Translated by
2020/01/14 16:55:40

Excessive hype and internal conflicts kill the capacity of RPA. 10 laws for change of a situation

Authors of the concept of the automation which received widely known name robotic process automation RPA analyzed how the attitude towards her in 7 years from the moment of emergence was changed and also formulated 10 laws to which it is worth adhering for effective application of RPA.


Main article: RPA (Robotic process automation, Robotic process automation)

Seven years of corpulent and seven more years, can be

Couple of words from the translator

Communicating lately with the colleagues concerning RPA I noticed that in our ecosystem three groupings differing on the understanding of RPA technology were created.

In the first, among the consultants who generally made the name on the theory and implementation of BPM systems earlier firmly there is an opinion that RPA is especially temporary phenomenon, a frank palliative, something like an adhesive tape instead of welding, and no more, than cementation of cow tracks. To customers it is put some idea that RPA is an artificial integration. They should undergo, collect only a little the strength and means, but to make integration "really", i.e., through API.

The second group just breathes RPA enthusiasm, and considers that almost any program system functioning without participation of the person it and is the program robot.

The third understands RPA as other type of automation, effective is strict in the area which personally I for myself define as interaction of several, technology significantly different, information systems. From my point of view, RPA it is, actually, next stage of development of the systems of the class ETL (Extraction – Transformation – Loading).

However, fortunately, in the world the picture of application of RPA is far not so simple. Recently I found very interesting publication prepared by the western consulting firm HFS in which I found more unrolled, deep and multidimensional understanding of RPA. The publication seemed to me so interesting that I solved without fail will share it with the colleagues.

Her authors paid attention that the term "RPA" appeared exactly seven years ago, try to analyze progress and defeats of this period and also to predict influence of RPA on automation of business within the next seven years. Their look is interesting most of all that the western market of RPA is, apparently, on the descending branch hype curve while we so far – only on ascending. Reflection of psychology of relationship of IT and business in the context of implementation of RPA is also very interesting that in itself serves as a separate illustration to often asked question of how the situation in area of automation something "there" and "at us" is.

In this connection the opinion of authors on a role and the place of RPA in automation of corporate business in general and about the potential contribution RPA to implementation of digital transformation of business seemed to me especially interesting and worthy for broad acquaintance.

However it is not necessary to feed too high expectations. The potential customer will not find in this publication recommendations about the choice of the best platform of robotization, even comparison of platforms, but, perhaps, will see how RPA can (and should) to help it with implementation of its strategic initiatives of business development. Colleagues, most likely, will also be disappointed as they will not find confirmation of the preferences in the field of the choice of vendor, however, I hope, they will be able to use the provided information for justification of economic effect of implementation of RPA.

I will dare to make several preceding clauses.

  1. Ya is personally not ready to be signed under each word of the provided publication, I just consider useful to inform of opinion of authors the colleagues. And draw conclusions.

#Перевод it is made not completely, and especially acute angles are consciously maleficiated for the sake of political correctness. Original language of the publication simple and not so academic therefore having such opportunity very much I advise to read the publication in the original, in English. #Заранее I will agree that the text sins with some pretentiousness and badly hidden polemichnost that I suggest to excuse, in view of the manifesto genre selected by authors. #Третьи persons are mentioned in the text just as realities of our ecosystem, and not for the sake of their advertizing at all, and any of them to me did not order and did not pay this publication.

Alexander Bader

What not so with RPA today?

In 2012 the research organization of HFS, based on developments of BluePrism company, submitted to the market the concept of automation which received the name RPA known to us – robotic process automation. Representing this technology, authors obviously specified the sphere of its application, namely, noted that it is represented to them as the best for processes, which:

It was the historical attempt to use tools of means of rapid development (low code tool) as the method to depart from traditional approaches of IT for the sake of the solution the automation equipment of local business challenges, and, perhaps, and even all flow of works within some process.

