Blue Prism CTO, Dave Moss answers beginner’s questions about Robotic Process Automation

Digital Workforce joined Blue Prism Partner World event in London, May 11th 2016. The event promoted global connections between partners and hosted eminent speakers that openly shared their knowledge about industry trends and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) best practices.

The event organiser, Digital Workforce’s software partner Blue Prism is the original inventor of the now internationally recognised term Robotic Process Automation and a pioneer on the technology. The company has succesfully introduced RPA to multiple industries, and paved the way for the emergence of automation as a global trend.

In this blog, we wanted to share with you Blue Prism CTO Dave Moss‘s answers to some of the most frequently asked questions by people that are beginning their RPA journey:

Why are we not using desktop recorders to implement RPA?

A desktop recorder watches how a user navigates the applications on the desktop and records the steps taken – it’s a useful shortcut for building a process quickly if that’s what is required. The downside is that by using a recorder, users are not designing their solution to be re-used and are making choices based on short term imperatives rather than long term objectives.

We strongly believe that for RPA to truly deliver value, longevity and resilience, automations should be carefully planned, modelled and designed in order to leverage principles such as re-use, componentization and economies of scale.

By modelling the parts of applications that are going to be used first and then creating re-usable objects, processes can be layered in a chain, creating a flexible, maintainable structure.

If changes are made later, all of the processes that use the information inherit these changes, without re-recording or rebuilding them. Processes can be written more quickly as the building blocks that already exist can be re-used in different business scenarios.

With this approach, the Total Cost of Ownership reduces over time, rather than increasing.

What is unique about today’s RPA compared to desktop scripting solutions?

Up until 2 or 3 years ago, what many RPA vendors were actually providing desktop scripting applications designed to automate short tasks on a user’s desktop. Because of this heritage, the architecture of these software products is not designed to scale across significant estates or to leverage centralisation and design control – they are utility products.

One thing to look out for is how an RPA product captures and then replays the automation. Many of these software products produce “scripts” that are compiled into files that can be run on a desktop. The disadvantage with this approach is that these scripts are slow, inefficient and difficult to maintain. They are also very linear in approach.

We think about running the automations at scale as well as developing and maintaining it. Workflow is very important when it comes to scaling a solution and workflow doesn’t just mean coding a schedule for a robot. It manages the state of the work items, tracks them, records any exceptions for later review and allows you to prioritise, retry, analyse and predict completion times across your automation estate.

What about information safety?

Controls can and should be put in place to ensure that the data the robots are using stays secure. This means protecting the RPA infrastructure from human intervention, locking down the robots so they cannot be accessed by developers, testers or administrators.

It also means ensuring that the data used by the robots is encrypted during transportation and whilst at rest, and having robust access management policies as well as centralised control.

How does the virtual back office connect to front office operations?

RPA can be seen as a rapid response team of virtual workers in a separate back office. Users delegate them work to do, they do it, and then report back. Blue Prism only delivers server side, unattended automations. The virtual workforce is secure, reliable and scalable, and can’t be interrupted by human staff as they do not have access to this new team of virtual workers.

Before implementing RPA, consider what needs to be done in real-time, and what can be queued for the robotic workers to process as part of their daily workload. Hand-offs through e-forms, existing systems and workflow can be a very effective way of splitting processing into online and offline segments to optimise both human and robotic workforces and get the best from both.

That said, some processes do need a human decision or involvement along the way. In these scenarios you can use standard workflow techniques to achieve this by way of a hand-off – work can be moved between the respective workforces just like you would with existing teams, either as a call wrap function, or as an authorisation step before pushing the work back to the robots to complete.

The more the software robots learn, the more efficient they become. RPA works without ever taking a vacation. It can be small one day or large when your business hits a spike. Importantly, it frees up your best people in both the line of business and IT to do their best work on your highest priorities.

Watch Dave Moss deliver TEDx talk about RPA here.