Examples of Robotic Process Automation
Putting Digital Labor to Work
When companies look to reduce the cost of doing business, they typically start with “best shoring” their existing processes either directly or through a consultant. That’s putting processes and staff in the right, most economically favorable geography. Then as a second step companies apply business process optimization to improve efficiency.
But what happens when that’s not enough? What do you do when offshoring and efficiency projects don’t produce the labor and time savings you need? Enter digital labor and intelligent automation.
When manual human effort is replaced with digital machine labor, another widely used term is robotic process automation (RPA). Worksoft has been in the field for years and is the leader in end-to-end intelligent automation for digital business. Whether the automation is highly complex, involving multiple disparate systems, across public, private, or hybrid cloud and mobile; or involves multiple operating systems and hardware platforms including Salesforce.com, Oracle, SAP, Hybris, IBM i (formerly AS/400), Mainframe, or of course x86, Worksoft can handle them all.
This paper chronicles several robotic process automation projects recently performed with the Worksoft platform. The case studies represent examples of intelligent automation across diverse industries ranging from telecommunications to energy.
Discover. Automate. Run. As you review the cases, you’ll notice many similarities. Typically, the project begins by discovering the actual business process by having users interact with the set of enterprise applications that form their end-to-end business path – as they normally would in performing their jobs. Worksoft works in the background, generating a visual depiction of the processes, analytics, documentation, and building the automation portfolio. The next step is to “harden” the automation by creating connections to business databases or even Word & Excel, creating if-then-else constructs and the like. All of this is performed via point and click with no scripting or coding – ever. Finally, companies run the automation to perform the business function, eliminating both human labor and human error – to achieve robotic process automation.
Reducing Manual Sales Order Processing Effort: A Telecommunications Company
A Fortune 200 telecommunications company engaged with a major consulting firm looking for ways to reduce the headcount of their 2,000+ call center employees. Given a specific headcount reduction target, the consulting company set about performing the common activities one would expect for this type of engagement: They interviewed employees to determine the cost of process elements, looked to improve efficiency and reduce unnecessary steps whenever possible, and optimized the process overall. Unfortunately, although this did help in meeting the headcount reduction target, it did not fully achieve the objective.
The consulting firm then brought in Worksoft, which worked hand-in-hand with the consultants. Employees performed their normal day-to-day activities while Worksoft technology automatically captured the business process tasks they performed. The following automation assets were generated as a result of the work:
- Process flow diagrams were created which automatically consolidated like paths and shared processes into a single flowchart view. Path segments performed by individuals or departments were automatically joined together to form an end-to-end process view.
- A multitude of workflow statistics were captured and stored for analysis, including the number of clicks and specifically what was clicked for each part of the process, which applications were opened, the sequence in which activities were performed, the objects the user interacted with, and how the process varied across multiple users. Heat map overlays were applied including information such as the duration spent on each activity both in an aggregated and individual capacity, which helped to determine the cost per business transaction and of the overall process. When the process automation is run, statistics also include error information and system time to execute each part of the process.
- Documentation was created detailing the exact transaction path each user took, including screenshots of each screen and button clicked, as well as what was entered, the objects the user interacted with, and a narrative of the process they performed.
- Process automation was generated based on the actions users took throughout the system.
Using these assets as a starting point, the consulting company applied a custom heat map which matched every process step with the associated dollar value cost to manually execute the process. Analysts then easily identified which elements to automate first for the most effective return on investment (ROI). This helped them pinpoint not only what the company could do to fully meet their objective, but also what FTE reduction targets they could achieve for a subsequent contract they proposed to the telecommunications company.
Applying Digital Labor To Purchase Requisition Creation: An Armed Forces Agency
A large armed forces government agency recognized an extremely inefficient usage of labor: They were spending approximately 110 hours of manual effort per 50 purchase requisitions. Considering the fact that the agency is extremely large, 50 purchase requisitions represented only a tiny percentage of their total processed annual volume. These requisitions are complex, typically with 100 or more line items per requisition.
In order to create the orders, information had to be manually gathered across a variety of disparate agency systems. Due to the complexity of the applications, it was unaffordable to create back-end integration. Since the orders involved items including weapons, a single mistake could result in a substantially different order. Errors were unacceptable.
With Worksoft intelligent automation, the government agency achieved the following outcomes:
- Automated the creation of purchase requisitions, with each batch of 50 requiring 110 hours of manual labor to complete
- With Worksoft, the creation of 50 requisitions shrunk to 2 hours of manual effort and 17 hours of automated processing time
- Result: Reduced staff’s total manual effort by 98%
Applying Digital Labor To Internal Account Transfers: An Energy Company
A large energy company faced a conundrum: They employed a large team of accountants to handle manual entry and reconciliation of various journal entries across multiple systems, but needed to free people up to work on other higher-value activities. They realized that their current process was not only a poor use of highly skilled labor, but was also prone to accidental mathematical errors.
The business scenario: An accountant would look at multiple SAP screens, each of which contained various components for an internal purchase order. Information included items such as the dollar amount, cost of materials, shipping, and departmental account codes. Unfortunately, this data was stored in multiple systems and was not linked together on the back-end. As a result, accountants would open several windows at once and review each to gather the information needed, perform calculations, and then manually enter the output into the final system which prompted the account transfers.
