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Cloud to ground: Coming soon to a future near you

Earlier this year, after Nintex acquired robotic process automation vendor EnableSoft, maker of Foxtrot RPA, it took just a couple of months to deliver the first wave of integration: Enabling RPA bots to initiate workflows in Nintex Workflow Cloud.

Call that “ground to cloud” automation. But what if we go the other direction – “cloud to ground” – and enable workflows to securely call RPA bots inside the firewall?

Technology that’s up to the challenge

RPA vendors tend to evangelize their technology as suitable for all, or nearly all, automation requirements. Some process automation vendors tend to do the same thing in reverse, touting their solutions as suitable for nearly all automation needs. In both cases, they are pitching narrow solutions as universal answers, when the reality is that different types of processes call for different types of automation.

Nintex believes it’s important to match the technology to the challenge, and that many enterprise processes are varied enough that they’re best solved with a combination of automation technologies – workflow, RPA, document generation.

Furthermore, Nintex believes these automation technologies should work well together. So back to the question: What about enabling “cloud to ground” automation?

At Nintex ProcessFest 2019, Nintex’s first-ever user training conference last week in Bellevue, Washington, Nintex Chief of Evangelism & Advanced Technology Ryan Duguid, and Chief Product Officer Neal Gottsacker provided answers.

How it works

Discussing a capability that will be released to market this month, Ryan demonstrated the ability to add an action to the workflow design canvas in Nintex Workflow Cloud, connect to the robot orchestrator, select the bot to start, and specify any required data – in this case, to create a new vendor in an SAP system.

Legacy enterprise systems (from SAP, Oracle, and a variety of other vendors) are still in wide use, despite their advanced age. And they are notoriously difficult to navigate, with multiple complex screens and dozens of fields, all of which must be filled correctly.

Moreover, such legacy systems pre-date the development of APIs, so they are difficult for API-based automation technologies to address. That’s a key part of the reason why RPA technologies, which interact with applications through their user interfaces, have grown in popularity in recent years.

Having created the RPA action in his demo workflow, Ryan quickly instructed it to log into the SAP system with a username and password from a secure credential store, pull relevant vendor information from a modern responsive form, share the data with the bot, and set the bot to work setting up the new vendor. The bot quickly – almost instantly – filled in all the necessary information and returned the unique vendor ID assigned by SAP to the workflow. From there, a confirmation email was sent saying that the vendor had been created and was ready for the requester to work with.

And there it was, “cloud-to-ground” automation to complement the “ground-to-cloud” automation embodied in bots that call workflows.

Neal put the demo in the context of four of Nintex’s primary focus areas – manage, automate, optimize, and integrate – and upcoming innovations in each.

In the “manage” area, Neal described Nintex’s work to go beyond defining processes to enable closer alignment between IT and line-of-business users and enable a higher level of understanding of what can be achieved in enterprise process automation.

Manage, automate, optimize, integrate

He described what he called the “click experience,” in which the Nintex Platform – spanning digital forms, mobile apps, workflows, RPA, document generation, e-signature, and more – becomes steadily more powerful, yet faster and easier to use. An example is the new capability called Nintex Workflow Generator, recently delivered within Nintex Promapp.

Known internally as the “Magic Button,” it enables instant creation of a workflow framework from a Promapp process map. It uses a form of artificial intelligence known as Natural Language Processing to translate the verbal description of a process into the actions recognized by the Nintex Workflow Cloud platform and automatically create a workflow.

“What if we could do all this across platforms and tools,” Neal said, “so these capabilities would just work, regardless of the technology being used to drive automation? As we get there, we get to a process system of record – that’s just gold for your business.”

Regarding optimization, Neal explained current development efforts that will harvest detailed execution data and use it to deliver insights into how processes are functioning and how they can be improved, and development work in Nintex’s Xtensions Framework that will enable deeper connections across systems and increasingly provide contextual user experiences.

“And there’s adjacent technologies here – process discovery, process mining, and the like,” he said. “We see an opportunity to take the outputs from these technologies and feed those into our platform, and then, as with all of these themes, AI has a place” as they evolve.

Ryan provided another glimpse into the AI-powered future when he demonstrated the capability to create sophisticated digital forms using image-recognition technology along with natural language processing.

The capability will evolve rapidly because the AI systems are being trained on data sets that grow as each new form is submitted, which is happening at the rate of millions each month.

With millions of datapoints driven by process maps, forms, workflows, and bots, Nintex is creating a vast “data lake” of process insights data that will be partitioned and made “consumable” by Nintex customers in the form of deep insights about their businesses, and recommendations on ways to drive continuous improvement.

“We’re reimagining how we surface that information, where we surface that information, and providing that consistent platform experience.”
– Ryan Duguid, Nintex Chief of Evangelism & Advanced Technology

 

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