Quo Vadis RPA?
The constantly growing number of business processes, their repetitiveness as well as the increasingly frequent deficit of human resources prompts us to look for solutions that will get the tasks done at the end of the day, regardless of the availability of employees. Technology comes to the rescue, offering more and more applications that can pretend to be a real employee. Robotization of processes, or perhaps more accurately Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is already entering our daily lives, gaining a name of another technological revolution of the beginning of the 21st century.
Is RPA really an invention of recent years? Or maybe is just the availability of technology and its humanization caused the disenchantment of RPA? Most publications on this subject are supported by a picture of a robot with a human face, pressing the buttons on our keyboard, often raising the fear of the approaching “total extermination” of employees, i.e. operators entering data into various IT systems at workplaces among others … will it be?
Robotization of processes is not a process that appeared yesterday. The very definition of Robotic Process Automation indicates that this is only, or maybe as much as, another way to automate: a phenomenon of which origins date back to the first years of the 20th century. Searching for an answer to the question when I met a robot automating processes for the first time, I came to a surprising discovery. The first robot I met was the one I wrote myself! Yes, at the 90’s of the previous century. It was a set of programs of which role was to enter data from the emerging home-banking system into a banking system. The program working in the background was checking if there was any data appearing from the home-banking system. On this basis, it was preparing the appropriate text file, which contained menu commands and completed forms, and then – by redirecting the input and output streams – launched the appropriate banking application, entering accountancy data into the system, generating balance sheets or account history. Then it prepared the appropriate file with the results and transferred it to the HB system. None of us thought at the time in terms of creating robots, but everyone was very happy with the automation of this achieved process… Was this the first robot of the RPA class? Yes. Looking from the perspective of a definition, it was definitely an application that imitated human work in the process, not as much as automation, but the creation of a process of automatic customer service.
What has happened over the past 20 years that RPA today is the number one topic of all conferences that merge business and IT? The answer is simple: we grew fond of robots. Twenty years ago, this type of knowledge was reserved for the proverbial “boys in sweatshirts”, because that’s what the IT magicians looked like. The knowledge depended on their whims and good will, and the business first had to discover the need for it, and then get along with those magicians. Today, in the era of “picture programming”, the general availability of any knowledge is at a distance of one mouse click. The activity of IT specialists has moved to the area of creating the simplest solutions that support automation. And this is not because it is a group of suicides who destroy their own way of getting income, but because at the same time a “real IT guy” can do something “sexier” than creating another boring robot inserting data from one cell to three others.
Is this the end of this trip? Definitely not. Due to the fact that the robots have become available to everyone, their number will increase, facilitating and accelerating the service of basic business processes, positively affecting the quality of work of substantive employees. IT specialists took up, fortunately, their private “war”, which constantly creates new, better and easier to use solutions supporting robotization of processes. The RPA product market will polarize, providing comprehensive corporate solutions at a certain price and, at the same time, simpler opensource solutions, giving virtually anyone the opportunity to find a product that meets probably the most commonly used selection criterion, i.e. the benefit-cost ratio. The need to provide solutions “for everyone” has already been noticed by the great players of this market. For example, UIPath has expanded its product offer with free solutions available for small businesses. According to the latest licensing rules, the Community Edition version can be used for the commercial activities up to two robots per company that employs up to 250 people (for details, see UIPath website). Such an approach will certainly contribute to the popularization of process automation using robots.
All those interested in starting the adventure with process automation using robots are welcome to contact us. We will tell you about the possibilities, we will indicate the most frequently selected areas for the first automation and we will help to implement it to make better use of owned resources.