By Jim Sinur
(Aragon Research) – Today, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) bots hold the exciting promise of replacing low level tasks initially and assisting human activity in the future. At the same time, Business Process Management (BPM) is intimidating with its high levels of investment and commitment implied. The question is: are bots the second coming of BPM?
This blog will explore both sides of this argument (bots vs. BPM) and examine how these technologies converge.
The Case for Bots
Bots are gaining momentum because they demonstrate great promise in proof of concepts projects. As organizations ramp up larger bot projects, the benefits will multiply. This is the same phenomena workflow and BPM had shown early in their roll out to organizations. The difference here is that bots can be leveraged and scattered quickly while independently scooping up benefits and rapidly displacing low level and redundant work.
Making these bots smart empowers them even more, and feeds off the AI frenzy going on simultaneously – starting with applying machine intelligence to point problems. The issues of bot management and updates don’t show up for a long period of time, so bots put down roots in advance of potential problems that may emerge. It’s hard to turn down tactical benefits and keep the big picture in mind, so the impact of bots will last.
The Case for Business Process Management
Processes are essential to represent the flow and balance of work and of course, they transcend organizational and technology boundaries. The problem arises in instrumenting a flow to handle multiple technology and software stacks while also trying to deliver on the complex goals of multiple job roles and organizational units. This takes more start up time and doesn’t necessarily deliver short hit benefits right away.
While these kinds of efforts deliver later, they are necessary to support great customer journeys and other necessary cross organizational flows. The benefits here can be significantly higher, but they take longer. Combine this with the fact that BPM is no longer attractive as a term, it seems like BPM is the long shot. But the impact of workflows and processes are here to stay and the benefits flow to the patient.
The Case for Convergence
We really need both of these technologies working together. The tasks that complete work have to be as automated as possible and work does flow from speciality to speciality in most organizations. There may come a day where one person or bot can handle all of the knowledge, data, and work necessary to complete a business outcome, but right now we need both cooperating intimately.
And while, in the future, independent and intelligent bots might cooperatively bid to complete outcomes, swarming agents/bots are not ready for prime time quite yet. The proof of cooperation is the near recent buying and partnering activity. Kofax bought Kapow; Pega bought OpenSpan; Blue Prism is partnering with Appian; and IBM is partnering with Automation Anywhere.
Robotic Process Automation bots and BPM will work together skillfully over time and will eventually participate in or as a Digital Business Platform (DBP) to create timely and complex outcomes with great visibility. This will become obvious over time as organizations deliver on their paths of digital transformation with positive business outcomes.