Robotic Process Automation is the process of using certain RPA tools to automate manual processes.
These manual processes are typically those that are built up around existing computer systems or those systems that are currently not automated.
For example, preparing data for entry into an automated system, or taking data manually from system and keying it into another system.
Implementation of RPA can be hugely beneficial.
Generally the technology can be cost saving, improve quality, reduce error in relaying and retrieving data, aid productivity and output, and improve the performance of the business.
RPA, however, is not being utilised to its full potential.
Business leaders often bypass IT when implementing RPA initiatives, because RPA systems don’t require extensive IT support, and IT is often seen as a potential roadblock to operational improvement initiatives.
However, RPA systems do require a level of IT support and involvement to ensure performance, and lack of CIO involvement can lead to risks associated with any technology projects, such as disconnected technology, performance issues, security lapses and decreased value delivery.
Information Age spoke to Mark Davison, director of RPA practice at Alsbridge, about the RPA, it’s benefits for businesses, and the role change of the CIO.
Why is IT so important in implementing RPA initiatives?
It’s essential for IT to be engaged and preferably supportive of RPA.
When an organisation selects an RPA initiative or tool, and it makes the commitment to apply resources, it becomes a technology in that organisation.
So, the CIO’s view is inclusive in the strategy of implementing RPA technology. There is a portion of this that needs his or her’s help.
These technologies are optimally installed on a server-type device in the organisation, and that’s usually managed by IT.
So, in order to get RPA installed in an optimum way, we need IT’s help.
The CIO controls those resources, and so they have to be deployed to assist the users; get the installation correct, make sure it’s installed properly within the infrastructure, and oversee the right back up.
IT’s involvement is essential, so that the RPA technology can operate just as efficiently as any other major technology in the business; continuously and reliably.
What is the impact of integrating RPA on IT systems?
Generally speaking the impact on IT is minimal. RPA technologies don’t require complex interfaces at the data level.
The robot mimics what the user does, so it typically does not store data, and does not create a growing database of its own.
As a result there’s a minimum impact on infrastructure, on the server, on memory on bandwidth, on storage and so forth.
It doesn’t require any new operating system, it’s almost agnostic
How can RPA and IT work together?
IT can leverage this tool in two different ways specifically.
One is, IT also has manual things that it does. When IT deploys systems they have to test modifications and enhancements.
These RPA tools can be used for functional and regression testing [type of software testing that verifies that software previously developed and tested still performs correctly after it was changed or interfaced with other software].
Secondly, and from my standpoint most significantly for the CIO, it presents an opportunity to see where these RPA tools can be used in place of modification and enhancement requests that the users might have.
For example, most IT departments maintain some sort of backlog list of requests that are used to modify or enhance existing applications. It would be possible to look at these requests and find ones that could be partially, or entirely solved by using an RPA tool.
How has the role of the CIO changed with regard to RPA initiatives?
In one respect I’m not sure if it’s changed very much, and in another respect it has changed.
For years businesses, or business users have been implementing their own tools in their organisations; there’s reporting tools, there’s office tools.
So the CIO, for years, has had to be aware of and had to address user departments that want their own technologies, all to help the business advance and to meet their own goals.
From that standpoint the CIO’s role is very similar.
The way it’s different is that most organisations do not have RPA tools in place.
There is a learning exercise, an education process, in place.
This is a new technology aiding the implementation of manual tasks.
The CIO has a role to support the infrastructure, provide the application facilities, figure out how to optimise it throughout the organisation, and to drive the benefits into the business.
What are the advantages of using RPA?
In many organisations there is a ROI (return on investment) implementing robotics.
Robots can do more work than one full time employee, which significantly reduces cost.
There are financial advantages in implementing a robot that can work after hours and on the weekend, 24 hours a day.
Developing these robots is also efficient, and it can take weeks or months, rather than years.
We often see companies that have very high ROI percentages, because these robots can be deployed quickly, they can do the work of more than one full time equivalent (FTE / employee), and the cost is less than an FTE.
Another advantage is that when a process changes, human training can be a huge undertaking, it has to be well planned and well timed. It becomes a huge initiative.
With a robot it’s very simple to modify the systems, test, and re-deploy the robot. The whole process becomes much simpler.
Accuracy is the final factor. When the robot is working its processes it should work at 100%, and so the errors go away.
Are there security risks?
The robots are only going to do what they’re configured to do.
Unlike the user, the robot doesn’t need internet access, so the robot will only do what it is told to do.
In some cases, the robot is even more secure than a human on the network.
The robot will conform to the existing security policies that are in place at the organisation.
Ultimately, RPA tools appear to be an emerging technology that increases productivity and saves money, while not upsetting the established IT order.