Business Process Automation has been a hot topic for business, the IT Press [CW] and many IT organisations since the beginning of this decade. The Harvard Business Review [HBR] distinguishes the centuries of automation:
|20th Century||Machines take away the dull – automated interfaces from airline kiosks to call centers, relieve humans of routine service transactions and clerical chores.|
|21st Century||Machines take away decisions – intelligent systems, from airfare pricing to IBM’s Watson, making better choices than humans, reliably and faster.|
Before Business Process Automation (BPA) the IT industry tended to focus on Business Process Management.
The Springer Lecture Notes argue that “Business Process Management (BPM) includes methods, techniques, and tools to support the design, enactment, management, and analysis of operational business processes”.
It is the approach to defining and managing the business processes that organisations want to automate.
Mature organisations identify business processes they want to automate, do the BPM thoroughly, put the processes under the governance of BPM and then automate them using BPA methods.
In the field of BPM there are many tools in the market that coordinate or orchestrate business processes that are supported by computers.
These tools tend to tie transaction processes that are coded in computers into a longer and often richer business process.
Because machines that automate tasks are often more reliable and predictable than human organisations turn to machines to improve their operational efficiency and productivity.
We’re using a number of tools to automate certain processes.
1) Redwood Cronacle is a tool specialising in job scheduling for SAP.
We use it for triggering, monitoring, alerting and reacting to the execution output of programs, scripts and managing the daily movement of files. Redwood has a strong relationship with SAP and is a good tool for managing the scheduling of batch jobs in SAP.
2) Globascape EFT is a file transfer management system.
We use this to exchange data in a secure fashion between NGA HR and clients/vendors without touching a file manually. This is accomplished using Scripts that are built to automate the solution for each of our clients/vendors.
3) Kofax TotalAgility is a Business Process Management software.
NGA HR uses it to transform existing business processes that require human decision making, data sets from multiple sources, presenting this information to the users in a methodical and efficient workflow to minimize time and error.
It uses a Business Process modelling tool to graphically build process models and execute them as workflows.
4) Blue Prism is a Robotic Automation tool.
We use it to take existing manual, resource intensive and tedious tasks of inputting data via a user interface to applications that are completely deterministic, and automate these steps verbatim by the use of software robots acting as humans.
5) Winshuttle is a data management tool focused on SAP.
This is used to load data into euHReka. It is integrated with Microsoft Excel where data can be manipulated and prepared. It can then load data to SAP much like LSMW.
All of these tools provide essential runtime support for NGA HR HR Operations and Service Readiness.
In Application Services and Technology Operations, the use of tools for automation is sporadic and largely ad-hoc. Certain IT Processes are supported by our business oriented Automation tools such as password reset using Blue Prism.
On reflection, most of our automation is probably focused between Harvard’s 20th and 21st Century paradigms of automation.
Automation is taking on dull tasks and making limited decisions but none of our implementations could be called truly cognitive and they are certainly not able to learn.
There are many. Automation is not easy. It requires a lot of analysis up front.
|CW||A guide to business process automation software, Computer Weekly http://www.computerweekly.com/guides/A-guide-to-business-process-automation-software|
|HBR||Beyond Automation by Thomas H. Davenport and Julia Kirby, June 2015 https://hbr.org/2015/06/beyond-automation|
|GAR||“Market Guide: Robotic Process Automation Tools” Cathy Tornbohm, Gartner Symposium, 6 –10 November 2016, Barcelona, Spain|
Gartner has analysed tools and companies in the Business Process Automation field. They prefer the term Robotic Process Automation (RPA). They define RPA as…
“Tools that provide an executable to move structured digital data automatically between systems – any systems.… using the existing user interface pathways in the presentation layer or the integration tool of choice.”
|Robotic Process Automation Specialists||Multiple Software Offerings||IT and BPO Service Providers|
 “Business Process Management: A Survey”, W.M.P. van der Aalst, A.H.M. ter Hofstede, and M. Weske,http://staff.icar.cnr.it/staff/ruffolo/public_html/progetti/projects/23.Semantic%20BPM-%20in%20OntoDLP/Business%20Process%20Management%20A%20Survey–10.1.1.14.2433.pdf