Thursday, February 21, 2019

What Has RPA Delivered to Date?

Robotic Process Automation has been successful in automating in an around existing process and application portfolios for 20 plus years and has recently stole the spotlight. RPA is being talked about at the executive levels because automation is a big deal for organizations wanting to deliver efficiency. Now that organizations are headed for effectiveness with better customer experiences RPA will have to shift and change to head for these new outcomes. What have the bots been up to until now?

Technical Delivery to Date:

RPA is great for any kind automated keying replacing drudgery work by managing data entry from one system to another without having humans to deal with signing in to applications and searching for data sources. RPA can also tap external resources like web sites and multiple data feeds. Any light data integration, transformation, replication and movement has been RPAs sweet spot. RPA also plays a role with dealing with content (text mostly) and emails for the integration of collaboration facilities with system components that are of a software nature mostly. In some ideal situations RPA can escort and extend straight through processes activity while monitoring the results to adjust the throughput through rule changes. In the near future, IoT linkages to processes may also include physical bots as well. Needless to say the technical delivery has been strong to date and still growing.

Business Delivery to Date: 

RPA has played a big role in several business situations particularly processes in an around finance because finance is often a large consumer of data. Human resources is content rich and ends up being a communication hub for selection and on-boarding of new associates. On boarding requires contacting many internal systems for resources and security authorizations. Great customer service requires tapping many systems to reach the outcomes that please customers by reaching their desired outcomes. RPA can help service reps span systems or assist self servicing situations.  Technical support also handles a variety of problems that is a ripe situation for RPA to link to a variety of internal systems. Procurement is also a process that requires multiple internal and external collaborations and system interactions. The industries that have been the most aggressive with RPA to date are Banking, Insurance, Telecom and Retail, but there is potential all around us.

Bring on the Complexity and Change: 

RPA is ready to surge into new tasks with the addition of intelligence with AI and process mining capabilities that are also enabled with AI. Intelligence in and around RPA can take on more complex work tasks. Automation of all kind will leverage intelligence along with RPA, so the future of automation seems to have unlimited potential. Intelligent automation will be the next big thing and RPA will be at the party.

Net; Net: 

RPA has and will continue to deliver results and looks to have a long life even if under the umbrella of intelligent automation. RPA is one of the easiest places to start and plays well in all incremental like projects(Scrum based or not) that are dominating the scene today with low-code, workflow and process management.

Additional Reading:

Process n RPA
Future of RPA
Top 5 RPA On Ramps

Monday, February 18, 2019

You Are Invited

Many of you know my work in the Digital World, but I have a life in the shadows that revolves around art. From time to time I participate in "Pop Up" art shows. If you can reach Phoenix on March 16th, you are invited to see some of my work at the Unexpected Gallery. If you can't make it the Phoenix show, please see my current collection If you are serious about art, Conception Arts presents the best emerging artist from around the world in their art shows. Check it out and let me know what city I should show up in next :)  Up Coming shows listed here.  Contact me at

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Process and Bots Dancing Together

Processes are just about everywhere in organizations. They are in simple workflows. They certainly are guiding customer experiences. They are deeply embedded in transaction based systems, both legacy and purchased. They are even popping up as process snippets at the edge in IoT collaborations with sensors, controllers and machines. Now RPA is going every where too through simple software bots that complete work tasks that humans don't really want to do initially. Eventually bots will become smarter and do more complex work as the march to smart automation progresses. How will these work managers coordinate and cooperate now? What will the dance be like in the future between processes and bots?

Today It is Process Orchestration

Processes(BPM) and Software Bots (RPA) work well and in a clear fashion in that processes control the flow of these bots and the bots complete their tasks on the command of the processes that are likely better practice sequence of routine work. They tend to be well worn paths and the process controls the direction and bots dig down and do some of the work, mostly tedious human activity or messy systems integration today. There are pretty clear boundaries and there is some pretty impressive benefits of combining these forms of automation together. The case studies are starting to stream out into the public eye.

