Right now RPA (bots) are the talk of the digital world with the promise of the replacement of low level tasks initially and the assistance of human activity later. "Bots got the hots", right now and process (BPM) scares off folks with high levels of investment and commitment implied. This post will make the case for both sides of this argument and hopefully settle this question.
The Case for Bots:
Bots are gaining momentum as they show great promise in proof of concepts projects. As organizations ramp up larger bot projects, the benefits will multiply. This is a the same phenomena as workflow and BPM had shown early in their roll out to organizations. The difference here is bots can be leveraged and scattered quickly while independently scooping up benefits and rapidly displacing low level and redundant work. Making these bots smart empower them even more useful and can feed off the AI frenzy going on simultaneously starting with applying machine intelligence to point problems. The issues of bot management and updates don't show up for a long period of time, so bots put down roots way before the problems emerge. It's hard to turn down tactical benefits and keep the big picture in mind, so the impact of bots will last.
The Case for BPM:
Processes are essential to represent the flow and balance of work and of course they go across organizational and technology boundaries. The problem comes in instrumenting a flow to handle multiple technology and software stacks while trying to deliver on the complex goals of multiple job roles and organizational units. This takes more start up time and doesn't necessarily deliver short hit benefits right away. While these kind of efforts deliver later, they are necessary to support great customer journeys and other necessary cross organizational flows. The benefits here can be significantly higher, but they take longer. Combine this with the fact that BPM is no longer attractive as a term, it seems like BPM is the long shot. The impact of workflows and processes are here to stay and the benefits flow to the patient.
The Case for Convergence:
We really need both of these technologies working together. The tasks that complete work have to be as automated as possible and work does flow from speciality to speciality in most organizations. There may come a day where one person or bot can handle all of the knowledge, data and work necessary to complete a business outcome, but right now we need both cooperating intimately. There may be a day that independent and intelligent bots cooperatively bid to complete outcomes, but swarming agents/ bots are not ready for prime time yet. The proof of cooperation is the near recent buying and partnering activity. Kofax bought Kapow, Pega bought OpenSpan, Blue Prism is partnering with Appian and IBM is partnering with Automation Anywhere.
BPM & Bots will work together skillfully over time and will eventually participate in or as a digital business platform (DBP) to create timely and complex outcomes with great visibility. This will become obvious over time as organizations deliver on their paths of digital transformation with positive business outcomes.
Bots R Us