The short answer is yes, businesses can easily build bots using robotic process automation (RPA) tools. However, we as consultants would not earn our stripes if we did not present all the necessary factors needed for you to draw a conclusion for yourself.
As the automation industry continues to make inroads into the C-suite, there has been a paradigm shift in the hyper-automation go-to-market strategy for several of the leading automation platforms. Automation platforms, including RPA, now offer low-code options that enable a business user in automating their day-to-day processes. This shift becomes more prevalent as RPA leaders introduce the Attended bot operating model. With the combination of both low-code environments and the push to have Attended bots, it is increasingly more likely that business users can build bots using the right RPA tools. As always, the devil is in the details.
The case for citizen developers and an established CoE
Over the past few years, we have become accustomed to working with clients who express the desire to break their dependence from IT as they look to automate their business processes with RPA. Having the right implementation partner makes the transition from an IT-led development approach to a business unit-led development approach much smoother. Inevitably, this transition provides a path for business users to build their own automation. Moreover, with a citizen-led development approach, it negates the need to involve IT and thereby increases the turn-around time of such automation that may otherwise stall in the IT backlog chain.
Our position is that business users with the right skill sets (e.g. experience building macros) will do well in building bots with the right training and guidance. This sort of citizen-led development will only prove to be effective with the right support from a proven and well-established Center of Excellence (CoE).
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Most RPA tools now have the capability to minimize the complexity of building a bot process. With features like desktop recorders, drag and drop commands, OCR, and pre-built ML packages, someone with a minimal programming background can build a very powerful bot process. However, without the right guardrails, leaving citizen developers to their own devices will prove to be rather chaotic.
Our successful engagements with clients who pursue this endeavor tend to have a few things in common:
- The right RPA platform must align with your business needs. Not all RPA platforms are alike. RPA tools that do not offer low-code capabilities or Attended bots will not lend themselves to effective citizen-led development.
- A well-established CoE will set the training, communication, and support for your business users. The CoE will be the guardrail to prevent a chaotic implementation of the automation process across your business landscape.
- A vetted inventory and selection process for identifying the ideal candidates for automation.
- The business users, citizen developers, power users, or however you would like to classify them, are familiar with the simple-automation task(i.e. Excel/macros) that they can be effective using a much more powerful automation tool.
Determining a successful automation strategy
While the goal for most business units is to change the IT power dynamics and give their business users the ability to automate their processes, this ultimately can limit the overall goal of improving user productivity, effectiveness, and ROI. In our experience, an effective automation strategy must be led from the enterprise perspective.
The advantages here are that the enterprise can better select the right tools for automation, scale effectively, and set an effective roadmap strategy. This understanding of the enterprise involvement should not be a deterrent but should be a point of consideration.
Business users can build RPA bots, but as expressed above, there are a multitude of factors that will determine if this is an effective strategy. The future of successful hyper-automation implementation hinges on empowered business users that can effectively develop within a series of constraints.
To help you better conclude this on your own, here are things to consider:
- Establish an automation governance structure
- User ability (i.e. user is already familiar building simple automation)
- Availability of a low-code platform with attended automation
- Maintenance/Support cost
- Simple vs. complex processes
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Perficient’s Phani Jaladi also contributed to this post.