The Near Future is About Cooperation

As processes and bots become smarter with the infusion of multiple forms of AI (machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP) and decision based (Analytics, Decision Models and Heuristics), the starting point will likely manage the direction of the next best action. Tasks will become smarter as they take on more complex work therefore bots will sometimes determine the orchestration sequence. Processes will be come smarter and more emergent in nature as they work to milestones as well to proven sequences. Processes and Bots will become cooperating peers working towards common outcomes. The directing force will likely be the smartest one (process or bot) for the situation of  successful work completion at the time. In some cases, it might be a customer or employee that is super-charged with knowledge or situational analysis. Kind of like the airplane pilots (both civil and defense pilots) of today except for business outcomes; not flight performance.

Long Range It's Goal Driven Autonomy for Both

The future of the process-bot dance will be radically different than today. As bots become smarter and able to operate autonomously (like swarming agents), they will bid on on work, complete the work with what ever resources are best at the moment and will leverage prefabricated process snippets (small process chunks that represent proven work sequences) and be led by goals and guided by constraints (governance guard rails). The real process is likely to be a mined picture of what happened for audit trail and optimization purposes.

Net; Net:

It's clear to me that process and bots will be dance partners for a long time. The kind of dances will be varied and even emergent. These automation partners will continue for a long time, but the mix of control will be varied and hybrid in nature. Sometimes the process will control the flow and sometimes the goals will control the flow. Bots and processes will be both master and servant at different times and in different circumstances to deliver desirable outcomes moving forward. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Top Five On Ramps for RPA

Robotic Process Automation(RPA) seems to be everywhere these days and even on the lips of those who are in the C-suite. RPA has proven itself as able to reduce or eliminate low level tasks, particularly in processes. The momentum is strong at the moment and any sight of an economic downturn will drive organizations for more operational cost reductions. Just because Process (P) is in the name, it doesn't mean that there aren't other opportunities to leverage RPA in other contexts. Even if you have mined out RPA in process, there are still other opportunities to leverage RPA as it is combined with other intelligent software thus expanding to more complex work/tasks.

Business Process On Ramp:

There is still significant benefit left in discrete processes besides low level process tasks, particularly if there are any documents involved with the process/workflow. Often a number of steps in forms scanning, data recognition, data deployment and forms flow can be assisted by RPA along with email related activities. There is more potential in creating completely automated processes (straight through processing) as well. As the scope of RPA expands to end to end processes and chunks of related processes, more benefits will emerge. There are still more benefits to mine.

Infrastructure Management On Ramp:

The care and feeding of the infrastructure is ripe with task to automate, especially when it comes to monitoring tasks and taking automatic actions. This true even if most of your work is done in the cloud. Since most organizations are still operating in a hybrid cloud environment, there are many tasks that can be automated in an around operating job streams, processes and applications. The health of the infrastructure as a whole with all the contributing pieces, especially the network, are a natural for RPA. The opportunities abound here.

Development On Ramp: 

While low-code is the darling of development at the moment, there is still room for RPA to play a role. There are many tasks in and around the testing environments that are ripe for RPA. Also there are many tasks that are executed on a regular basis in promoting and demoting code and change versions from test to business testing and production environments. Any time there are mirrored environments (a best practice), there will be opportunities for RPA to contribute.

Resource Assistance On Ramp:

Resources are crucial for applications and processes to complete work. Some of these resources will be carbon based, others will be software and some will be machines. These resources, especially humans, need to be assisted with just in time data, information, content and knowledge. The more complex the task, the more RPA, especially intelligent RPA can help complete work. This is especially true of customers that interact through their specific custom journeys that require dynamic interaction with an organizations processes and applications. This is an emergence set of opportunities likely sparked by more complex tasks.

Dynamic Supply/value Chain on Ramp:

RPA bots will be come more intelligent over time to the point of becoming autonomous agents that can bid for work in a dynamic fashion, complete the work and report results. These agents/bots can participate in dynamic supply chains which are the backbone of Industry 4.0 efforts. These agents/bots, either hardware or software, can participate in linking partners together dynamically through agent representation and execution to complete tangible products and/or soft products with value chains. This is a new area for RPA and will emerge in the next few years.

Net; Net:

Some would say that there is an RPA bubble, but it is clear to me that there is more to do especially when RPA is combined with other technologies such as process management, process mining, analytics, and all forms of AI. There is an eventual end of the road if RPA isolates itself, but I'm not seeing that right now.

More Posts on RPA: 

Future of RPA
Automation 2019
Process and RPA