Robotic process automation is killer app for cognitive computing

Cognitive capabilities could supercharge RPA efforts automating tasks that once required the judgment and perception of humans. But implementing these systems is not as simple as it sounds.

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We do see outsourcing providers themselves investing in RPA in order to capture the cost and business benefits to remain competitive and forestall the adoption of alternatives that don’t include them. In some cases, the business process outsourcing model will likely evolve.

CIO.com: You’ve noted that a proof-of-concept RPA project may take as little as two weeks and a pilot could be up and running within a month or two. Sounds simple. Is it?

Schatsky: Some of these proofs of concept are intended to do just that, prove the concept. They explain what RPA is and show it working in practice. You have to go a fair way up the road to get to something that’s in production ready and delivering value.

CIO.com: What are the most important steps companies need to take if they’re thinking about implementing RPA on a wider scale.

Schatsky: There are three issues that companies need to think about.

One is the level of standardization of the business process you want to automate. You have to understand the business processes you’re seeing to automate enough to determine if automatable as is or whether it makes send to redesign them a bit.

Sometime business processes performed by humans, who are adaptable and flexible, can be fairly unstandardized and full of exceptions. That’s not a problem for people, but is a problem for an automated tool that seeks to do this in a more repetitive way. Processes can be hard to automate as is and will need to be rationalized in order to take advantage of RPA.

The other thing is scalability. Once someone has proved the value of RPA in one particular business process or piece of a business process, the interest in expanding the use of it grows. But companies need to do more planning when they expand the use of RPA. They think about issues like how many software bots do we need to have and how they will manage secure access to systems the bots are interacting with. That requires more thought.

Finally, you need to understand the business purpose -- what you’re trying to accomplish with RPA. Often the adoption of RPA is driven by cost cutting, but it’s worth thinking about the broader business goals. For instance, some companies are looking to improve service to customers by being more responsive or fulfilling customer requests faster.

Some may be interested in scalability and the ability deal with spikes in demand, sudden changes in workflow, or the need to comply with new regulations. Companies should take a step back to understand what they’re trying to do with RPA because that will dictate the approach they take. In fact, that’s the biggest consideration to make when an enterprise decides to go whole hog with RPA.

CIO.com: What are the biggest mistakes companies make related to RPA?

Schatsky: Overestimating what is possible and thinking that since RPA just replaces what people are doing right now, I can just deploy it right away. It’s not a macro that automates one person’s keystrokes. It’s much more sophisticated than automating one person’s work. The concept of RPA is simply, but the reality of implementing it requires more thought.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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