Forecast to be worth $2.4 billion by 2024, the robotic process automation (RPA) market is experiencing a period of headline-grabbing growth – and for good reason. Its software robots can be rapidly configured to automate rote processes at high volume, freeing employees from the most brain-numbing work, and easing the risk of human error.
Provided a task or process is digital, rule-based, and repetitive, RPA can automate this work tirelessly, 24/7. And any number of bots can be applied to a workload to rapidly scale productivity.
Another attractive feature is RPA’s ability to work across legacy systems and existing enterprise applications with minimal disruption. This is because RPA mimics human user keystrokes and mouse clicks, working at the presentation layer of these systems – without encroaching on the company’s current IT setup.
However, there are limitations.
RPA offers tangible business benefits when it’s applied to easily definable tasks. In reality, however, not all processes are static and stock standard. If a workload involves exception handling or other human inputs; or requires the use of data that does not arrive in a structured, digital format – RPA on its own is not well suited to this work.
To address these issues, RPA can be integrated into a modern business process management platform, such as a digital process automation (DPA) system.
Why extend RPA’s capabilities with DPA?
DPA solutions provide organizations with the tools to optimize processes from end-to-end – going beyond task automation to streamlining the way that the entire process is managed. This approach is ideal for scenarios where processes need to be fixed before automation is introduced, and updated regularly to suit business needs.
Companies can use DPA to:
- Model and redesign processes for maximum efficiency and value
- Create custom digital forms and automated workflows
- Connect multiple data and content systems to boost data accessibility
- Manage tasks and content on mobile devices out in the field
- Monitor, analyze, and report on processes to drive ongoing business optimization
With low-code application development platforms for DPA like K2, process management applications can be developed in a fraction of the time it would take using traditional software development methods. These solutions can be customized to handle any process; and complex workflows can be created to orchestrate tasks between a range of different resources, including human workers and RPA bots.
In these ways, DPA stretches the value that RPA adds to the business; seamlessly incorporating RPA into the broader optimization and automation environment.
Three key reasons to support RPA with DPA:
Push process optimization further – Businesses can use DPA technology to automatically route tasks, content, and data between software bots and human employees. When DPA and RPA platforms are combined, this technology environment caters for a much broader range of process optimization projects, because all types of tasks can be streamlined – those that can be fully automated and those that require human input.
Support human-bot collaboration – UiPath’s chief evangelist Guy Kirkwood told Information Age that the demand for attended robots (which work alongside humans) will rise above that for unattended robots in the near future. In 2017, the ratio of unattended: attended robots was 70:30; but Kirkwood believes that this will flip around by the end of 2019, becoming a 30:70 split. This is due to the fact that many processes rely on both human and robotic skills – and therefore require workflow engines that support human-bot collaboration.
Inject more agility into the automation environment – As mentioned, RPA is best suited to automating well-defined processes and does not handle constant rule changes efficiently. On a low-code DPA platform, however, business rules and processes can be quickly updated as requirements change. This allows companies to easily adapt process solutions in response to stakeholder feedback, customer demands or new business opportunities; while pulling RPA bots into the process to perform specific automated actions.
When these two technology approaches are well-coordinated, RPA and DPA can provide an enterprise-grade digital transformation solution that draws on the benefits of automation, modern business process management (BPM) tools, and human capabilities.