Lou Bachenheimer, CTO, Americas, SS&C Blue Prism
Companies around the world spend an estimated $230 billion on managing business processes. Outsourced business process management (BPM) is increasingly becoming digital to meet customer and market demands for speed and convenience at low costs. Today’s top organizations realize these needs and have moved past task-based automation to a more comprehensive approach: fully digitized end-to-end processes, combining BPM solutions with robotic process automation (RPA).
This allows for the seamless integration of their digital solutions with their human workforce. However, to secure long-term success and viability in a digital-first future, companies will need to ensure their RPA and BPM solutions are orchestrated from a single comprehensive platform. Any adopted platform should also utilize the complementary benefits of other advanced technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI), intelligent document processing and human-in-the-loop capabilities. It’s also important for the platform to include process intelligence tools, such as process mining and task mining, to pre-populate BPM and RPA flows and provide enhanced monitoring capabilities.
While RPA and BPM are powerful stand-alone tools, organizations miss out on a host of transformational benefits if they fail to unleash the capabilities of these solutions when used together. For example, while BPM is great at orchestration, it cannot directly interact with legacy systems. On the flip side, RPA is great at automating any user interface, but struggles with long-term case management. Combining the two creates a complete solution that can tackle end-to-end processes. Robotic process automations are managed under BPM software, using automations wherever possible.
Humans are looped in as desired to ensure they agree with the BPM system’s delegation and coordination of tasks and processes across human and digital workers. The operational transformation will optimize the experience for customers and employees alike. These effects will reverberate across the organization thanks to the scalability of BPM and RPA used in tandem within an intelligent automation (IA) platform.
Businesses combining RPA and BPM in a single IA platform can create opportunities for competitive advantages, if they are willing to invest the time and resources needed to find the right platform and implement it effectively.
Why is a single platform key?
Seamless digital integration is about a lot more than just cobbling together the best digital solutions on the market. How these advanced technologies interact makes a huge difference. Technologies designed to work together are key to achieving the productivity gains promised by digital transformation. With a comprehensive platform, organizations don’t need to worry about building integrations because the platform already includes them.
Moreover, a single platform is easier to buy and manage because it comes from the same licensor, rather than having to go through the procurement process with multiple suppliers.
Companies need to take care when determining the IA platform they want to adopt. The benefits of a comprehensive platform are increasingly recognized by vendors as well as their customers, pushing suppliers to put together their own multifeatured automation platforms. If companies choose a platform insufficient to their needs, they face reworking costs down the road.
Nevertheless, if organizations have already taken on technical debt and are looking to rework their digital transformation journey, the right partner can help them minimize reworking costs to achieve the most benefit. For example, it may be best for a company to adopt a new BPM for projects moving forward and retain their existing BPM for processes it already manages.
What do these benefits look like in practice?
By combining the potentials of RPA and BPM, organizations can achieve scale. This was critical for the American Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was created to help small businesses through the economic shutdown caused by pandemic lockdowns through the provision of $800 billion in low-interest uncollateralized loans. Millions of businesses applied for critically needed financial support from the PPP program. Submitting these applications was a simple RPA task; managing the ongoing cases as businesses subsequently applied for loan forgiveness required BPM. With BPM, RPA was used where possible: for automated emails, sending back information, etc.; and humans were used where needed: for final reviews and complicated tasks.
The time-sensitive nature of PPP, along with its scale, would not have been achievable without BPM and RPA.
With BPM and RPA, organizations can coordinate processes and avoid the inevitable human errors that arise from manual data input. This is especially important in healthcare and the financial services. Errors in financial services can cost firms and their customers money and lost investment opportunities. The stakes are ever higher in healthcare, where patients’ lives are on the line. Data errors here can lead to patient mix-ups, getting the dose of a medication wrong, and even cost lives.
Using BPM and RPA solutions, patient appointments in healthcare systems can be prioritized and reminders can be sent to avoid no-shows. This ensures effective use of resources in a sector with especially tight margins. In the financial services sector, firms can more easily manage customers’ investment accounts, increasing productivity and capacity.
How do organizations get implementation right?
As with any advanced technology, a solution is only going to work well if it is implemented and integrated effectively. This is one of the benefits of a single platform: the integration and time to value is much faster because adopters are only working through one provider. To ensure success, a Center of Excellence to oversee and support organizations’ digitization plans, including RPA, BPM, and other IA components, needs to be established. Executive sponsorship is instrumental to scaling out automation programs. Such a top-down approach ensures the resources needed are provided and the right work culture is fostered to promote successful digitization.
In our experience, those following the Robotic Operating Model (ROM) – a proven methodology for launching, maintaining, and scaling digital workforces – like TD Bank and Aviva, have been able to scale their digital operations quickly, and see tremendous returns on their investments as a result.
Digitization is on the rise. More than 65% of senior executives are increasing investments in automation and AI. As we move towards a digital-first future, it is no longer sufficient to automate individual processes in isolation in order to achieve the results businesses are striving for. Instead, to maximize impact, entire end-to-end processes need to be reimagined. With the power of BPM and RPA encompassed within an intelligent automation platform offering complementary technologies, these objectives can be achieved seamlessly and cost-effectively.