RPA – An Aimless Hype?

Robin Höhl 24. September 2020

„Using RPA is the logical next step in global markets. It is already used in many industries. Companies are moving from offshore to onshore, optimizing costs and relieving their resources“. – UIPath

„Robotic Process Automation enables companies to automate their processes with a quickly calculable ROI“. – Management consultancy

Can you tell from this which target group is addressed here?

According to ITIL, a business service request is made by a user to IT to obtain information, a change or access to a system. The direction of this process is clear: the business identifies a function that is currently not covered by an IT system and responds with a request. In the case of RPA, however, this process is overridden. Common marketing campaigns suggest that the involvement of IT is not necessary due to the simplicity of RPA. Frequently, the commissioning of service providers for RPA projects is done directly by the business.

This creates a major problem for planning and controlling the IT landscape:

These minimally invasive interventions in the systems – even if it is only the GUI – can have a major impact on further landscape planning! For example, investment decisions for upgrades of software systems are influenced by the adaptation costs of the bots. The definition of application life cycles can also be affected. Another very important example is compliance.

This brings me to a small digression:

A renowned consultancy recently advised a customer to automate a finance process through RPA. The framework in which this decision was (almost) made was made up solely of members of the business. They had neither an insight into landscape planning nor an idea about the impact on compliance.

An inquiry with the responsible corporate architect made them listen:

„The affected data is subject to strict compliance guidelines!

„The intervention by an RPA system means indirect use and has to be licensed separately!“

„This might even undermine the authorization concept!“

The objections show it clearly: without the involvement of IT, the supposed advantages of RPA can quickly turn out to be negative.

Hence my advice:

Software systems – even if they can be implemented quickly, should be treated as such. RPA should also follow the standard process in the company to ensure a correct procedure.