Fancy new business intelligence (BI) tools are giving companies the ability to gain deep insights into their operations in real time, and robotic process automation (RPA) is affording these same companies the ability to take action on those insights instantly through automation.
I sat down with Dave Caldeira, an expert in ECM, BPM, RPA, analytics, CRM and customer interaction management. Caldeira was most recently senior vice president of product and solution marketing for Kofax and is now an independent consultant. He had a lot to say about RPA and BI technologies, and I’ll admit that by the end of our nearly hour-long conversation, the future of RPA and BI looked promising. My bold prediction: By 2025, RPA and BI platforms are going to completely transform the back office.
In its current capacity, RPA technology uses pre-programmed “robots” to automate repetitive, rules-based tasks that usually required a human who would access and act on information stored across multiple applications, databases, repositories, web services and other core systems. In turn, you can expect lower operating costs, and faster, more efficient business processes. Meanwhile, BI solutions enable businesses to integrate, collect and visualize information from core systems, which can reveal problems that were otherwise invisible before due to a lack of insights. With this knowledge, decision makers are more likely to make smarter choices.
BI Provides Context
“A current trend is BI-able process,” explained Caldeira. “Data is important but it often lacks context. But having the context of real time information, from the process from which the data was created or used, it enriches it infinitely,” said Caldeira.
Indeed, such data can be helpful in spotting bottlenecks or trends in your supply chain, for example. But traditionally, managers and analysts who discover a problem aren’t the ones effecting change, which is a big issue. Instead, other personnel with little or no understanding of the process context “go off in a disconnected way” to try and fix “the systems or processes that are creating the potential problem.” According to Caldeira, it’s impossible to make the proper tweaks without any process context, which is precisely what is common practice today.
“Analytics is truly and really at that moment being able to implement the change that would respond to your insight,” said Caldeira. “Whatever it is, if I have the responsibility and the role, I can effect that change in real time from the inside. That is virtually impossible to do if you don’t have process context. The business intelligence I started with is giving me the data and process insight.”
Adjacent to trends in BI solutions themselves, Caldeira sees data scientists as “a critical business asset” moving forward. “Having the confidence in that person who is making that decision, and making sure that the information is high quality, is timely, is accurate,” is going to be a big deal — especially in large-scale data environments according to Caldeira. “You’re never going to have perfect data,” he said. But at least with a good data scientist, you can rest easy knowing that decisions are being made with most relevant, accurate, and timely data available to them.
RPA — Doing it for Yourself
We’ve seen a lot of concern with end users regarding how difficult it would be for users to build their own automations, or if it was a coding-intensive process. Caldeira says RPA is getting simpler for the professionals with little or no coding know-how. “You often hear the term ‘citizen developers,’” said Caldeira. “You do have to have a certain sense of the information you're trying to interact with.” RPA is moving in a direction where the folks who understand this information — and how to leverage it best — don’t have to rely on the IT department to build automated processes.
RPA is getting smarter, to the point where machines will be capable of taking “cognitive” actions. They will “emulate human thinking and judgment,” said Caldeira. Currently, some developers claim to have cognitive software, but to Caldeira, “there’s a vast difference between using declarative rules-based capabilities, and using machine learning and natural language processing, and some other capabilities to truly offer cognitive solutions.” And while we aren’t quite there yet, the technology driving these advances are already here.
For now, RPA and BI technology can help your business get a leg up on the competition. They will make your business processes faster and more efficient, lower your operating costs, and help you make smarter decisions. But in the future, RPA and BI will live up to all of the hype and more. They will completely change the landscape in just about every industry you can imagine. BI will light the road, and RPA will automate it.