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Jump on robotics process automation -- before your users do

Marc Tanowitz, a fan of robotics process automation, would be the first to say the term has become a business buzzword.


Marc Tanowitz

“People plunk the word robotics in front of anything that is automated, because it sounds good,” he said in an interview with SearchCIO earlier this year. Indeed, the robotics process automation label has been slapped on technologies ranging from the industrial robots found on factory floors to an app that alerts you when an item on Amazon goes on sale.

As managing director at the IT advisory firm Pace Harmon, however, Tanowitz has made it his business to separate the RPA buzz from the benefits of this new technology. And, having advised clients on use cases for robotics process automation (aka RPA) for the past two years, he has some advice for CIOs: Get on it, already — or be prepared for another tussle over shadow IT.

“What is happening in the enterprise is that it is not IT that is driving automation; it is the business functions,” he said. “Not unlike what we saw with the business functions investigating SaaS and cloud   platforms without the knowledge of the CIO, we see the same thing happening with robotics process automation.” Tanowitz advised CIOs to look at RPA as another enterprise collaboration tool that can help the business functions operate more efficiently.

Four tips for deploying robotic process automation

Robotics process automation is software that replicates how humans interact with the user interface of computers. The tools are lightweight, requiring minimal coding and little of the heavy lifting associated with other types of business software used for automating enterprise work — ERP implementations, for example, or business process management (BPM) suites.

Much like cloud was a few years ago, the applications are touted as business friendly but, like enterprise cloud applications and deployments, RPA projects need CIO oversight.

Here are four pointers from the Pace Harmon team to keep in mind as you embark on RPA. Go here for a link to the full article.

  1. Robotics process automation is not a replacement for traditional IT projects: RPA can be a good solution for automating a manual activity that is rules drive, data intensive, repetitive in nature and crosses multiple systems and decision points.
  2. Business and IT must collaborate for robotics process automation to succeed: Process owners often underestimate the need for IT involvement in RPA deployments, resulting in data security risks, latency issues and redundancy with other IT apps. IT and the business should develop a two-to-three year road map for RPA implementations to avoid these problems.
  3. Robotics process automation benefits go beyond direct cost savings: RPA also mitigates risk of human error, improves quality and frees up employees to focus on higher value work, thus improving job satisfaction and the reducing employee attrition.
  4. Robotics process automation will have an impact on outsourcing strategies: The immediate focus of RPA is to automate high volume, repeatable tasks. Next-generation RPA incorporates machine learning and natural language processing technology that will be used to automate more complex tasks. Outsourcing strategies that have relied on labor arbitrage to deliver business process savings need revising in light of the benefits offered by RPA.

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