Horses for Courses – the automation conundrum

Tanya Kingston
Head of Marketing

It’s getting difficult to navigate the automation landscape and be able to ‘cut through the noise’. This blog is intended to bring some perspective without using any unnecessary jargon.

There’s no doubt about it, we’re entering a period of unprecedented technological change. In particular this is true around the efficiencies to be gained from process automation.

The problem lies not so much though around recognising business processes that would make great candidates for automation, but more in being able to see through the marketing hype from vendors to choose a solution that is not only fit-for-purpose today but one that is sustainable and adaptable enough to be fit-for-purpose in the future.

The automation landscape is awash with acronyms and buzz words. Think RPA, iRPA, BPM, DPA, ML and AI just for starters! From managing structured or un-structured data, working with linear or non-linear processes through to being ‘task-based’ or ‘data-driven’. It is becoming increasingly challenging, even for technologists, to see the wood through the trees with many of the available automation solutions having overlapping capabilities.

So, let’s try and keep things simple.

It’s a two-horse race

In regards to 'process' there are two key types of automation of note:

  1. RPA (or Robotic Process Automation)

Designed to automate often high volume, mundane, repetitive ‘same-every-time’ transactional, structured tasks. Reliant on developers to build, deploy and amend processes and often found to be very difficult to scale. Mainly being used as a tactical, cost-cutting tool (by removing or re-deploying FTE’s) for short-term gain whilst maintaining a level of technical debt.

  1.  Intelligent Process Automation Platforms/ Digital Operations Platforms

Designed to automate end-to-end processes using either a Low or No Code approach. A much more appropriate alternative if the target processes require adaptive decision making, where process analytics are important; where processes may be complex (un-structured) with many moving parts. Mainly deployed as a more strategic process automation solution where competitive advantage can be gained alongside cost savings.

Within the latter category there are two important distinctions to be made:

Workflow based technology

An approach favoured by traditional BPM providers in which processes are modeled in a linear, step-by-step process and are typically not designed around the paradigm of being reactive, requiring lengthy bespoking to adapt to changing business requirements.

Data and event-driven technology

An approach favoured by Digital Operations Platforms, such as autologyx®, that promotes responsive, non-linear processes, designed to support business processes as they exist in the real-world. Reacting in real-time to the changing state of data, documents, relationships and events to deliver optimum process efficiency.

Looking at the odds – applying automation in the real world

Most industry experts agree that perhaps 20% of an organisations’ data is structured, the rest is un-structured (or complex).

RPA, therefore, is a great solution for what it was designed to do but it cannot (in fact is unable) to do it all. Ultimately, its scope is pretty narrow and it would generally sit at the bottom of the process hierarchy.

Indeed, Gartner have predicted that “by 2020 20% of organisations will have replaced RPA with another tool due to it’s limitations”!

Both RPA and traditional workflow based technology restricts business processes to ‘play out’ like a game of ten-pin bowling: the outcome and process that is followed is determined at the point you release the ball, there is no opportunity for variation or adaptation and the aim of the game (to hit over the pins) is fully planned out from the start.

Digital Operation Platforms on the other hand would be more akin to a football match: no game of football can be won by working out every pass and every play in detail before the players get on the pitch.

Instead, it relies on the players on the pitch reacting to situations based on individual perspectives and abilities who work together to win the match, responding all the time to the decisions and actions of the opposition and the game situation. Every match is dynamic and requires a dynamic interface to achieve the end goal.

The two technologies (arguably three if you consider Digital Operations Platforms to be an architectural step change from BPM), can be integrated to work together in order to complete a total digital transformation but each were inherently designed to automate different things and in a different way – whatever the salesperson tells you!

Backing one horse to win VS spreading your bets

Just because you have backed one horse, doesn’t mean you can’t embrace another. Businesses would be advised to not ‘double down’ in an attempt to fit a round peg into a square hole and instead champion each technology for the type of ‘task’, ‘workflow’ or ‘process’ they were originally designed to support.

As a final thought and relating to the opening statement about choosing automation technologies that will remain fit-for-purpose in the future.

Three words: Connectivity. Integration. Innovation

It’s just three words but looking ahead to the increasingly ‘connected’ world we are faced with, they are all equally important.

Any strategic automation solution you choose will need to accommodate all three.

You will have a need going forward to want to consume and connect to the very latest technologies like Machine Learning, AI tools, OCR perhaps or voice activated commands to enhance a process. Don’t leave your capabilities short by investing in a platform that can’t offer this ability non-disruptively, at a low cost to the business.

You will almost certainly have a need to integrate with internal (legacy or otherwise) systems and external data sources. Again, it would be short-sighted to invest in a platform that cannot enable this.

Most businesses cannot afford a high rate of experimental failure. So, they need an agile, ‘fail fast’ iterative automation solution that not only powers up a range of existing technologies but also enables innovation to be delegated, at low cost, to the people within a business who are best placed to identify opportunities and appropriately enabled to capitalise upon them. This is key as it’s the ability to be able to innovate around business processes that will, ultimately, win the digital war.

Whether you’re in the starting blocks of your automation journey or already a few furlongs down the automation course we hope you found this article of use.

Interested to learn more?

Watch the on-demand webinar: ‘Beyond RPA: Machine Learning and Intelligent Automation’. 


About autologyx®

autologyx® digital operations platform enables enterprise businesses to automate complex mission-critical processes faster and more cost effectively than existing automation software. autologyx® empowers organisations to embrace innovation by integrating next-generation technologies - such as AI and ML - with legacy systems, enabling low risk innovation to ensure sustained competitive advantage.

The autologyx® platform moves beyond simple task-based automation, offering a more holistic real-world automation approach. Unlike traditional process automation and workflow solutions, autologyx® is driven by events and data – not process – allowing users to build interdependent processes across business operations that can react in real time.

Designed and hosted in the cloud the autologyx® '‘no-code’ solution enables business users to build and run sophisticated automation applications in a fraction of the time (and thus cost) of alternative solutions.