Since we began pioneering Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software in back 2001, this technology has played an increasingly significant role in transforming the efficiency and productivity of workplace operations of over a thousand large organisations. Today, we’re entering a new era of collaborative technology innovation being enabled by ever greater, intelligent, business automation – welcome to ‘connected-RPA’.
Connected-RPA will enable organisations to increasingly release the combined creativity of ‘the makers’ - the digitally savvy business users who really understand their business, by giving them the ability to access and exploit leading-edge cloud, AI, cognitive and other capabilities – so they can innovate and swiftly develop new, compelling, offerings.
What’s driving connected-RPA
Many organisations are suffering from a ‘digital entrepreneur gap’, which leaves them vulnerable to more agile competitors that can take their innovations to market - faster. This gap exists because the majority of IT departmental budgets are often spent on managing, maintaining and updating processes and systems – rather than focusing on new initiatives. Connected-RPA bridges this gap by giving organisations a compelling way of remaining competitive by leapfrogging generations of technology advancements; eliminating multi-year waits on the IT work queue.
With connected-RPA, business users simply follow an easy “drag and drop” route to automate any past, present or emerging technology while being able to integrate with a widening community of collaborators too. This unique, business-led, capability will enable the creation of more innovative, new services and products – to keep pace with ever-changing, market demand.
How connected-RPA was created
The origins of connected RPA go back to 2001, when we started solving the “human middleware” issue in banking environments, where human workers perform mission critical repetitive tasks requiring interoperability and integration between enterprise wide IT systems. RPA was the breakthrough software that carries out tasks in the same way humans do — via an easy-to-control, automated, “Digital Worker” (advanced software robot).
Digital Workers work by mimicking the way human workers operate, accessing and reading the user interface to interoperate and orchestrate any 3rd party application, re-purposing the human interface as a machine usable API. Digital Workers have also progressed to not only “reading” applications like humans but also conducting work like humans. They are interconnected, communicate with one another to collaborate, share workloads and operate as a digital team. Digital Workers make adjustments according to obstacles - different screens, layouts or fonts, application versions, system settings, permissions, and even language - and with connected RPA, they’ll become even smarter.
It’s the unique, universal enterprise connectivity capabilities of Digital Workers, coupled with the increasingly intelligent way that they operate, that’s now being harnessed by business users to integrate with and orchestrate any new or existing technology application. Business users simply create automated processes by drawing and designing process flowcharts, which are intuitive for business users, and are used by the Digital Worker to automate a task.
Having both human and Digital Workers working together, while seamlessly interacting with existing and new applications, creates a powerful, intelligent, collaborative, digital ecosystem – and this is the essence of connected RPA. This is also set to provide the foundation for ongoing digital transformation – and leading industry academics expect connected RPA to emerge as the execution platform of choice, for swiftly utilising best-of-breed artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive technologies across the enterprise.
Connected-RPA in practice
Here are 10 examples of what can be achieved with connected RPA:
- Anti-money laundering prevention in conjunction with blockchain technologies and business process management tools.
- Collaborating with artificial intelligence and machine learning tools for multi-lingual, automated email processing for inbound customer inquiries and email triage.
- Automated case handling and resolution for insurance claims.
- Automating the extraction of unstructured data.
- Using AI tools to gauge sentiment analysis, intensity and mood for customer support – and then automatically elevating requests to a customer representative.
- Working in conjunction with process mining tools to automatically extract historical records/data research and business intelligence analytics.
- Dynamically and automatically verify legal compliance on complex contracts.
- Collaborating with OCR and computer vision technologies to automatically verify identity for loan processing, or transform secured faxes into searchable, text-embedded formats.
- Automatic, real-time translation in virtual meetings.
- Automatically connecting chatbots and humans for financial transactions, human resources, or customer service requests.
Making connected-RPA an ongoing success
Although connected RPA is business-led - so business users can keep pace with market demands, it must still operate in an IT-endorsed and controlled environment too. For connected RPA to maintain long term success, it must successfully operate and scale in large, enterprise-wide, environments - where security, resilience and governance are equally, if not more important, than speed, automation and simplicity.
To ensure that they’re trusted to operate within these demanding enterprise environments, Digital Workers are designed to be scalable, robust, secure, controllable and intelligent. Business users train Digital Workers without coding – so the system infrastructure remains intact and development isn’t needed. If code is used to build automations outside the technology department, unwelcome “grey IT” is introduced – along with unaudited process models that represent threats such as “back doors”, security flaws and audit failures.
For connected RPA to deliver longer-term value at scale, automations should also be carefully planned, modelled and designed, so all automated processes achieve design standards, are completely transparent and centrally pooled to offer the potential for re-use. This collaborative facet is also an important part of connected RPA, as it introduces the widest pool of non-technical, business users who contribute their automations so they can be managed and reused by the whole business – thus optimising productivity gains.
Connected-RPA will provide the platform to involve a wider range of collaborators within an ecosystem, including developers and academics, so a growing community and ‘brains trust’ can share and test best practices. This community will increasingly generate ever easier access to emerging tech - via connected RPA’ s integration capabilities – enabling those participating to create new offerings faster and ensure that their organisations stay competitive.
Colin Redbond, head of technology strategy and architecture, Blue Prism (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: Praphan Jampala / Shutterstock