The Technology of Business Process Automation
The tools and techniques used to automate a business process vary widely. Considerations include:
- The unique circumstances of the process
- The supported integration options of the applications that contribute to the process
- Our client's technology infrastructure
- Our client's preferences
Once we understand the relevant considerations, we generally design a solution involving the following types of technology.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Robotic process automation helps businesses automate high-volume, manual, multi-step tasks. RPA automates these tasks by creating software robots that understand, copy, and improve human action within or across applications, accomplishing these tasks faster and with fewer mistakes.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML) / Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
Although these items are all distinct types of technology, we'll lump them all together for brevities sake. Generally, AI and ML are used to make automations "smarter." That is, they provide a process with a more sophisticated decision-making mechanism that mimics human decision-making. The sophistication can vary from trivial logical decisions involving a limited set of variables to mind-numbing complexity that considers many more variables than a human can. OCR is used to interpret words or characters embedded in images, handwriting, or other formats where a computer cannot directly access the text.
Cloud Platforms and Applications
Many modern business processes utilize several computer applications exhibiting wide-ranging capabilities. Some applications are local applications running directly on a given user's computer. Other applications, however, are enterprise applications that run "on-premise" or within the confines of an organization's network. Increasingly, business processes rely on cloud-based platforms or applications that run within the confines of a 3rd party service provider's network. When automating older, legacy processes that do not utilize cloud platforms or applications, there are often opportunities to improve or modernize the process by leveraging the offerings of various cloud platform providers or other cloud applications.
Data & Analytics
Although our business focuses on process automation, there would be nothing to automate if not for data. Data is the raison d’être of process automation. Create data, copy data, delete data, enrich data, visualize data, and so on. Our experts have a rich understanding of databases (SQL & No SQL), ETL techniques, SQL, data visualization tools, and other data-related topics.
Macros & Scripts
Macros & Scripts represent an important class of tools that offer a middle ground between RPA and software development. Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), for example, allows you to automate and extend Microsoft Office applications such as Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Word. Other tools, such as PowerShell, provide a platform for automating tasks with rich integration capabilities and a high-level scripting environment that allows you to get things done quickly.
For processes involving multiple people or stakeholders, we turn to collaboration applications such as Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, or Slack when possible to facilitate the collaborative aspect of a given process. We also consider email and SMS for collaboration when appropriate or other more appropriate tools are unavailable.
Occasionally the most prudent thing to do is to write a custom software application or component to automate a process or a vital aspect of a process. While software development generally takes longer to complete, it offers the most flexibility, best performance, and superior durability.