make errors increases when boredom sets in. After all, if your job involved moving data from A to B to C, clicking button D, and then repeating, you too would probably let standards slide.

Setting up processes for automation in the Catalytic DPA is human-centric, too. Chou talks about “coarse-grained activities,” which can be dropped into workflows. That’s because ‘Update the sales record’ is a meaningful activity to the end-user. And despite a higher level of technical acclivity, no-one (outside the IT department) really thinks along the lines of ‘extract a floating-point value from an Excel sheet, round it down, convert it into text, and pass it to the supply chain database table SALES_CURRENT_NEW’.

That differentiation is a crucial difference and forms the USP of the Catalytic platform. If any automation exercise is to succeed, it simply must be driven by the people it affects the most; the everyday workers who use technology all day. And so creating the automations and making sense of the underlying business processes has to be done in ways that are abstracted away from pure data fields, APIs and RESTful interfaces (although those sorts of technical considerations certainly happen “under the hood,” of course.)

Like all the best ideas, the Catalytic concept is a simple one. It’s probably down to the starting point for the overall project, back in the day, which was helping people to work together better. That was long before phrases like “citizen automator” were ever a reality.

Thanks to the Catalytic catalog of preset actions and integrations (numbering in their hundreds), staff can type phrases like “Add case to Salesforce” to start to build their powerful, data-driven automation. From there on in, that type of tone is set, with integrations ready to roll.

With everything to gain, isn’t it time you let your people work together better? To learn how your people can keep it human, get in touch with a representative today. Or, to plunge right in, why not organize a demo?