by Pat Geary
LONDON - Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has now entered its next evolutionary phase – “connected-RPA” – which is driving an exciting era of collaborative technology innovation. This era is being led by digitally savvy business users, who apply easy-to-control, ever more intelligent, ‘Digital Workers’ to exploit leading-edge AI, cognitive and other capabilities – so they can innovate and swiftly develop new, compelling, offerings.
For more than a decade we’ve been designing Digital Workers to support mission critical processes automation, which help organizations operate much better.
Many RPA deployments never get beyond simple sub-tasks which have been executed using an agent’s login and runs on their own desktop. However, while helping with that task - they’re not high value, mission critical processes, which means that this ‘same old, same old’ approach isn’t transformative at all.
Introducing the concept of a Digital Worker
Today, Digital Workers are very sophisticated, capable of processing information, executing transactions and mimicking the ways human beings conduct work — but faster, with fewer errors and operating 24x7.
They can collaborate, work in teams and combine forces to complete workloads — constantly regrouping to complete time-pressured tasks. And just like a human employee, Digital Workers can inform, augment, support and assist people in the automated fulfilment of service-based tasks.
Digital Workers can operate within the most demanding enterprise environments, making them scalable, secure, intelligent and easy to use. For example, business users simply create automated processes by drawing and designing process flowcharts. The flowcharts are intuitive for business users and are used by the Digital Worker to automate a task.
Documentation of a task becomes the actual task — change the documentation and the task is instantly changed. This approach means that the Digital Worker is agile, secure and compliant – as all documentation is securely managed in a central repository.
Business users collaborate by adding their automations into a central pool of capability, managed and reused by the whole business, massively improving productivity gains. Digital Workers’ decisions and actions are also centrally captured, and their training history conducted by humans. This provides comprehensive transparency of all activity that helps with compliance audits, as well as real accountability if any problems arise.
Adding “intelligence” into the mix
We are now seeing further evolutions, with a shift toward even more advanced, intelligent automation that delivers the thinking and analytical capability to make operations smarter and autonomous. It’s the unique connectivity capabilities of Digital Workers, coupled with the increasingly intelligent way that they operate, that’s now being harnessed by digitally savvy business users looking to exploit leading-edge cloud, AI, cognitive and other capabilities.
To ensure that Digital Workers more closely replicate human decision making, they are now being equipped with six skill categories; knowledge/insight, learning, visual perception, collaboration, planning and sequencing, and problem solving.
is the ability for digital workers to harvest information from different data
sources, understand it and deliver previously unattainable insights, enabling
natural language processing
- Gain new
insights into customer behaviour
- Mine data for
better understanding of processes
- Use data
management to quickly deploy new programs.
This is the ability to read, understand and contextualise visual information digitally, enabling organisations to:
optical character recognition so digital workers can work with text just like
- Use natural
language processing to allow digital workers to understand & interpret
analyse and understand the meaning of digital images via Computer Vision
is the ability to derive contextual meaning from datasets, as well as recognize
workflow changes, and adapt accordingly without human intervention, enabling
- Leverage true machine learning to give digital workers the ability to “learn” without being programmed
- Prepare for the future as digital workers process information with a neural network paradigm
- Enable digital workers to model algorithms quickly.
is the ability to optimally plan workflow and workload execution to deliver the
best outcomes - enabling organisations to:
digital workers to instantly and intelligently manage workloads
- Let digital
workers auto-scale as needed by business conditions.
- Use automatic
process mining to analyse business processes, based on event logs.
is the ability to solve logic, business and system problems without
intervention - enabling organisations to:
- Use automatic
problem detection to ensure the highest levels of service
problem solving ability to increase productivity throughout all processes.
digital worker-enabled visualization to gain insight from data.
is the ability to communicate and complete tasks with people, systems and other
digital workers, enabling organizations to:
- Use digital
workers to reduce time to service customers and improve overall quality
employees to work with digital workers to elevate their roles and increase
- Deploy chat
bots to work with digital workers to autonomously service customers and
escalate to humans when needed.
have also been created for accessing
and downloading pre-built artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive and
disruptive technologies for building out, scaling and adding skills to Digital Workers.
Personal software robots – are they a viable alternative?
The notion of the ‘personal software robot’ is a relatively new and much-hyped alternative - designed to deliver multiple, short, record and replay tactical automations for navigating systems on desktops. The big promise is that business users working in front and back offices - across different departments, can record a process and have software robots deployed within hours. This can be done without any involvement of the IT department, so users can experience both business benefits and ROI.
problem with desktop recording of a personal software robot is that a single
human user is given autonomy over a part of the technology estate, which
introduces a lack control and creates multiple security and compliance issues.The
proliferation of desktop robots, if ungoverned without business oversight,
means that organizations don't know where they exist, what processes they use
and whether they are running or stopping unexpectedly.
a robot and a human share a login, no one knows who’s responsible for the
process – which when duplicated over time - creates a massive security and
audit hole – while limiting scale. Additionally, if a robot and a human share a
PC, there’s zero productivity gain as humans can use corporate systems as fast
as robots. Also, recorded processes are very
inefficient when they run, as they sit and wait for target systems when they
could be running.
Ultimately, by restricting software robots
to a multi-desktop environment, outside of the IT department - or any central
control, means effectively sanctioning and using ‘shadow IT’. This is
potentially very damaging for an organisation as shadow IT in this context,
means unstructured, undocumented, solutions that become part of the process
flows of a business – which are uncontrolled.
In a crowded and confused RPA market, the interconnected Digital Worker clearly stands out by swiftly delivering greater productivity, efficiencies, opportunities and value. Looking forward, we’ll increasingly see humans driving collaborative innovation and imagination, working in tandem with Digital Workers – and this partnership will be the key success factor to thriving in the digital age.
Pat Geary is Chief Evangelist at Blue Prism