After seven years of global application of RPA, there is an opportunity to weigh the achieved results. Actually, even authors of the idea of RPA cannot give their unambiguous assessment.

Unembellished truth of rather seven years' experience of use of RPA is as follows: more than succeeded only exactly in moving data in the company with the smallest intervention of manual work, but, alas, not to upgrades of business processes and at all not in creation of other levels of values for the company.

The industry is in great need in the updated vision of RPA. The document (which is modestly called by his authors the Manifesto) considers industry status prospects, based on a possibility of achievement of strategic and long-term benefits that it is necessary if we really want to implement all potential of truly digital labor power.

HFS and BluePrism companies jointly organized a cross-industry seminar at which they brought together key clients, analysts and consultants with the purpose to update and inhale life in understanding of the created RPA of values and to try to give them an accurate formulation. It is especially important in modern hard time when investors show the increased nervousness, and high-tech startups are ready to have a ball if only only to justify the received investments.

Unfortunately, examples of the fact that opinion of the major players of the market significantly influencing its development such as system integrators, suppliers of professional business services and consultants, it is not always heard by representatives of business are also observed. In other words, the industry which is called RPA can turn into something absolutely insignificant for business if there is no opportunity to inform the world of the importance of RPA, to create the correct expectations and to revive enthusiasm concerning its opportunities, based on long-term benefits which RPA brings to the customers.

The industry needs accurate formulations of the value in the long-term. It is a condition of its survival.

Short history RPA

As RPA began...

Initially, as target audience of RPA only suppliers of professional services in the field of business information processing where the most large-scale implementations of robots were assumed were considered.

  • The RPA technology then was very accurately separated from RDA technology (Remote Desktop Automation)
  • As the purpose increase in efficiency and the decrease in cost value of services connected with it was considered
  • Suppliers of professional services and business consultants were the main driving forces
  • 'Intelligent automation' (intellectual automation) was considered as the bridge in the future

… and what became

  • The idea of an exception of roles of process was replaced with the idea of "added value" for the sake of simplification of communications
  • RPA and RDA began to hereinafter be referred to jointly as RPA, and so-called "attended" robots, i.e. directly managed by employees took 90% of the market
  • Analysts from IT began to be focused on opportunities and functions instead of paying the main attention to influence of RPA on initiatives of business transformation
  • Vendors lost a little understanding of need to be guided by needs of end users as were forced to fulfill private investments
  • The small RPA companies with weak management were unexpectedly involved in large corporate deals
  • RPA won love of the top management which is responsible for the organization of business processes, but lost understanding from services IT
  • Some global suppliers entered the market of RPA, probably, only to designate the presence at the industry of RPA
  • The opinion of suppliers of business services and consultants began to interest very few people
  • Marketing tries to inflate opportunities and to embellish perspectives, leaving really working consultants face to face with real clients who begin to trust them less.

The Manifesto in which the freshest are reflected and the views of the value of RPA which are very deserving attention and also ten laws of behavior for users and consultants designed to help them with achievement of long-term benefits from implementation of RPA became result of joint work of HFS and BluePrism companies.

That we actually think of RPA

First of all we will consider a tag cloud which was received as a result of processing of answers to the question "As I Can Characterize RPA".

The analysis of the provided information shows that RPA contains the huge potential for ensuring digital transformation, however it can not always use effectively as it is more difficult to make it, than just to declare its value in marketing publications, and, in practice, can lead to polarization and opposition of personnel of the customer.

So, the capacity of RPA very impresses, however to implement it much more difficult, than it seems at first sight.

Why it is necessary to review the concept of RPA?

Success and even just survival of RPA depend on whether it will be able to become an element of the corporate agenda of digitalization and the arising digital architecture.

In lack of digital labor power, most the enterprises will not be able to satisfy relevant (and increasing) need of the clients / employees / suppliers to work in virtual information space. In this connection possibilities of RPA to support fundamental transformation of corporate processes become important in the highest degree.

