5 March 2018

RPA and BPM unified

Everyday company leaders look for ways to do work better and faster, and while there seems to be no magical solution, there is a lot of talk about IoT, ML, RPA and all things related to AI.
AI seems to be the most popular word nowadays, and businesses worldwide want to be part of the trend.

The technology that seems most convenient in applying AI-driven software to a company’s processes is RPA. We are very enthusiastic about it, and as a BPM evangelist, I must say that RPA and BPM actually can work magic together.

There is a lot of confusion about these two approaches, and in order to benefit from them, it is important to understand the difference.

Robotic Process Automation

RPA can include ML or AI, but it works strictly according to specific business logic and rules, whereas ML and AI technologies can be trained to make judgments about inputs. RPA technology enables software robots to perform tasks that were previously performed by humans. Robots process data and act as employees, though without human mistakes, and a lot faster. Robots don’t get tired or bored and are capable of working non-stop. They cannot perform just any task, of course. I am talking about routine and usually uninteresting tasks, which can be completed according to certain rules, and do not involve creative thinking.

What happens to the employees who used to do such tasks? They now have more time to work on the things that no robotic software can do – tasks that involve emotional intelligence and personal interactions with customers.
What sort of work can you trust a software robot to do? Anything that is rules-driven and requires processing data, for example:

  • fill in spreadsheets and forms
  • import files
  • make calls about payment delays
  • sort incoming and outgoing emails, send standard replies and route emails to decision-makers
  • make decisions according to strict business rules

For example, imagine a robot processing incoming invoices. If the amount is under, say, 10000, and all the other data is correct, the robot automatically transfers the money for payment. If the amount is higher, the invoice is sent to a manager for decision-making.
As you can see, RPA focuses on automation of very specific tasks: the repetitive tasks based on certain rules that do not require complex judgment and expertise.

Business Process Management

BPM focuses on automation of a process as a whole: it improves the process flow, eliminates bottlenecks, and provides tools for analysis and optimization. BPM is a system that makes a company’s processes more efficient and productive. It can help you organize a well-structured workflow and get rid of excessive operations. With BPM, you can adjust the existing business processes of your company and achieve better performance.

As you see, BPM and RPA are not the same thing. Moreover, they can complement each other for better results. Implement BPM to streamline your processes, and understand the specifics of each task. Then apply RPA to automate those tasks that need robotic automation.
RPA makes employees happy because they are freed from the boring tedious tasks, and it makes managers happy because it saves costs and provides great results.

Leslie Willcocks, a professor at the London School of Economics’ department of management says in an interview to McKinsey, “The relationship between technology and people has to change in the future for the better, and I think RPA is one of the great tools to enable that change.”

I couldn’t agree more.
Digitization has become an integral part of today’s society, and businesses try hard to keep up with customers’ demands. Digital technologies allow you reach a higher performance and achieve your goals a lot faster, but If you do not keep up with digital transformation you may be left behind. So do not hesitate to add RPA when implementing BPM in your company. Make the most of modern technologies!

Here is a simple example of how we implement RPA in ELMA BPM.
As I have said, robots are great at replacing humans in tasks that require monotonous actions like copying data from one form to another. Consider a hiring process. The HR department looks for the right person for a job position, interviews him or her, and signs the employment contract. The employee’s data is added to ELMA BPM, and then the accountant has to enter this information into an accounting system for issuing a payroll card for the new employee.
rpa in business process

The accounting system is an external system. So the accountant has to literally copy and paste the data. Doing complex integration seems excessive, it is not always possible, and can be very expensive. Our choice is to free the accountant from this task and make a robot do it instead.

The robot logs into ELMA as a regular user, takes the data, logs into the banking register and enters the data into the required form. The bank then receives the information, issues the card and sends it to the employee’s address. What do we gain by this? The accountant can dedicate working time to more complex tasks, and we save resources like time and money. Moreover, we avoid human mistakes, such as copying wrong data or forgetting to add certain information.

I am sure that in every company there are tasks that can be automated in this manner. My advice is, go for it. Learn more about RPA and implement it to gain more benefit and stay ahead of your competition.

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Ekaterina Mokrushina
Marketing Specialist