By Colin Redbond Head of Technology Strategy for Blue Prism
In the 3rd of our series on the important Intelligent Automation
Skills of the future Digital Worker, we’ll focus on Planning and
Sequencing – a complex yet crucial skill set needed for any software
robot to be productive, efficient, and effective in the Digitally
Planning and Sequencing, which is sometimes
simply referred to as “Cognitive Planning”, is classed as one of the
“executive functions” of the brain. It is the skill that is involved in
the formulation, evaluation, and selection of a sequence of thoughts and
actions to achieve a desired goal. As humans, we do this without
conscious thought every day. Even the simplest task you perform – such
as making a cup of coffee – requires a carefully orchestrated sequence
of tasks to achieve the end goal.
Digital Workers must be able to
work within the same operational parameters as their human counterparts,
which means that an Intelligent Digital Workforce should be able to
cope with complex orchestration and sequencing of its tasks, with the
minimum amount of human intervention as possible.
Careful Planning = High Performance and Reliability
To automate a process effectively, the process needs to be captured
and optimized for execution by a Digital Worker. Recording and
automating broken and inefficient processes—the “Digital Duct Tape”
approach – will not generate the results you’re looking for. Neither
will it move you closer towards a truly digitally transformed process,
because the result will be sub-optimal and guaranteed to require
unnecessary human intervention.
To achieve true digital
transformation of a process, you must understand that process in its
current form – including its inefficiencies – and attempt to repair them
before automating. Yes, it’s true that this takes longer than simply
hitting a record button (as with up-in-no-time Desktop Automation
technologies), but the results are stark, when you look at the ROI
delivered by some of our customers over long periods of time. A Blue
Prism Digital Worker is designed to require as close to zero
intervention as possible.
Take our customer Npower as an example. 2 million hrs of work are currently delivered back to the business annually, with 400 robots. These robots are managed by just 2 people. This efficiency and reliability is just not possible without a methodical approach to planning.
Of course, now there are technological advances, like Process Mining –
a feature brought to the RPA industry over a year ago, through a
first-of-its-kind Technology Partnership between Blue Prism and our
partner MINIT – that are allowing us to simplify this process capture and planning stage.
Mining allows you to take unstructured data from logs and other “dark
data” and build a picture of your process as it is today. This gives you
some valuable indications of where you may have inefficiencies – and
therefore opportunities to automate.
However, Process Mining alone
is not enough. Dark data will not give you insights into the human
driven decision making or intuition that went into the process. Neither
will it provide you with the “WHY?” behind highlighted inefficiencies.
For that, you need to dig deeper and Blue Prism is diligently
researching ways to bring together dark data and human insight in such a
way that addresses both aspects of this problem. Our partner DXC is
beginning to tackle this problem in their APA platform,
by combining customised process mining with human process annotation.
Armed with this level of insight and process transparency, business
leaders can automate processes in their fully optimised forms.
The Importance of Orders of Operation
While it’s important for you to properly plan the process and program
your Digital Worker, all that planning would be futile if proper
sequencing and orchestration weren’t in place.
Any process will
involve a sequence of steps that are likely to have a very critical
order of execution but will also involve many decisions and diverging
paths along the way. Many of these will involve re-usable and repeated
steps. The Blue Prism platform was designed from the ground up to
encourage modularity and reusability. The Blue Prism designer and
release manager enables a “build once, use many times” approach to
process automation. Once you have programmed your resilient integration
with an application, this can be easily used in many business processes
with ease. Everything is designed to be parameterized, to maximise the
reusability and minimise process specific customization.
our advanced Control Room and Queue management system, Digital Workers
can work in tightly co-ordinated harmony across one or many different
tasks. Building a Control Room was not an afterthought for us – it is a
core component of the software that has been embedded and refined for
almost 10 years.
This efficient sequencing and reusability means we are able to deliver at much higher scale than other products.
our customer Western Union. In just 6 months, they have been able to
automate more than 21 processes, realise £1m saving and reassign 48 FTEs
to more valuable workload.
Where next? Our
current research and product development will focus on making this
orchestration fully autonomous – the Digital Workers of the future will
be fully self-managing.
Data is the New Gold
It’s important to be sure that all the steps performed by your Digital Workers can be audited and explained along the way—especially because of regulatory requirements and compliance audits – but also because having a strong, built in audit trail and metrics from your processes and Digital Workers enables you to identify areas for greater cost saving and process efficiencies. The Blue Prism platform offers best in class, built in analytics and supports feeding data into an external analytics engine. Ultimately, this data will support greater insights and Machine Learning to further improve your efficiency.
Blue Prism is also the only platform that offers true, enterprise grade audit and non-repudiation. Our platform automatically logs and records every action take and changed to give you 100% visibility into your process workflows. The data collected is centrally stored in a tamper-resistant environment, making it an irrefutable piece of a compliance audit, if needs be.
Final Thought – Planning and Sequencing in an AI Enabled Future
In the world of GDPR and the digitally transformed workplace, non-repudiation and audit will begin to become even more important than ever before. Consider how you will explain to your auditors how you arrived at a decision, if that decision was fully or partially automated? Do you understand which parts of your process are driven by deterministic, rules-based decisions and which are based on non-deterministic, machine learning driven decisions? Can you guarantee that all these steps are audited BY DEFAULT, without relying on a developer to remember to program them into the process?
The Blue Prism platform is already the most prepared to support these new regulatory requirements and our latest research is focused around making it even easier for you to extract the data and create the specialized reports you need to protect your business.
We kicked off our first BluePrism Café of 2018 with a discussion around IHG’s Robotic Process Automation (RPA) journey. For Derk Weinheimer, Vice President of Cost Efficiency and Continuous Improvement at IHG, and Bill Lloyd, Managed Services Leader at Deloitte, implementing an RPA solution is a “no brainer”.
This week, Blue Prism held its inaugural Pulse, a community driven event designed to bring customers together to share ideas, network, learn from one another, and have fun! With more than 75 attendees, the energy in the room was undeniable.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) continues to be a growing success story. In 2016, RPA alone experienced a 68 percent growth rate in the global market, with 2017 maintaining this momentum. Some reports have even predicted a US$ 8.75 billion market by 2024. However, merely investing in RPA is not an instant recipe for growth.