The leading enterprises aim to create digital architecture for the response to digital requests of the clients. The strategy of work with data of clients becomes more and more critical as the enterprises pass from physical model of the business to digital.

If to look at under what pressure business is now, what most explicit calls you should face today?

Source: The report of HFS supported by KPMG "Status of Production and Outsourcing", 2019. 355 heads are polled

Ten laws RPA

Based on the analysis of this information, authors formulated ten laws of behavior in professional RPA community.

1. IT specialists and business are obliged to work jointly and to separate responsibility for digitization of processes, or digital models just will not work

In other words, RPA is the first case when responsible heads of the companies face means of rapid development for optimization of flows of works and begin to perceive IT personnel as crucial partner for ensuring their long-run job. Business and IT cannot achieve success the friend without friend. They should agree about work plans and future operational model in advance. Business should describe the flows of works providing key production results, and the IT should provide their implementation. Business, as a rule, likes RPA, however, the IT often misunderstands RPA since RPA not up to the end corresponds to logic of work of IT personnel.

Business is obliged to remember that the IT has duties which are wider, than just support of business processes, he also answers, including, for questions of information security and operability of corporate information infrastructure.

Moreover, the IT often assumes blow if the corporate system suddenly glitches, regardless of whether the staff of service IT is guilty of it or not. Often implementation of RPA begins in general imperceptibly for IT, for example, by the procurements conducted by business without approval of IT. However, it is impossible grow from a gray zone. Old holy war between business and IT should terminate with arrival of other digital architecture, and only then we will be able to tell about emergence of digital labor power of the future.

2. Business and IT should respect the interests of each other that considerably will increase chances of success

If one party is not ready to change, then the balance necessary for success, will never be reached. The similar maturity is necessary to level risks and to define processes, suitable for automation. IT should be completely open to accept the fact that their colleagues from business can work not as they and the attempt of business play in the field of RPA can, actually, help IT to configure the mentality in the right direction. On the other hand, business should respect processes of IT, accept risks, consider the existing requirements for information management. Expect the rest is to take chances and hope, and such behavior cannot be the cornerstone of corporate strategy.

3. Business strategy should direct automation, otherwise neither that, nor another will make sense

If automation is not a part of comprehensive business strategy, then the top management will not be interested in implementation of IT projects because of their high risks or just due to the lack of their understanding. The majority of businesses are able to concentrate no more than on three-four strategic business initiatives at the same time, and, therefore, they will be ready to stop any IT project if it does not help implementation at least of one of them.

Automation focus always should be in a zone of desirable and measurable results of business. Otherwise, IT projects will be considered as too tactical and will not get necessary support from business. Short-term objectives and performance indicators should have clear and logical relationship with an overall picture.

4. Consider RPA as the corporate application, otherwise it will never become a part of initiatives of digitalization

If business considers RPA only as the utility for performance improvement of personnel or as the next abrupt toy, then RPA has no chances to become the tool for digital transformation. However among IT specialists understanding that RPA is a part of the general tools of digital transformation which helps the enterprises to improve their work considerably already ripens. There is no such tool which could in itself cope alone at once with all business challenges, however, applied in total with other tools, RPA gives necessary synergy effect.

5. Set measurable and intelligent criteria, otherwise you never achieve the goal

Authors of the Manifesto resolutely sweep aside the idea to use the number of the implemented robots as a metrics of the achieved success or value of the project, and categorically do not advise it to apply as criterion of motivation of IT.

It is necessary to look at what RPA can implement in general and that specifically from this was reached, but not on quantity of the implemented bots. In the market there is neither conventional determination of the robot, nor uniform understanding of what is its functions therefore to operate with the number of the implemented robots simply senselessly.

It is much better to use as metrics the number of working hours which were saved by the robot what results were achieved and as these results correlate with strategic business objectives, for example, growth of operational efficiency and reduction of personnel turnover.

