Robotic Process Automation Architecture and Tools

September 28, 2018 

Robotic Process Automation Architecture and Tools

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation(RPA) automates task across application and systems. It does not require the development of code, nor it needs direct access to the code or database of the applications.

Robotic -

Machines which mimic human actions are called Robots.

Process -

The Sequence of steps which lead to meaningful activity. For example:- The process of making your favorite dish etc.

Automation -

Any process without human intervention. The primary goal of Robotics process automation process to replace repetitive and boring clerical task performed by humans, with a virtual workforce.

Consider an example, where the publisher wants to publish the articles on various social groups at a specific time every day. Would he wish to do it manually or would he appoint an employee whose sole job would be to publish articles everyday?

The manual process would cost a lot, and also would be tiresome for that employee. Configure a computer software or a robot to interpret the human actions and imitate them.


How Robotic Process Automation Works?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can also be called a virtual employee. RPA works with existing applications and thus carries out structured processes automatically. No changes have to made to existing systems RPA does the job just like employees do it. Thus RPA can automate a variety of methods, including invoice processing, report generation, and employee onboarding. With Robotic Process Automation, business processes are carried out quickly, without errors and fully automatically.

To set up an RPA bot isn't required to know to the programming. RPA Bots replicate employee actions. There are four ways to setup RPA bots.

Programming

As expected, the most effective interfaces for programming bots is a programming language. Programming instructions essentially tell the bot which programs to use and how to interact with those programs. However, using a programming language requires skill and patience, so this method is relevant for technically inclined personnel.

Graphical User Interfaces

Many vendors are offering solutions to program RPA bots with drag & drop interfaces. Anyone in the company should be capable of setting up simple bots.

Recorder

Just like macros in excel, bots can complete recorded actions. Recorded actions can involve numerous enterprise software such as taking data from Salesforce, merging it with a report from MailChimp in excel to identify which customers to target during the company’s routine customer activation SMS campaign. Recorder function is a significant advantage in tool because it enables rapid bot programming. However, recorders have some limitations as well like Recording a set of functionality can be difficult and error-prone. Maintaining recorded bots is difficult. Their code is machine produced and may not be easy to read. Re-recording actions after each small change can also be time-consuming.

Self-learning bots

These bots watch recorded employee activity to learn automatable tasks. They are the easiest to deploy bots. However, their learning is not always perfect since they rely on recognizing images in scraped screenshots. Especially during initial deployment, they could be making mistakes, and their activity needs to audit. Most of the time mistakes avoided as bots understand when they see cases they don’t know how to complete. In such cases, they contact employees for guidance. Once bots are set up, an orchestration module helps start/stop bots and analyze their activity.


Benefits of Robotic Process Automation

With RPA companies can

  • Increase speed of/reduce errors in customer-facing processes to increase customer satisfaction.
  • Allows employees to focus on higher value-added activities improving both business results and employee satisfaction.
  • Mitigate manual data edits, enhancing the quality and reducing compliance risks.

Reduction of data entry and manual errors - Managers see reduced mistakes as one of the primary benefits of RPA. A significant advantage of automation is that machines do not get distracted.Once the RPA setup is complete, standard errors eliminated. It does not mean that RPA provides error-free operation. RPA operations are checked from time-to-time to ensure that edge cases are also covered successfully by RPA bots.

Improved data quality - Reduction in manual errors leads to higher quality data, enabling more reliable analyses.

The scope of Data Collection - Robots interaction with legacy systems uncovering data, previously labor-intensive to extract. Robots enable analytics team to access more data which leads to more accurate analyses.

Workload Reduction - Automatic reports valuable for the analytics department, allowing them to focus on more custom analysis.

Churn Reduction - Over time, automation reduces the speed at which person hire for growth. As a result of this efficiency increase, the person will be managing a smaller, more effective and satisfied workforce.

Improved focus - The focus is essential for any department. Having less automation related work allows the company to focus on more critical technical problems. Human interaction with sensitive data eliminated the probability of fraud and compliance issues.


