At first, one may think this is about automating a network or any kind of API-driven device with the intent to eliminate repetitive tasks, and not necessarily a business process or workflow. Well, at least this was my first thought when I heard about Automation Anywhere, a developer of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software. There are not that many out there so an introduction to what RPA means and why it is being considered an emerging technology sounds appropriate in a time where automation is such a hot topic.
Robotic Process Automation
It is a technology to automate business processes based on software robots (or simply bots) or artificial intelligence (AI) workers. RPA may also be referred as “Intelligent Process Automation” by the industry, and the bots or workers as Digital Workforce. Does it mean they are replacing humans? I would say they are helping humans by making routine activities, repetitive, or sometimes cumbersome tasks or actions more efficiently. As opposed to traditional automation where a specific scripting language or API are required most of the time, RPA leverages a list of actions and interactions an user must perform as part of a process using one or more graphical user interface (GUI), and perform the automation of these actions directly on the GUI on behalf of the user provided proper rules are defined. It essentially learns from human behavior.
It is not only about performing typical human tasks, but intelligently handling data in or between multiple applications, such as looking at an invoice or a spreadsheet, extracting the data, and adding it to a bookkeeping system to record financial transactions as part of a business accounting process. The software bots can complete a business process end to end, and the technology can be applied anywhere, as long as there is a business need and desire for process speed and optimization.
The Market and Business Value
As with most things, what is the market and business value? In a recent article from Gartner, it says the global RPA market grew by 63% last year, reaching around $846 million in revenues and expect it to reach $1.3 billion this year. This is also validated by the Global Intelligent Process Automation Market report from Data Bridge with an estimated value of $19.79 billion by 2026. While predictable numbers makes RPA appealing, organizations are also looking for the business value. The promise is that by bringing more business processes automation to perform repetitive tasks, it will automatically enable employees to instead focus on value-added activities.
Automation Anywhere was the first RPA company to ever present at Tech Field Day on June 2019. At TFD19, the first 10 minutes was a very passionate introduction from Mihir Shukla, CEO. He did not explain the how or what, but the why, which is to “bring the power of automation to the masses, democratize it so that simple automation can be done by a business user and more complex automation can be done by a developer, with a vision that anything that can be automated should be automated“.
This is proved by the a vast amount of collateral and resources published at their website, which also includes a Bot Store. Besides the Enterprise version, Automation Anywhere also released a community version. I am always pleased when I see companies educating consumers and practitioners about their products and providing a means to actually interact with it.
Additional speakers from the Product Management Team followed with a presentation about the overall product vision with Abhijit Kakhandiki, and a very detailed view of what is needed for a RPA adoption to be successful and product deep dive with Steve Shah. He went over the combination and collaboration of IT, Business, and Developers and what is expected from each stakeholder. He also provided a short brief on the microservices architecture composed by, but not limited to, bot control room, bot creator, and bot runner as well as the difference between unattended and attended bots use cases.
On the second part of the presentations, Steve Van Lare gave a view of IQ Bot, which adds cognitive automation capabilities (i.e.: document and language understanding) to RPA, essential when locating and organizing unstructured data before a process can begin. This is where one can get some fundamentals of AI skills and the different categories (build, train, deploy and learn). Automation Anywhere leverages their own AI stack or other 3rd party AI stacks. Brendan Foley finalized the session with a view of the available resources from users to developers, and also a glimpse of the Bot Games initiative.
As a first appearance for Automation Anywhere, I think this provided a lot of insights into the technology and also things for us to think about with regards to a future workplace. Demonstrations with real use cases across industries can be an extension on upcoming sessions. As for me, I am very grateful to be part of TFD19, which allowed me to be in the delegate panel one more time and have the opportunity to learn more about what is out there, especially when I am not actively looking at these emerging technologies.
Where to Start?
If you want to learn more about bots, the “Getting started with Automation: 7 steps to building and managing bots” is a start.
The future is here. Tomorrow is just a better version of what we have available today.