Eventually, most the enterprises will measure success of RPA initiatives through an indicator of FTE (full-time equivalent). However, it must be kept in mind what can pass a lot of time before potentialities of economy (soft savings) begin to turn into real economy of money (hard savings) as the enterprise finds more and more successful methods of application of RPA.

6. Consider RPA as the conductor for implementation of other advanced technologies - recognition of data, machine learning, predictive analytics, process analytics - otherwise AI will find to itself the place in your enterprise not soon

For many enterprises RPA becomes the first step on the way to full implementation of AI. Moreover, it becomes frequent RPA and the first experience of business on use of means of rapid development for the purpose of a handmade exception for ensuring operability of business processes. The lessons and benefits received by business allow heads to pass to more serious problems like process analytics, predictive analytics, enrichment of processes given and also give understanding of how to manage initiatives in the field of machine learning to pave the way to full-scale implementation of AI and complete business process automation.

Moreover, having comprehended receiving secrets more good results for business thanks to changes of business processes, even the most ambitious management begins to look at the world and the expected results of automation from the point of view of the client. The customer, partners, buyers – anyone can be clients.

Handwork is not the enemy yet, weak user opportunities – here the main thing is evil.

Improve or rebuild business processes before to automate them. You should have clear vision concerning that, it is good or process is badly organized before write terms of reference on its automation. If you could not give an objective assessment to process, then, most likely, you missed a possibility of application of RPA.

Cultivate the capabilities to give a permanent assessment to the existing processes thanks to application of a technique of Six Sigma, process analytics, means of the analysis and others. Then make a funnel of potential processes. For the selected processes collect the current metrics to control changes and to monitor moving in the right direction. There is nothing vicious in verifying RPA using outdated processes as it will help to fix defects and need of manual actions for their elimination and also will improve your own understanding of how the technology works.

In spite of the fact that RPA will help you to support operability of legacy systems, have at the same time in a type that their preservation will not be able to help you with achievement of long-term benefits.

You take a broad view of a question more, you are not limited only to the analysis of cost value and a possibility of process automation, not being crucial for business. Purposefully move to a status "as will be". RPA will not be able to help you with implementation of the agenda of digitalization of business if you use it for the time purposes as an adhesive plaster.

7. Automation should organize uniform complete work the front - and bek processes, otherwise you will preserve scrappy automation of the business

According to the majority of the published reports, the greatest number of means invests in automation of work of a back office, first of all, for improvement of processes in IT and finance. However, the most ambitious companies will proportion investments into automation, AI, RPA and other digital technologies, improving the user experience, raising requirements to the criteria of success and determining quality of conducting the business by customer satisfaction indicators. The architecture of OneOffice developed by HFS company is based on flows of the works connecting client transactions in the front office with the transactions supporting them in a back office.

Capability to be ahead of competitors is based on understanding of customer needs, often, even before the client realized them. It is that case when RPA helps to provide communication of applications, activities, systems, documents, calculations and other points of interaction of the user with a corporate information system.

Naturally, it will demand from the management to destroy walls between functions, to create uniform end-to-end business processes and to think of the full automated solutions.

8. Cultivate talents and create automation perspectives if you do not want to remain where you are, forever

In own eye it is difficult to notice a straw. Despite general understanding of need of changes both owners of business, and IT, look for new methods to do the same old things quicker and cheaper. It is necessary to improve awareness of personnel of rather new methods of work and to cultivate new talents at schools and the universities, to retrain the personnel of all age and professions, in every possible way to aim to introduce new experience and fresh forces in communication on RPA. A variety and perspectives – faithful allies of changes and enemies of the status quo.

9. Work and as a hobby, and for a body, you will work differently in vain

RPA provides development of digital labor power which accumulates and enhances knowledge and capabilities of labor power of an analog era. It is reached by accomplishment by robots of the repeating tasks completely without participation of the person or due to providing expanded data access and to computing opportunities that in total increases performance and effectiveness of business. It is good addition to opportunities of the acting personnel that can lead partly to decrease in need for it, but gives additional opportunities for growth, improvement of the general experience more likely – both clients, and employees.

