What is the difference between traditional automation and robotics process automation?
Can a software robot go rogue and take over my system?
Will RPA tools automatically take care of compliance, security and control verification for me?
How do we quantify process efficiencies?
What is the return on investment?
These are some of the most common – and the most immediate – questions that come up for enterprises considering robotic process automation (RPA), regardless of their industry or geography. RPA is software that can be trained or configured to execute processes using the same steps, following the same business rules and accessing the same applications and systems a human employee does today. And it is in hot demand.
The business case is not hard to build. Many business processes handled manually today are easily automated with enterprise-class, server-based RPA bots. Take, for example, the processing of an invoice that requires a person to sign onto an ERP system, navigate menus to complete a transaction, process an invoice for payment, record the data and sign back out of the system. RPA can easily be configured, tested and deployed to conduct the exact keystrokes of the employee who carries out the process.
But, to be sure, there is a degree of art – and a great deal of discipline – involved in the hardening process that enables bots to run reliably and with consistent outcomes in an enterprise. The same kinds of hazards that exist when we fail to adequately configure and test manual processes and the same kinds of risks that exist when we fail to adequately define and integrate security protocols in manual processes can manifest in RPA. The success of an RPA deployment is attributable not to one organizational entity but to multiple departments – IT, specific business units, management and even suppliers – working together to drive the appropriate objectives.
Even as RPA use cases proliferate, and even as enterprise interest grows, introducing RPA “bots” into an organization ultimately must be a measured pursuit that includes finding the right solution for specific business needs, addressing security, legal and regulatory risks, and managing organizational redesign so employees can contribute in new ways to the innovation and business value.
I recently discussed these issues and the questions above in an ISG Smartalk™ RPA: The Art of the Possible. Listen to the replay and contact me to discuss how ISG can help you on the journey toward automation.
Mark is an experienced consultant and former CIO with more than 30 years of experience in process automation, information technology, sourcing, supply chain management, transformation and acquisition integration. His consulting experience includes work for well known firms such as Coopers & Lybrand, Deloitte, and AlixPartners. His industry experience includes acquisition integration, supply chain and IT roles in the banking, manufacturing and distribution industries. He has held CIO positions for nationwide distribution, retail, media/publishing and textile firms. He holds an MBA from Emory University and BA from Cornell University.