An experts guide to the A-Z of all things Robotic Process Automation, Data Analytics, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation – the letter U
Welcome to the TWENTY FIRST part of a 26 part series detailing the A-Z of all things Robotic Process Automation (#RPA), Data Analytics (DA), Intelligent Automation (IA) and Digital Transformation (DT). This article highlights all things relating to intelligent automation and digital transformation beginning with the letter ‘U‘.
Unattended: There are three flavours of robotic process automation (i.e. attended, hybrid and unattended).
Attended automation works under ever present human attention, intervention and interaction. A robot and code script are placed on the business user desktop. When a person wants the automation code to run they click to get the robot to run the automation script.
Unattended automation is different. Unattended automation has limited, to no human involvement at all. Developers develop script that is then ran by ‘bots’ based on a schedule and/or continuously in batch mode. There is intentional isolation between the end user and the ‘bot’.
Unattended bots tend to be suitable for highly repetitive tasks, that usually need to be performed in batches, and are based upon predefined rules (e.g. the approval of expense reports). Technically unattended automations can run 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Whereas attended automation runs for as long as a person or person presses key strokes.
“Attended bots have traditionally been the more common practice, often driven by favourable pricing. While attended bots certainly will continue to have use-cases, unattended represents the more grand vision for automation. That being the supreme value derived when human intervention is removed from repetitive, mundane, and time-consuming tasks.”Antti Karjalainen, CEO and Founder
Unstructured: Unstructured data can be created by people (e.g. emails, text files, social media, audio, photos, etc.) or generated by machines (e.g. seismic imagery, atmospheric data, satellite imagery, etc.). Structured data is organized in ways that make for easy searching.
Unstructured data exists in formats such as audio, video, and social media postings, and is not easy for conventional tools to search. It is considered ‘unstructured’ as it does not lend itself to the kind of table formatting required by a ‘traditional’ relational database.
In order for Intelligent Automation programs to process unstructured data it needs to be converted into structured data. Thankfully, unstructured data can be stored in a number of ways such as in applications, data lakes, data warehouses or platforms. This data can then be mined for insight that can help organisations delivered value e.g. complete churn or sentiment analysis on customer mobile, telephone, SMS or social media posts.
Figure 1: Structured versus unstructured data.
“Most organisations have vast amounts of data stored in various places including legacy platforms, applications, emails, mobile devices and spreadsheets. The recent trend of leveraging big data means that companies are delving deeper into how their data is managed, where their data is stored and what format it is stored in.
Most will find their data is unstructured. The cost of converting unstructured data is expensive, mining the data for analysis is complex and the exercise is time consuming. GDPR compliance and data security risks are just two reasons why organisations need to have robust data management policies.”Sharan Kaur MBA, Global Architecture and Automation Lead
UX: Robotic Process Automation programs often fail because developers forget they need to design superior user experiences compared to before an automation program was installed. Organisations must remember to design for humans not for robots if they want their staff to use the digital and automation tooling provided. Design thinking is a very powerful and innovative method that can be applied to understand a problem from an end user perspective that should be considered when designing automations for business people who will be using digital or automation technology to help solve their business challenges.
Figure 2: Design Thinking
“You need to start by bringing the right group of people together, spanning across the departments involved in the process. When the group is convened focus on the challenge you are trying to overcome and start to ask “How could we do this differently”. It is amazing what can happen when you tap those closest to the process for their suggestions of a better way to do business.”Ema Roloff, Sales Aficionado Extraordinaire
User Community: Social media platforms such as LinkedIn have exceptional supportive communities. No longer do organisations have to develop code and knowledge all by themselves. Instead they can link with other like minded businesses to share knowledge, discuss ideas and garner support for their programs. The Intelligent Automation and Robotic Process Automation community is very active on LinkedIn. Groups such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) have over 44,000 members with a gold mine of information available to anyone who is a member of that group. Do follow groups but do become an active member of a group (e.g. comment, like, agree or offer a point of view, etc.). Offer as much value back as you get.
“The fastest way to evolve RPA is to share our stories with each other, be it a lesson learned or a success achieved. When we learn from each other, our opportunities increase significantly.”Balint Laszlo Papp, RPA Delivery Lead
Updates & Upgrades: Firms often forget to regularly update their PCs and applications. This can lead to security issues and massive change programs that break many of the under lying intelligent automation programs built on top of them. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or Intelligent Automation IA) business vases must include a cost for running (RTB) or maintaining robots. The run cost should be as small as possible (e.g. 15% or less of the total automation program cost).
By carefully selecting the types of processes which can be automated, using an Run The Business (RTB) costs as a selection criteria, organisations can deliver return on investments from their automation programs. Quite often firms forget to include a run the business cost for maintaining their bots which results in their programs not making a healthy return on investment.
Organisations need to build change management programs into their business operations and communicate changes in advance to all the teams potentially impacted by system changes an updates. IT teams should be alerted to dependencies on applications and program interfaces by intelligent automation teams and sufficient time given to develop and test required code changes.
Where organisations can develop automations that keep away from application surfaces (e.g. using APIs, they are advised to do so). This is recommended to save time changing code.
“RPA as a concept was born out of a necessity to address a critical gap between software product features and the eventual business outcome. So it became the “de facto” custom upgrade to the dream of straight through processing or touchless automation promise of many enterprise business software product.
It is imperative upon any software vendor to plug these gaps as part of their updates or upgrades or provide a maintenance, set up or integration bot as a necessary supplement to meet the ultimate goal of the client – touchless automation!”Mahesh Vinayagam, CEO, Founder and Automation Ecosystem Evangelist
This article highlighted some things relating to intelligent automation and digital transformation beginning with the letter “U”. There are many ‘U’s’ organisations need to consider but what ‘U’ do you think is the most important?
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