There is a common misconception that Robotic Process Automation is just about “Screen scraping,” “Last Mile Integration,” or “Legacy Automation.” Nothing could be further from the truth when you use connected-RPA. We designed our platform and our Digital Workers to enable you to quickly, efficiently, and intelligently automate your critical business processes. We provide you with many different tools and methods to make your automation scalable, secure, and efficient.
You can use our visual programming language to automate complex business processes with little or no programming experience. The flexibility, ease of use, and ability to work with the same interfaces as a human are a big part of why RPA captured people’s imagination. Still, UI automation has never been our raison d’etre, and our product was not built on “screen scraping” technology.
You need to start thinking about your Digital Workers as being multilingual in the language of integration. Your Digital Workers can speak to your installed applications either through the human language of the User Interface (UI) or the machine language of the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). You should always keep both languages in mind when you create a process to automate your business. What we’re saying is that a Digital Worker can work as a human by using a UI, but don’t forget that it’s still a machine. And because your Digital Workers are machines, they can do something that your human workers can’t do, they can communicate with your applications in the language of computers - the API.
We’re not saying that you need to teach all of your citizen developers about RESTful APIs, SOAP, DLLs, and SDKs. We know that for a business user, APIs can be hard to understand. Although the concepts and technical details behind REST, SOAP, JSON, GRAPHQL, and Async API are within the grasp of an integration architect, they may baffle less technical folks who are building automations. We need to abstract API concepts away from those that automate business processes using connected-RPA.
Fortunately, a connected-RPA platform has the capabilities for your hotshot, tech-savvy developers to build objects for others in your organization to easily use. Once you create and share your API objects, anyone can create a Digital Worker that can integrate in either way. A Digital Worker executing a process does not care if the object used to interface to an application uses a UI or API, but you should. You should choose how your Digital Workers will speak to your applications – it should be UI or API because it is what works best for you and the automation scenario.
The Blue Prism Solution Design Overview (available through our portal) covers the topic of interface efficiency in depth. As part of design best practice, you should always determine if an application has an alternative route to the data that you can leverage, instead of modeling the user interface. Not only can this dramatically increase performance, but your solution will no longer be sensitive to changes in the user interface. For example, consider when you use the Blue Prism Excel VBO. When you use this object, you are bypassing the Excel interface and using functions exposed by Excel’s underlying DLLs. Using this approach improves the performance and quality of your automation compared to replicating this object using the Excel user interface.
If you don’t have the skills in house to build new API objects, this is where the Digital Exchange (DX) comes to play. The DX replaces Do-it-Yourself. For example, let’s say that your company uses Salesforce, and you have a process that needs to create and update opportunities in Salesforce. You have a decision to make. Will you use the Salesforce User Interface or the Salesforce API? Either choice is valid. But, let’s assume that you choose the API. Do you need to build something that will drive the force.com API? Well, fortunately, there is a comprehensive force.com API that is free for download on the DX, and it is only minutes away from being ready for you to use. Go to the Digital Exchange, search for Salesforce, and you’ll see the API “skill”. Once you log in, you can download it and easily import it into your connected-RPA environment – making it available within the skills toolbar and ready for you to use in your business process.
Yes, you can build any API object yourself, but with hundreds of APIs available and ready for you to download and use from the DX, you should always search the DX before you do it yourself. And did we mention, most of them are free?
Still not convinced? Consider this recent scenario:
We’re all concerned about COVID-19 and the damage that it is doing to our economies. The US Government took action and created a Small Business Administration (SBA) Payroll Protection Program (PPP) to provide loans to businesses to help them pay their workers during this problematic period. A PPP loan starts with completing a loan application at your local bank. After your bank approves your application, your details get uploaded to the SBA PPP web site by the bank for the allocation of funds. It sounds a lot simpler than it is.
Many of our banking customers used an automated process created by our talented partners, Lateetud, and ABBYY. Digital Workers streamlined the process while they improved the quality of the applications; they sped it up by days. The result? Our banking customers were able to serve their customers better and quicker.
But then the funds ran out. Congress quickly passed a new bill to allocate more funds, but now, even more, banks were using RPA from multiple vendors, including Blue Prism, to process the loans, utilizing the web site’s UI through a web browser. The increased volume of RPA robots caused an overload on the SPA PPP web portal called E-Tran. The E-Tran web portal was not built to handle the quantity nor the speed of requests. The web site crashed. Within a couple of hours, we were able to adjust the Digital Worker to use the new XML API from the SBA. Using the SBA XML API further increased the performance of the Digital Worker ten-fold.
So when you hear that your Digital Workers are multilingual and that they can speak API as well as UI, don’t be scared. Be bold and grab onto this critical concept. The value of a connected-RPA platform is its ability to interoperate with and orchestrate ANY third party application, combined with the ability to swap objects in and out as your IT landscape changes. Replacing an application object built around a User Interface with one built around an API becomes a trivial task. It’s this combined, multilingual approach, coupled with a unique and business-friendly design language that gives our customers and partners the power to innovate at a seemingly impossible speed.
If you would like to learn more about using APIs with Blue Prism, you can find this on the DX Developer Portal at https://digitalexchange.blueprism.com/site/global/developer/.
You can browse the available API skills on the DX at: https://digitalexchange.blueprism.com/dx/search?sortOrder=lastApprovalDate_desc.