No menu selected

This is a question every single client asks when we start an engagement.  In fact it is the core question we work to answer in the first couple of weeks by examining the tasks and processes your employees work and identifying which would be the best targets for automation.

There is a significant amount of work and experience required to identify the correct processes for automation and methods to automate, but in general the processes that are the best targets for automation are those that are standardized across locations, initiated with electronic inputs, stable and data driven.

As an example, consider a sample data entry process.  Perhaps every day your employees receive an excel file with sales numbers from the previous day.  They have to meticulously copy and paste this information into a web form, then verify the results against a different tab on the spreadsheets.  This may take your employees 2 hours a day to perform.  Automation could grab the email, detach the spreadsheet, enter the data and verify before any of your employees arrive in the morning.

Add a slight change to that process and the process to automate will change as well.  If the spreadsheet not only had sales numbers, but a field with contractual terms for each sale listed, requiring the employee to evaluate the language to determine what to enter in the web form.  While the automation can still perform most of the steps, it likely would be best to still have the employee perform the evaluation of the contract terms as that step would remain more efficient for an employee to perform.  In this case, we would implement “assisted automation” where the computer would perform most of the work, except for those steps requiring cognitive thought.

In either case, you have saved time and therefore money over the long term.  If you want to discover what you could save, contact us today!

Automating is easy.  Just like lighting a fire is easy.  However, unless you consider both how to automate a task and how to maintain it, the results may quickly get out of control.

With a bit of research and some trial and error, anyone can find tools and tutorials on how to use those tools to automate tasks.  The difficulty comes not during the process of programming/configuring the automation, it comes later when underlying applications change, when the automation breaks or causes an unforeseen side effect.  Suddenly where you were the hero for automating so well, you become the villain who caused reports to fail or worse.  At that point senior executives are suspicious of your ability to manage the automations and funding is pulled.

The secret is in preparation.  At Blackedge Automation we have experienced many such failures and invite you to learn from our mistakes.  By preparing in advance to handle common issues, structuring your automations to fail gracefully and communicate status, you are able to manage growth and scale your automation capability with demand.

Contact us today!

Robotic Process Automation articles and opinions seem to fill the news feed on LinkedIn.  News stories abound regarding the impact to the workforce, many of which suggest that everyone’s job will be gone in a few short years.  Notable technologists such as Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have even called for a move toward Universal Basic Income in order to soften the eventual blow.

Now, to be fair neither of them are suggesting that the impact will be due to the technology referred to as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) alone.  Instead, they are looking toward a future where the convergence of such tools, along with Artificial Intelligence (AI) cause a significant impact by eliminating work.

The current reality is somewhat different.  While there have been jobs eliminated due to the use of RPA tools, for most companies the focus is on eliminating much of the work that has been sent to offshore vendors during the past decade or taking low-skill, time-intensive activities away from employees and refocusing those same employees to tasks that require human interaction.

So what exactly is RPA and how can it benefit your business?  The class of tools referred to as RPA drive user interfaces, such as Excel, web browsers and other programs just as an employee would.  If you  were to watch the tool operate, it would be very similar to looking over the shoulder of one of your employees.  The mouse would move, data would be entered into fields, emails would be opened and attachments sent or recieved.  The advantage of course, is that an employee does not have to perform the work.  The computer performs the work and an employee spends a few moments verifying the outcome at the end.

There are things that RPA does not do very well…yet.  It does not adapt to change as an employee would.  So if a website changes and fields are in different places or if the process requires evaluating freeform text such as contracts to extract information, RPA tools in their current state will not handle such work very well.

This is where the convergence with AI will begin to enhance the current capabilities of RPA, allowing for changes in application interfaces and process information to be evaluated as they occur, determining an appropriate response as a human would.  While the convergence of this technology is occurring, practical application is in the infant stage.

Right now, RPA is a maturing technology that drives measurable, significant ROI.  Your competition is implementing RPA and building the capability to use it.  Can you afford not to do the same?