Venkatachalam Ramanathan, CTO,
Newsweek Media group
RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is a targeted solution for optimising human usage on mundane tasks, unlike the unpopular notion of "workforce reduction". If we have to take a precedent from automobile industry, robotisation of the manufacturing, painting and assembly lines have not taken away jobs, rather it has made humans work on better tasks and has improved the quality, productivity and bottom line of those organisations.
Having said that, now let me go to my topic with an assumption that the audience here are aware of process models, which is a starting point for any BPM (Business Process Management) automation projects. There are several tools and platform that enable business analysts and process consultants to do this activity when an organisation wants to automate their respective business processes.
A compelling reason for a process model to be in place before automating a business process in an organisation is very simple and beyond argument, because the process modelling activity is similar to an engineering drawing and modelling from a construction or automobile business because building something without a blueprint and getting an approval from the end-customer without a model is a serious risk, if someone does so.
Similarly, a process automation project needs process modelling as a pre-requisite and a bible without which an automation specialist would be left without any direction to proceed, test and roll out.
Now, the same reason applies for a RPA project as well because here again in a RPA, the robots are created and are made to perform mundane tasks over a 24/7 routine and is used to scale up on numbers, geographies, languages etc. They are also added with an AI (Artificial Intelligence) and (CT) Cognitive Thinking tasks which makes it necessary that the Robots know the route end-to-end, so that the AI and CT will be efficient and quick.
As usual, I want to take a simple metaphor to relate to this argument of mine to ensure that it is understood and appreciated by the audience.
My metaphor is that of our house (in the Indian context mostly) which on any given day will be filled up with different people who are part of the family and also by services people like maid(s), servant(s), cook(s), baby sitter(s), extended family members, sudden visitor(s) and guest(s). Given this scenario, we tend to add, move around and rearrange our house to accommodate all the people and the activities that are related to such people in a house.
Now, when I decide to replace some of the activities that my maid servant or cook or baby sitter does with a "home robot", what should I be doing? I cannot replace the people overnight with those robots and terminate these service champions isn't it? So, what do I do, I first rearrange my house and standardise the positions of my furniture and fixtures in a certain fashion that will enable a robot to navigate as per my program in those robots for which I need to know what follows an action and what needs to be done if a certain action is not done and feed these inputs into the robot so that it can handle those situations rather than hitting itself against a moved sofa in my living room (despite all the standardisation efforts, believe me this happens both at home and at workplaces), while it brings a coffee from the kitchen to my bedroom when asked for.
As robot programmer, I need to know the entire landscape, possible action and relevant reactions to the same, so that, the task which a robot started with, gets completed thru' all the possible navigation options that it has been fed with. In order to give these all possible navigation and resolutions, an entire process model (to serve coffee from kitchen to bedroom) needs to be designed and fed into a robot for it to function effectively, right?
This is an exact replica that we need to adopt in a RPA implementation without which RPA would remain a buzzword for sometime (as it is happening today on which the RPA companies and their early bird customers are cashing in) and wade off when businesses start seeing failures and errors on the programmed robots. The more riskier proposition would be when the base programmed robots done without giving much of a thought and "eye-for-details" in a process, can lead to disastrous loss to a business for which nobody can be held accountable other than the robot itself (which cannot be question, fired or put behind bars, on a lighter note).