Why RPA Matters?

 

RPA - Doing More with Less

RPA robots are adept at automating repetitive data entry tasks – even complicated series of works. They do it better, cheaper, faster, and accurately than any human.

RPA Software at Work

From invoice data entry, general ledger allocations, credit applications, claims to process, to payables processing and employee onboarding, RPA is a fast, accurate, freeing staff to focus on resolving anomalies and serving customers. Robotic Process Automation use in a variety of industries, including Healthcare, Financial Services, Service Providers, Manufacturing, Distribution, and Insurance.

RPA is Code Free

RPA is ideal for a business model, among users of legacy ERP applications where coded solutions are not feasible or cost-prohibitive. Rules ERP or CRM application, interacting with the applications as a human, not as a program does.RPA can be deployed quickly by the operations side of the business, speeding the return on investment.


How to Adopt RPA?

 

Find the Right Process to Automate

Selecting the right process is critical. The method chosen has to be balanced between simple enough to automate for a project, while having enough business value or high volume. While identifying the suitable process to automate, following what should be looking for

  • Rule-based methods
  • Structured and Repetitive processes

Do a Pilot Run

Building the base automation system, testing and iterating till it achieves process efficiency.

Teams

Internal team that evaluates process takes it apart, builds the automation application. The outsourced team that has expertise in building Robotic Process Automation solutions. The internal teams might have a better understanding of processes; they would be new to the technologies and tools involved in RPA.

Tools

If bringing in an outsourced team for RPA project, they will have their own set of tools and technologies that work best for requirements. However, if an internal team is working on this, they have to choose between commercial or freely available RPA tools. These help build process map and based on that, the automation software or bot.

Mistakes that organizations make at this stage

Missed coordination with IT -

As RPA involves the adoption of new technology, enterprises often assume that the IT will lead the charge. They should be in sink with the team so that they can make the necessary environments at the right place.

Traditional Delivery Models -

Traditional Delivery models like the waterfall would not be useful in an RPA project. Since the entire team focused on “build-test-iterate,” traditional delivery models would only be a roadblock in the process.

Change Management

A few aspects that need to be the plan for

  • Re-assigning Workforce - As RPA automates back-office operations, segments of the workforce are now free from some of the tedious, time-consuming tasks. Enterprise team has to plan so these employees can smoothly transition to newer or value-added roles.
  • Integration - While RPA will mean new systems to work with, it should not be responsible for the wholly established process. Once implementation done, RPA bots should be integrated with the existing system to ensure continuity and ease of use.

Measure ROI

The last step for Robotic Process Automation project would be to evaluate the ROI. For this, enterprises should start with the following primary metrics -

Scale - What is the increase in some task completion within a set timeframe, with RPA?

Quality - If the bot has designed correctly, the percentage of errors mostly zero. When done right, RPA implementation should show clear gains across all these metrics. That, combined with the reduction in resources required to run the process at peak efficiency.

While the exact ROI calculation will be different for the enterprise, basis the complexity of their processes.

As the pilot RPA project is shown to deliver tangible ROI, it’s time to scale it up. Both regarding increasing the volume of tasks handled by the project, as well as expanding RPA to more enterprise processes.


Best Practices for RPA

It's essential to begin an RPA implementation with business processes that are best suited for automation. Selection based on criteria such as:

Mature, stable processes -The Processes that are stable, predictable and well documented, with operating costs that are consistent and well defined

Measurable savings -Cost savings and benefits gained can typically be express concerning the higher accuracy, faster response times, lower cost, etc.

High volume / High Frequency -These processes provide a faster ROI. Understand the human resources required to build automation projects.

Will look to make the team from internal talent, who may have an existing knowledge of business processes and ideal automation opportunities?

Plant automation-technology and ETech recommend that such a person be an executive sponsor who can also handle the financial aspects of implementation. Relatedly, an RPA center of excellence (COE) might ensure the right level of centralization.

