More than one industry expert has lamented the growing hype around robotic process automation (RPA), though perhaps no one has succeeded quite like Robert Sutherland of Horses for Sources in his seminal work, “How Robotic Process Automation has become a right dog’s breakfast”. In the article, he points to a recent survey where only 11% of enterprise buyers had “even some” actual RPA experience, leading him to the statement, “9 out of 10 enterprises haven’t really got a bloody clue”. That’s absolutely true. It’s all the difference between knowing something as opposed to knowing about something.
Which is why an article this week, “RPA at BPO: The “GUI Automation Solution”, by Marcus Esser, PhD Senior Manager Global CTO team (Capgemini BPO) came as a breath of fresh air. In the article, Dr. Esser describes the methodology and practical experiences of deploying the first phase of Capgemini’s BPO Automation Program, a collaborative effort between the company and its technology partner, UiPath, which began in 2014. The deployment initially focused on validating assumptions in two critical areas:
Benefits – could the RPA technology meet expectations in the areas of performance, cost-savings and accuracy?
Implementation – would it be possible to achieve highly precise automation results without a lengthy, expensive and disruptive integration between the automation software and client systems?
With the validation of those key assumptions in mid-2015, the program began rolling out globally by the Capgemini BPO Delivery Excellence team.
Enterprise Scalability & Controls
These two assumption areas make sense: the technology has to be able to deliver compelling benefits while preserving a high ROI with a small system integration footprint of time and money. The missing assumption is scalability. Capgemini is looking for a global automation solution for large, global, enterprises and needs a technology which can scale in the following areas.
Automation Production: there are three steps in automation production: requirements & process modeling; creating automation scripts; deploying the scripts to either desktop automation or centrally located robots. These steps must be supported by scalable tools and functionality. Capgemini found its methodology and training, combined with UiPath’s product capabilities, allowed production to be completely done within a single work week.
Automation Deployment: there are three milestones in the automation roadmap; requirements & process modeling; creating automation scripts; deploying the scripts to either desktop or centrally located robots. The first phase of the BPO Automation Program scaled with deployment to desktop robots. The second phase will scale to centralized robots, use UiPath’s queuing and process balancing capabilities.
Batch processing: for automation to scale the technology must enable process orchestration – the capability to move past single point, desktop, automation to the end-to-end batch processing of work actions within entire processes or sub-processes.
Robust global support: the UiPath technology must not only scale in terms of functionality, their product support must also scale on a global basis.
Like all other business process outsourcing service providers, Capgemini has customer responsibilities which mandate the automation software security and controls conform to client policies and procedures. This means the UiPath product must not only be scalable, it must be enterprise-grade technology and IMS/Information Security compliant. More specifically:
Automation Production must be controlled by role-based permissions and secure development, testing, staging and production environments.
Log files must cover logging of all automated activities and stored in a central, secure, repository – available for regular reporting and analytics.
Governance activities, such as review and approval process for the movement of automation scripts between environments, should be supported by automated timestamps of status changes and control logs.
RPA is a Real Investment
This Capgemini article speaks unequivocally from months of heads-down, hands-on robotic process automation experience. The message it delivers is unambiguous: the benefits from this technology are very real and very compelling. However, the investment required to achieve these benefits is also very real, including: a robust product; automation production bandwidth (people & training); enterprise scalability (infrastructure & management) and enterprise-level controls (infrastructure and governance).
Robotic software should also be viewed as serious investment and treated accordingly from a timeline perspective. Capgemini not only made a real investment, it is also playing a long game. Their Automation Program has its roots in 2014 and is coming up on 2016. However, much of their competition is also coming up on 2016 and has yet to put any automation roots down.