Transfers were tens of thousands of dollars and occurred frequently throughout the day. The business did not want to wait until end-of-day to perform transfers, but required them to be processed in real time, especially during quarter-end. Key to the transfer amount was the point-in-time information on each SAP screen. Since this information changed frequently, calculations needed to be performed with all sessions open at the same time.
Enter Worksoft. Here’s how the Worksoft solution was implemented. The client began by performing their business process as usual while Worksoft Analyze® captured their activities. Next, the captured information was transferred into Worksoft Certify® where it was “hardened” in a completely script-free and code-free fashion. Hardening included invoking variables to capture the values in each SAP object in real time while checking that the session state was active and updated. Algebraic formulas were then employed against the variables to run basic linear regressions and other mathematical formulas. Finally, the information was entered into the appropriate system window.
All of this work was performed using the front-end of the application just as an end user would. This was important not only because it saved substantial time and complexity (avoiding a complex back-end database integration) but also because it preserved the business logic and checkpoints built into the front end of the SAP application. What’s more, calculations were performed by a computer, eliminating human mathematical errors.
The solution was deployed in slightly over two weeks with only one Worksoft consultant, and because of its effectiveness was deployed into production immediately. Several hundred thousand dollars and dozens of transactions occur daily in the internal accounting system, which is now handled through Worksoft intelligent automation.
Digital Labor For Manual Sales Account Entry: A Hardware & Software Distributor
A medium sized hardware and software distributor was in search of a way to streamline mundane and time-consuming tasks: Telesales reps would input basic account information into a web form while on the phone with the customer. Next, the web form was output into a Microsoft Word document. Data entry clerks took that information and entered it into their fulfillment system. Clearly this was a suboptimal use of labor, but the expense and complexity of integrating the back-end systems was cost-prohibitive.
Fortunately, the distributor commenced an intelligent automation project with Worksoft. There were two different ways they could build the automation: Either in real-time by creating variables for each of the items entered and then feeding that directly into the back-end ordering system in real-time, or performing a batch process with the finished MS Word document and entering the information from there. The company decided to go with the latter approach as real-time loading was not an important factor.
Much like the previous example, the client first began by having business users perform their activities as usual. In this case data entry professionals read the MS Word document and then manually input the values into the ordering system. Rather than simply “recording” user behavior, Worksoft automatically recognized the application objects, as well as the interaction with Word. That information was then brought into Worksoft Certify which is the core automation engine for the Worksoft platform.
A consultant then built-out rules for the name value pairs in Word (all via drop down menus, no coding required), creating variables for each and performing internal validations to ensure fields and values were within proper business constructs. Next, Worksoft logged into the ordering system and entered the values. The front end business logic within the system itself was left intact, helping to further ensure entries were correct.
The Worksoft RPA Package
Worksoft’s Robotic Process Automation package includes everything required to create and conduct automation of complex business processes. The package comes with Worksoft Analyze®, to capture, document and visualize the business processes to be automated; Worksoft Certify®, to author and run the automation; and Worksoft Execution ManagerTM for lights-out, distributed execution of business process functions.
The Worksoft Advantage
The Worksoft intelligent automation platform is highly flexible and includes out-of-the-box support for all enterprise applications and business processes, as well as:
- The ability to build automation simply by having the end user perform their activities as normal. Worksoft captures the interaction between the user and the application objects they are interacting with as well as the data that is entered. Rather than a simple “record” feature, this capability gets underneath the application into the components so that even if objects are moved or renamed, the automation will continue to work. The base automation is then “hardened” to apply advanced logic using simple drop down menus which allow for the application of advanced business logic and validation. There is no coding or scripting with Worksoft.
- Automatically generated and updated business process flow chart diagrams show the activity paths users took throughout the process. The flow charts are patented and unique, applying a “multi-variant” view which allows analysts to quickly determine common paths, heat maps for duration and usage statistics, and to connect activities from multiple users and departments together to form an end-to-end flow. All of this is performed simply by pointing and clicking, and can be performed by a business user without a technical background.
- Support for all enterprise applications, including both commercial and custom apps. An extensibility framework for custom or unusual application objects allows for extensions to be constructed by pointing and clicking rather than any coding. (An example of a custom object would be a combo box that is populated by dynamic navigation elements).
- A database repository which contains business process information, common paths, and statistics regarding user interaction with the application. Information is surfaced via a graphical user interface.
- The ability to create a reusable asset library complete with business partner or customer-specific intellectual property regarding items such as business process best practices. System Integrators can reuse this across engagements and come to new projects equipped with automation out-of-the-box, offering differentiation as well as substantial savings in time and effort for services engagements.
- A flexible infrastructure for custom reporting including reports such as how the user proceeds through the process flow, and pre- and post-execution reporting that can be used for user training, use case documentation, and compliance.
Worksoft: Intelligent Automation for Digital Business
Human labor efficiency has increased substantially over the last decade which has led to numerous changes in society and helped companies grow their bottom line. At this point, however, incremental labor efficiency is becoming more challenging since many effective methods have already been employed and are nearly fully exhausted.
The next frontier is not human labor at all: It’s digital. As human labor is replaced with digital labor, the compelling benefits of robotic process automation will continue to mount. At the same time, the applications of robotic process automation in a business process context will grow ever more sophisticated. Worksoft has a proven track record of delivering process automation in a matter of days, not months, and intends to remain at the forefront of intelligent automation for years to come.