One of the biggest issues facing organizations today is technical debt. Technical debt is the resources it takes to invest in technical solutions now versus what it takes to replace it or update it later. The more time and money you invest in a process, the more resources it takes to replace it. Unfortunately, it’s common these days for enterprise organizations to use solutions that save time or meet an objective in the short term but end up costing the organization more resources in the long run.
Intelligent automation can be built as a sequence of services orchestrated into larger end-to-end process automation. At EY, we refer to it as “single-purpose automation.” It’s an approach that involves creating automations to carry out small, specific tasks and then stringing each of those single-purpose automations together using microservices. By stringing single-purpose automations together using microservices (also called, “microservice architecture”), changes to the system only require a simple swapping of software robots.
My colleague, Oscar Marin, Senior Manager of Technology Consulting at Ernst & Young LLP, presented on this very topic on stage at UiPath FORWARD IV in October:
Rather than trying to automate and do a huge transformation of your whole end-to-end process, you may have the ability to just pick a simple set of activities that is going to be automated with something like hyperautomation, for example, and then you wrap that around a service. Within an orchestrational layer that can be provided by UiPath, you get the ability to plug and play.
One of the reasons technical debt is such a growing issue is that organizations are under intense pressure to move faster, says Marin. “We know that there is a lot of external pressure that is going to drive the business in the need to innovate,” he says. “And one of the things that we’re hearing more often is, ‘We need to do this by like yesterday, we need to do this very quickly.’”
It’s true that automation can save organizations staggering amounts of time, remove the most monotonous tasks from employees, and improve compliance, but it’s important for organizations to think about strategy when implementing automation. There are many different ways to implement automation—take the time to consider all your options and choose the right approach for your organization and business goals.
The most streamlined enterprise systems are often highly customized, but that customization comes at a cost - every time an update needs to be made, it can take a long time to get the system back to running smoothly. The issue doesn’t stem from the level of customization or even the fact that it’s a large system. The problem is that the system is too interconnected. Changes in one area can have ripple effects on the whole system. For the needs of today’s enterprise organization, that can quickly become a liability that slows progress and costs time. Which is why many enterprise organizations are using automation on top of those larger systems—automation solves for many of these issues.
While some automation implementations may take months to properly implement, microservice architecture is more agile than monolith systems.
What good is moving quickly today if you’ll be stalled tomorrow because you didn’t plan ahead?
Many organizations put so much pressure on implementing new systems quickly, they fail to think ahead and ignore the importance of considering the sustainability of any system.
At every step, your tech strategy needs to include tactics that will save time in the long run as well as in the short term. There isn’t a need to choose between fast and sustainable if you use hyperautomation and microservice architecture. You can expand automation efforts faster and without costing your organization engineering time in the future when you need to make updates.
An important part of preventing technical debt is embracing the fact that change is inevitable and no one can ever perfectly predict the future.
In a system where each automation is created to carry out a specific task, you can easily add or swap out automation as your organization grows and your needs change. Using single-purpose automations gives your organization the ability to expand or change any part of the system easily.
Hyperautomation can be used with a few bots or thousands. Start with a little automation here and there and add more as employees discover new ways to deploy hyperautomation. As new bots are created, you can easily add and optimize as needed without worrying that every update will be a complex, time-consuming process.
Whether you need a lot of automation or only a little right now, you can get started with single-purpose automations and scale as needed in the future.
Not only can you grow and adapt to an ever-changing business environment, you can also make those changes faster. With this approach to automation, you can make as many updates at once as you need. By defining a single purpose for each automation, the IT team or the automation center of excellence (CoE) can work on different bots at the same time.
User experience will always affect the success of any technology implementation. If your existing system is frustrating to use, or every update changes the interface for users, you’re not going to have much success with your automation efforts. One of the primary benefits of automation is to handle tasks that humans don’t enjoy. Therefore, every part of your automation strategy has to include the user experience.
Frustration-free (and consistent) user experience is critical for the success of any technology or tech stack. When using single-purpose automations, “if at some point, a better capability comes along, you just remove that endpoint from the service,” Marin says. “The user experience remains the same. What the users are doing doesn’t change, what changes is the implementation.”
For example, say an enterprise organization is getting pressure to change something in the way they do business, so they need to launch a new service. To do that, they need to interface with a number of legacy applications.
Even with the most efficient, streamlined IT landscape, there will always be a need to gather data that won't be easily available. Finding data is a time-consuming task that doesn't need to be done manually. Hyperautomation is a perfect technology to employ to gather data quickly with minimal user oversight.
To do this successfully, Marin says, you must make sure you define a single purpose on how these areas can be orchestrated together. “This is where the concept of a sequence of activities through hyperautomation and wrapping that into a microservice will give you that flexibility from an architectural perspective,” he says. “By having a central console that is going to be managed by business users, you have a little bit of plug and play in how you manage these processes.”
More enterprise architects are realizing single-purpose automations, together with microservices, is an automation approach that is scalable, quick, and helps prevent technical debt.
Learn more about how EY is helping clients advance their automation strategies with enterprise-scale automation programs on the UiPath Platform while using it themselves to implement over 100,000 robots and save over $2 million since 2019.
The views reflected in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the global EY organization or its member firms.
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