What It Means For RPA (Robotic Process Automation)

With the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies have made efforts to adopt remote work technologies. Of course, the developers of web conferencing systems benefit the most from this. In the first quarter, Zoom’s daily user base increased from 10 million to 200 million.

“We are in the midst of a massive change in the way we work that happened almost overnight, and in many ways we will never return,” said Craig Malloy, CEO of Lifesize.

Let’s face it, why will companies ditch these sudden investments in new technology when the virus takes its course? It seems far fetched. In other words, companies are less likely to focus on business travel and there will continue to be more employees with remote working arrangements.

Such changes are sure to have far-reaching implications for other technology sectors. Take a look at RPA (Robotic Process Automation). The technology enables relatively easy automation of repetitive and lengthy processes.

“RPA was in high demand even before the world turned to work from home,” said Mike Beckley, CTO and co-founder of Appian. “And while RPA isn’t a great way to home school the kids, it’s a great way to quickly change a legacy process. How many companies have had to adjust their paid vacation and sick leave policies in the past two weeks due to COVID-19? It’s easier to program a bot than to rewrite your HR and financial systems. “

Vadim Tabakman, director of technical evangelism at Nintex, believes RPA can solve really tough problems – and it does it quickly when managing remote workers. “New employees can be given bots to help them access parts of the systems that they are not used to and that are difficult to find,” he said. “Imagine a new employee has to create a new task in a CRM system that they have never used before. You could show them how to get there, but if you only do it occasionally it can’t stick. Instead, provide them with a bot that performs all the necessary clicks and keystrokes to get them exactly where they need to be in the CRM system. “

Or think of UiPath, which has developed solutions to help you work remotely. Here are some examples:

  • Automatic Slack Updates: When you work from home, your teammates won’t know when you’re away from your desk. So this bot updates your Slack status based on your calendar activity.
  • Distribution of call notes: UiPath has a bot that automates the sending of notes for a conference call to the invitees.
  • Call Scheduling: With no more water coolers running, this bot will find conflicts in your Google Calendar and send requests to reschedule

“We can think about the benefits of RPA in a number of ways,” said Vijay Khanna, UiPath’s chief corporate development officer. “In the front office and call center, customer contact is of crucial importance and the volume of calls has increased dramatically. Releasing front-line agents in the call center or similar roles can help them spend more time with customers to resolve issues that would otherwise only add to the stress that customers are shouldering in the current environment. Helping customers when they need it most can be a remarkable differentiator for any business. Next up in the back office, having bots doing much of the repetitive work that might have forced an employee to come into the office during these troubled times has the added benefit of both ensuring and ensuring the employee’s safety that the job gets done anyway. This is extremely important to address some of the compliance requirements in highly regulated industries. “

The challenges

RPA still carries significant risks when working remotely. If anything, companies need to plan even more with their systems. “Enterprise-grade security must be built into every RPA platform from the start, which helps ensure resilience and business continuity,” said Jason Kingdon, Executive Chairman, Blue Prism.

Also, more attention needs to be paid to managing bot development and deployment. Otherwise, it could become much more widespread within an organization, diminishing the benefits of the technology. This is why it is important to have a Center of Excellence, or COE (you can find out more about that in one of my recent Forbes.com posts).

“You need a group of champions to control the system and oversee what bots are being built and who is building them,” said Tabakman. “It’s best to offer regular bot design training and consider an approval process where your champions review bots before they’re deployed. You should make sure that a bot that is created doesn’t cause more problems than it solves, such as: B. Bots going in infinite loops, creating more work for IT teams. Making sure your bots are successful will minimize the burden on IT, which is already few and far between, and help businesses continue to function well. “

And yes, an RPA platform that is web-based and allows low-code will also be crucial. “This is because customers can’t bring in partners, can’t deploy new servers, and in some cases don’t have developers on the staff,” said Charles Lamanna, CVP of the Citizen Developer Platform Microsoft. “When the RPA solution is a fully managed SaaS like other enterprise software, it is easy for bot authors and bot consumers to add value outside of the corporate network. “

Artificial intelligence factor

AI was a top priority for RPA providers. However, expect even more urgency as this technology will be essential for remote work environments.

An example of what we’re likely to see is from Automation Anywhere. The company recently launched its Discovery Bot, which uses AI to map and optimize processes by tracking keystrokes, mouse movements, and other actions within applications (here is one of my contributions to this offering).

There will likely be further developments in process mining as well. This technology analyzes log files in order to visualize processes and find bottlenecks.

“When working remotely, the processes need to be rethought,” says Yousuf Khan, CIO of Automation Anywhere.

Tom (@ttaulli) is the author of Artificial Intelligence Basics: A Non-Technical Introduction and The Robotic Process Automation Handbook: A Guide to Implementing RPA Systems.

July 15, 2021