Early in my career, many years ago, I was the sole IT person for a small call center business. As the only IT person, I was also responsible for some of the phone system, and everything else that plugged into the wall (including a mechanical letter folder.) Of all the varied tasks I had to complete, the one I hated was preparing the monthly report on IT and phone performance. I had to assemble lots of statistics from a variety of sources into the standard report form. Like all management reports, only the first paragraph was every read. I would spend a day and a half putting together the report and the graphs with the sure knowledge that my work would have no measurable impact anywhere in the organization. I would have loved a tool that would automate the data compilation process and output the graphs and report document for me. At Tech Field Day 19, I learned that there is a whole category of products dedicated to freeing people like me from the tedium of creating those reports. Tech Field Day disclaimer link. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the category of products that automate repetitive manual tasks.
We heard from Automation Anywhere that their Bots can handle both repetitive processes that require no decision making and also use AI to make decisions for more complex functions. One thing that impressed me was that there was a lot of maturity to the product. We heard of how governance and control are built into the product, how Bots were being used to implement business logic as well as simple mechanization. One example was a Bot that helps banks to score loan applicants and either immediately approve or deny the loan where the decision was clear. The bot escalates to a human manager if the decision requires a judgment-based decision. This sounds a lot like how my bank works, I know there have been times that loan approval is immediate, and other times we had to wait a little longer. Another maturity sign is that there are different personalities of Bot developer, both the non-IT end-user and the software developer persona. For the end-user, the development environment is very visual while for the software developer, it is much more code focussed. There is also a dedicated community of Bot developers and a marketplace for built Bots. In the future, there will be monetization of this marketplace so independent Bot developers can sell their work.
I can imagine workplaces where every person has their own fleet of tiny Bots, each dealing with some repetitive task that used to burn up that person’s day. This is really what “Automate all the things” looks like for non-IT people (link to Adam Fischer’s blog post). Liselotte wonders what the Bot ate for lunch, Jim Palmer also wrote about Automation Anywhere, as did Marina Ferreira. If you want to see more, the Tech Field Day 19 videos are all on their Automation Anywhere page.
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