It's better to invest time into breaking the complicated process into sub-processes, and then implement automation only for those that do not require a human-level decision. For instance, the parts that gather the information needed to make a decision could automate, and leave the decision-making itself to employees.

Having a test and fallback plan is crucial before deploying an automated process to production.

As with any automation technology, rigorous testing of an automation build is critical. It is recommended the practice to prepare with multiple environments where the build can be developed and tested, before finally being deployed. We highlight some important points to minimize any frustrations when transitioning to live production.

For all applications interacted with the automation, ensure an application version match between Test/Development and Production environments.

An agreed plan is in place should the automation build require re-work after deployment to Production.

Employees can move beyond the mythology of “robots will steal our jobs.”

Never miss an opportunity to explain to employees what automation projects use for, identify where the automation will assist them in their responsibilities and how this forges a pathway towards a higher value.

Be very clear what robotic process automation can do (and what it cannot) so that expectations maintain at a realistic level. In doing this, build and foster a sustainable, long-term development of RPA within the business.

Importance of testing cannot be over-emphasized, e.g., in attended automation, minor differences in users’ systems such as different screen resolutions can lead to unexpected bugs. All significant scenarios need to test before the pilot thoroughly.

Run a pilot -Configure the RPA bot. Programmatic RPA solutions need to be the programme with assistance from the team currently running the process. However, automatic solutions understand the business logic and work with a human-in-the-loop alert approach. Test RPA bot output with historical data to debug configuration.

Run a live pilot - Each day, a team reviews a random selection of bot output.

Evaluate pilot results - Considering rare cases and difficult inputs then run a detailed evaluation.


Robotic Process Automation Tools

 

Vendor

Free Version Available/ Not

Pricing

Usability

Selected Partners

Global Coverage

Another Monday

-

-

-

KPMG, PwC

Europe

AntWorks

-

-

-

-

-

Arago

-

-

-

-

-

Automation Anywhere

-

Automation Anywhere

Drag & Drop, Macro Recording

Accenture, Capgemini Cognizant, Deloitte

Global

Blue Prism

-

Per Bot

Drag & Drop

Accenture, Capgemini Deloitte, EY, IBM

-

Contextor

-

-

-

Accenture, Capgemini, EY, IBM

EMEA & North America

Jidoka

-

-

-

-

-

Kofax

-

-

-

Accenture, IBM

Global

Kryon Systems

-

-

-

-

-

NICE Systems

-

-

-

Accenture, IBM, Cognizant

Global

Pega

-

-

-

Accenture, Capgemini, Cognizant, EY

Global

Redwood Software

-

-

-

Accenture, Capgemini, Delloite

-

UiPath Community Edition

Per Bot

Drag & Drop, Macro Recording

-

Accenture, Capgemini, Cognizant, Deloitte EY,IBM,PwC

Global

Visual Cron

45-day free trial

Per Server

Drag & Drop

-

-

WorkFusion

WorkFusion RPA Express

Per Process

Drag & Drop, Macro Recording

Capgemini, Cognizant, Deloitte, PwC

Global


Checklist for Selecting RPA Tools

Technology

Many companies perform their day to day tasks outside the local desktop using Virtual machines. So the tool should support any application and must be platform independent.

Scalability

Selection of RPA tool must include how quickly the device can respond to business requirements, changes, exceptions.

Security

One of the critical parameter to be considered is security. RPA tools are a piece of software, which used to measure the implementation of security controls.

Total Cost of Ownership

It includes the initial setup cost of the RPA system, ongoing vendor license fees, and maintenance cost.

Vendor Experience

Choose a vendor that serves a company similar to both regarding size and industry. This kind of experience improves the speed of implementation by reducing the work required to implement RPA software.

Maintenance and Support

The vendor has to follow a support model to ensure meet the required Service Level Agreements.

  • Select the processes to be automated wisely 
  • Divide and conquer
  • Train and educate employees
  • Test solution
  • Deploy the solution