by Alexandra Constantinovici, Content Editor, The Paypers

Industry View from

The three laws of robotic process automation

The latest trends in business process automation, and how robots, “easy-on” code and AI can build to a simpler life across financial departments.


In tech evolution, one cannot disregard the theory of causality. There might not be a lot of coincidence at play if we correlate the boost of enthusiasm that decision-makers expressed for automating certain core business processes after the recent recession and the sky-high increase of the technological means to do so. The paradox in place is that collective efforts are directed towards creating increasingly complex software, core code, and technology such as machine learning and AI in order to create platforms and tools that can be used to develop the simplest and most comprehensive ways of automating day-to-day business processes. Ultimately, we can discuss the emergence of a sort of impressionistic take on workflow automation that skilfully hides its complexity in broad strokes, user-friendly interfaces, and OCR.


And it comes with certified benefits as well. According to a 2019 IDC survey conducted on US businesses, 75 per cent of the firms use technology to improve their operational efficiencies, reduce costs, drive new revenue, and build deeper relationships with employees, partners, and customers, while another 20% of respondents declared that they are planning to deploy automation technology in the next 8 to 12 months.


Law #1: Make it clear, make it easy to use, make it low-code app development


Although the norm seems to favour businesses employing outside aid, a trend that is gaining traction is low-code app development. In short, companies have started developing their own workflow automation apps.


As most of these platforms are built on open standards and are entirely cloud-native, they can allow for easier and more user-friendly connection between cumbersome legacy code and external application interfaces. This leads to the creation of a comprehensive model tailored to the specific needs of a business infrastructure. Apart from the obvious benefits such as time and effort saved, this initative will eventually need less round-the-clock IT support.


2019 has seen both a demand for such platforms, and a substantial supply of big software names (such as Oracle Apex, Microsoft or Appian) offering them. Salesforce research underlines that the vast majority (76 per cent) of IT managers feel a low-code solution keeps their business partner relationships more positive.


Law #2: Make it respectful of your employee’s time and potential. Make it RPA


In today’s fast-paced business environment, robotic process automation is becoming more and more vital for the business operations of a company. Deloitte defines RPA as software that “automates repetitive, rules-based processes usually performed by people sitting in front of computers”. Moreover, a star feature of RPA is that complex coding is eliminated and manual tasks are close to becoming truly a thing of the past. Sound familiar? While the proverbial “human touch” is fundamental to properly managing an RPA system, the ungainly, repetitive tasks involved in document management are carried out at a staggeringly different pace.


We address RPA, but elude the more complex, smarter technology that most often comes to mind when discussing this subject: AI. With its important applications in BPA – machine learning and deep learning – the thing that best distinguishes AI from RPA is its ability to make decisions and evolve a learning pattern. Employing AI has been proved to make financial platforms smarter, perpetually evaluating information in order to make better estimations and allow for higher-quality forecasting indicators. Additionally, AI can reroute business processes according to predictions, and make recommendations for future courses of action when encountered with the same task.


Law #3: Make it smart and look into blockchain


One of the most interesting ways of using blockchain in business process automation is in smart contracts. They are, as Investopedia explains, self-executing contracts with the terms the buyer and seller agree upon being directly written into lines of code. The innovation comes when both the code and the agreements it contains exist across a distributed, decentralised blockchain network. Again, what the use of smart contracts has brought to the equation is a significant decrease in employee workload.


Of course, where there’s blockchain, there’s always at least a bit of controversy, and the Ethereum debacle of 2016, when a hacker stole $50 million from the so-called Decentralized Autonomous Organization, sparked some debate about security. However, as this MIT study recounting the incident points out, the most important thing to keep in mind when considering smart contracts is research, for there are, indeed, a myriad of shady ICOs around nowadays. Blockchain and crypto-assets need to be handled with caution, but we should not disregard their unquestionable value.


A lesson weaving itself into this story is that decision-makers within financial departments should be on a continuous lookout for what business process automation has to offer in terms of technology and the overall benefits that come with freeing your employees of the inefficient, repetitive tasks of day-to-day financial processes. There’s no better moment to pay attention to the trends, as progress and robots will wait for no one.

For all the recent news and updates on B2B payments, AP, AR, and business process automation, along with e-invoicing and e-billing, visit the dedicated category on The Paypers website or subscribe to our daily and weekly newsletter.

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