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Anyone who attends a discussion on the topic of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) quickly realizes that it is inevitably about concrete issues. While other trending topics such as the Modern Workplace or Artificial Intelligence (AI) always live a little on dream scenarios and utopias, RPA and process mining take place in the here and now. The technologies are there and are already being used in everyday productive situations, especially in large companies. According to the latest RPA study by IDG, there are up to 20 automated processes in operation in corporations and medium-sized companies. How polarizing the topic is at the same time can be seen from the fact that a quarter of the companies surveyed see no need for robot-assisted automation at all.

This is a polarization that sometimes does not have to be, as the invited industry representatives who discussed this topic at the IDG roundtable believe. After all, it's usually not about completely reinventing the wheel, but rather developing a certain pragmatism and a sense of what is feasible.

"For me, RPA is successful when we can present a usable, understandable and portionable solution that works for itself," emphasizes Julian Beckers, Managing Director at the Weißenberg Group. "At the CIO level, everything must always be integrated into large overall solutions and merge smoothly into them. However, the reality is often different. Of course, we are subject to many technological restrictions in everyday life and have to work with what we have."

Information on the partner packages of the Robotic Process Automation study

Robotic Process Automation - Simplicity as a strength

So is robotic process automation just a small component in managing the status quo, while the digital transformation itself is being promoted by completely different technologies? That may be true if you just look at the technology. Since "software robots", by definition, only dock on the user interface and imitate human interaction there, their potential for architectural change is naturally limited. The process remains the same and just runs faster.

However, this "simplicity" is also the great strength of RPA. In contrast to highly complex automated solutions, which mainly run in the backend and mean a fundamental change for the entire IT organization, robot-supported processes ensure greater efficiency in existing operations and are therefore easier to integrate into "human" work. They support the employees in their daily work and, above all, take on undemanding routine work. Highly paid professionals can devote themselves to more important tasks and use their resources even more profitably.

  1. Roman Schäfer, Blue Reply
    The word “transition technology” sounds badly negative. Somehow everything is a transitional technology. After SAP R3 comes S4 HANA, after Windows 7 comes Windows 10, nobody talks about transition technologies. So I prefer to speak of release cycles.
  2. Andreas Zehent, Deloitte
    Comprehensive technological competence is still lacking in most companies, as too little value is placed on this in the recruitment process in specialist departments. In many departments of many companies, outside of IT, you can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who have at least the necessary basic knowledge.
  3. Dr. Rami-Habib Eid-Sabbagh, Lana Labs
    The nice thing about RPA is that the technologies are easy to use today. This advantage lowers the inhibition threshold for modernization and opens new doors - with machine learning and process mining, smart bots can be built automatically in the future.
  4. Jan Wunschick, Lufthansa Industry Solutions
    Many companies keep making the same mistake of implementing a large number of rigid processes, especially in the area of ​​IT security. The effort to rebuild the legacy architecture increases exponentially in this way. Platform approaches are particularly exciting here because they significantly reduce the effort and offer many savings opportunities.
  5. Alexander Steiner, meta: proc
    An RPA promises quick added value, especially when looking for inexpensive solutions that can be implemented quickly. But it's actually just a transitional technology, to the point where an interface technology fits better.
  6. Timo Nolle, PAFnow
    AI and machine learning can significantly advance process mining. For example, the automatic detection of anomalies in company processes is an interesting scenario. This approach goes beyond the current possibilities of RPA, as it no longer just creates process images, but learns can be drawn automatically.
  7. Jörg Richter, Pegasystems
    Customers often come with great ambitions. However, once a technology has been implemented, operations often come to a standstill and the solution becomes unproductive. Ultimately, RPA is a solution designed to manage legacy. It is essential to avoid a proliferation of bots: We therefore advise our customers to answer the question for themselves what the ideal solution should look like for them in the end and then act accordingly.
  8. Julian Beckers, Weissenberg Business Consulting
    For me, RPA is successful when we can present a functioning, understandable and portionable solution that works for itself. At the CIO level, everything must always be integrated into large overall solutions and merge smoothly into them. However, the reality is often different. We are of course subject to many technological restrictions in everyday life and have to work with what we have.

RPA is the democratization of IT

RPA is accepted in the company so much faster because it is also understood by employees outside of the IT department. It also ensures more process-related understanding between the specialist departments and brings IT to the center of the company, as Andreas Zehent from Deloitte notes: "Far too seldom we talk about the connecting element of transformation technologies such as robotic process automation and process mining. They bring Different people from a company around one table, combine disciplines and thereby create innovation. That makes them super helpful when it comes to initiating discussions about digital transformation. "

From this point of view, RPA is much more than just a building block, it even plays a key role as an enabler of digital transformation. "Low-code technologies such as BPMS and RPA also mean: Democratization of Technology. In the future, users will be able to automate their work themselves and make a contribution to digital transformation. it always has to be about people, "says Zehent.

Information on the partner packages of the Robotic Process Automation study

Sensible integration of RPA into the overall infrastructure

And Roman Schäfer from Blue Reply notes that although robotic process automation is only part of the company's IT, it is up to every organization how important this part is: "Successful RPA must meet two factors: First, it must enable business users to automate their own processes. And secondly, it has to fit into the overall infrastructure as a supporting component. "

For him, however, it is unequivocally certain that RPA will always retain its supporting function. "In the future, too, we will not only have to deal with bots. The intellect of employees will remain an indispensable part of the process chain," continues Schäfer.

"Robotic Process Automation" study: partners wanted

COMPUTERWOCHE is currently conducting a multi-client study among IT decision-makers on the subject of robotic process automation. If you have any questions about this study or if you want to become a partner, Ms. Jessica Schmitz-Nellen ([email protected], phone: 089 36 086 745) will be happy to help you. Information on the RPA study can also be downloaded here (PDF).

Robotic Process Automation - Avoid bot-to-bot communication

A term that comes up again and again in the discussion is that of the "bot juggernaut", ie a situation in which a robot-supported process docks with one or more others - at the latest then a limit is exceeded for many, from which RPA also closes Can lead to chaos. Above all, robotic process automation must not become an obstacle to possibly more meaningful transformation projects. So it is important to always think from process to process and always question the usefulness of bots. Alexander Steiner from meta: proc describes it even more clearly: "RPA can be an important part of a digitization strategy and fill gaps in everyday life. But it is not a solution for the big picture."

The introduction of robot-supported processes is therefore always in the border area between "business as usual" and "everything new". While a single automated process can bring about noticeable increases in efficiency, a second can have the opposite effect - management of the legacy instead of fundamental renewal.

For this reason, robotic process automation and process mining belong together, as Rami-Habib Eid-Sabbagh from Lana Labs states: "It is important to record the entire processes end-to-end: RPA can accelerate processes, but also delay them, depending on whether it is implemented correctly. If you just get started, essential factors could be overlooked. Thus there is a risk that the side arm of a process is simply optimized and the actual error is not recognized. But if I find this error and eliminate it , sometimes the whole process becomes obsolete. This is where the great potential and added value of process mining lie. " (hi / fm)

Information on the partner packages of the Robotic Process Automation study