If we are not able to inform colleagues concerning power and the capacity of RPA, then no efforts of business or IT and any best strategy will be able to realize RPA. Constantly invest in informing employees concerning value and benefits of automation, and use for this purpose the most simple and clear language.

10. Forget the word "robot" if you do not want to look old-fashioned

There is no doubt that the term "robot" initiated unprecedented interest in RPA from the moment of its emergence in 2012. However, the majority of implementations of RPA, as a rule, provide automation of work with applications with direct participation of the person (attended desktop processes) that more than five robots, in difference demand from applications (unattended engagements), completely autonomous from the person, run on a dedicated server that, actually, and was the main intention of developers of technology at the time of its creation.

Thus, why to insist on use of a word which is tightly interconnected only with a concept of elimination of manual work confuses many users, and adds nothing to the market, except fermentation of minds and ignorance? The connected areas, such how process analytics, machine learning, enrichment of processes by given, do not need the word "robotization" so why to use it when we speak about process automation and tasks?!

And what's next?

The researches on the SWOT model conducted by authors say that many indicators can appear at the same time in different sections. So, it became clear that force and weakness of RPA can be, at the same time, opportunities and threats for weaker players of the market. Therefore authors decided to construct new model, having grouped forces and opportunities against weaknesses and threats, and received the SO WT model that can be decrypted as SO WhaT (And that further).

In general, force of RPA consists that, regardless of market noise, it really well works for process automation, the rules based on accomplishment which process structured data. RPA gains escalating recognition as technology of the corporate level, and tightly technology questions are not critical. It is also highly available and is entirely implementable within uniform program implementation (in difference from AI which has billions of variations) that, in total, allows operational heads to use independently RPA for implementation of own agenda of transformation without start of long-playing IT projects.

The most attractive opportunities of RPA are a possibility of its integration with technologies which are responsible for optimization and researches of processes. Authors are deeply sure that RPA is a corporate equivalent of fight against the world evil of a disgarmonization of the relations of business and IT. On the basis of own bitter experience authors understood that without correctly built up relationship between business and IT all hopes for digital transformation will be vain.

In a zone of weaknesses and threats there is, first of all, an irresponsible market noise which only diminishes importance and perception of the term "RPA". The majority of so-called implementations of RPA, actually, are the solutions on automation of work with desktop applications, dependent on the person, capable to implement only private tasks of users.

Besides, authors of the Manifesto emphasize that, according to them, the main threat for RPA is its absence in the corporate agenda of digitalization. How RPA before the customers purchasing it is usually positioned is the reason of this. As a rule, RPA moves only as means to provide higher speed and to reduce cost value of business operations. However here, it is conscious or not, the fact that it also is available, simple in use is missed it is easily integrated into Business Process Management Suite and other modern digital technologies that does it by the natural catalyst of digital transformation of the enterprise.

It is necessary to change the general perception of RPA as appropriate.

Dry remaining balance

RPA has no chances of existence if heads of business are not able to build in it the wider agenda of digital transformation.

Leaders of business pay more and more attention to acceleration of an output of the products to the market and development of best practices of business, using the mechanism of sales while other market participants by inertia continue to be engaged only in decrease in cost value and performance improvement of work. There is no difference in application of RPA and automation in general. RPA should support the corporate agenda of digital transformation.

Customers and an ecosystem of RPA should make RPA a part something bigger, for example, transformations, implementations of strategic initiatives, achievements of the best user experience. Heads of business should harmonize RPA with other conductors of digital initiatives in the company: the process analytics, means of rapid development of BPM, the AI elements, intellectual analytics developed by API, microservices.

RPA in which we were engaged last seven years is dead. The fate of RPA in the next seven years depends on interaction by something big, on support from something bigger.