Shifting Sands - Robotic Process Automation
Updated: Aug 15, 2019
In this article I share my experience around how Robotic Process Automation requires a different approach to software development and life-cycle management.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) involves the use of specialised software to automate repeatable and predictable computer based processes performed by humans. RPA is often less expensive and quicker to deploy than traditional systems integration as it works with the user interfaces of your existing IT systems.
One of the unique challenges of RPA is that it builds on the shifting sands of an IT environment that is subject to constant enhancements, upgrades and updates. Even small changes to a user interface could require maintenance to the solution that is built on top of it.
Nomadic Bedouin tribes have adapted their lifestyles to cope with a constantly changing desert environment. Bedouin’s live in tents that are versatile and easy to transport while providing excellent protection from the elements. So what can we learn from the Bedouin approach ?
Don’t try to anticipate how the sand will shift
You should expect your RPA solutions to need regular fixing. But that’s ok !
In my experience RPA applications are easy to fix on the fly but you need a knowledgeable technical support team in place. Expending energy on anticipating changes in the IT operating environment is time consuming and costly. You will be better served by constantly fixing your solution as the IT environment changes.
Be a nomad – nothing stands still
In many corporations the IT department struggles to keep up with the pace of change as new companies are acquired, merged and new products are rushed to market. Addressing this change through multi-year IT transformation programs is costly and carries risk.
RPA is built on top of existing user interfaces so you can get started immediately and deploy solutions in a matter of weeks. Later on when your IT environment changes again due to a new system or process you can simply modify the RPA solution, write a new one or throw it away. The point is that RPA gives you tremendous flexibility as it is quick and relatively inexpensive to deploy.
Don’t build a palace on the sand
RPA is just one of the tools in your automation toolkit. You should also consider process improvement, traditional systems integration or native APIs before you decide on your solution. If you are automating a bad process or adding an unnecessary program layer then you are not going to get the benefit you want.
Embrace the lifestyle
Living in a tent can be fun but its not for everyone !
Be prepared for coding on the fly, constantly changing requirements, daily software releases and workarounds. Your software development and lifecycle approach must be extremely adaptive to cope with constant change while maintaining quality. More on how to do this in a future post …