Monday, May 4, 2015

When is a Robot not a Robot (Software Robotic Automation)?

When I was 17, I wrote my first Desktop Automation. Sure, it wasn't called that 35 years ago! It was called a "Programmable function key". I programmed the F6 key on a dumb terminal that automated a task for every user in a large banking company. When pressed, the robot would navigate the screen to the HR employee record, regardless of where the user was at the time and all it would do was simulate pressing the keys on the keyboard instead of the user doing it, using the shortest route to that screen. We used to stick labels on the F6 key back in those days too :)

One of my other jobs, early in my career as a software performance expert was to speed up the length of time it took to run overnight payroll runs (which in this large bank was starting to take longer than there were hours in the night!). The bank didn't want to throw more people or expensive hardware at the problem so what I did was ran a series of benchmarks and determined there were areas in the source code that were very poorly written. After a few months of re-coding just these poorly written routines, the payroll process actually ran in 25% of the time. Far few people were now needed to complete their work in less time. I remember this story because I was working till 4am, the only times we could test! That was 32 years ago.

I started a terminal emulation business 28 years ago. Our "intelligent" emulator was one of the first that would allow mainframes to be programmed to automate client server programs running on a PC. Long before the days of clever export/import, file sharing and triggers, we allowed users to press a button in a green screen mainframe app and it would move data from the screen(s) into a word processor or spreadsheet (Lotus 123) dramatically cutting process times and eliminating errors. In the 10 years I ran this business, we sold over half-a-million licenses! In1985 we created a product call HostAccess server that allowed automations without humans at all. This was far more robust automation than just programming the keys because our emulator checked what screen the user was on, looked for errors and could navigate in multiple directions!

So, I hope I'm making my point. Any program that does what a human used to do, and either does it by assisting the human or replacing them, could be deemed a robotic process automation. Any software program that nips away at the employees time, and uses the computers time fits this category. Of course, it's a stretch to call software integration a robotic software automation but the end result is often the same! Integration software, BPM, hyperlinks, process guidance, single sign on and even an ATM is a software Robot assisted by a hardware robot that fully automates checking your security, credit and request to give you cash. Robots are everywhere.

OpenSpan has 100's of thousands of Desktop Automation licenses in live production environments, assisting or replacing humans who used to do the manual work that software robots do. Millions of Robotic Software automations (Desktop and Server side) are running on OpenSpan every single day of the year.

So, what's new with Software Automation, and why is it becoming interesting to the large SI, BPO's and big enterprises all around the globe again? Some think the reason the fresh look at automation is to cut costs but in reality, that is only a small part of it. For most enterprises, competition has never been fiercer so significant money is being invested to make sure they grow and maintain their customer base. An impressive customer service is what sets one company apart from another and this problem is common today and needs to be fixed by many big companies. How can you gain customers if your processes are too slow and inefficient? If an insurance company takes too long to respond to a customer request or a customer calling in to a telco call center doesn't get the right information for a new rate plan for their phone - that customer today, can far more easily switch to a one of your competitors!

Automation gets you to this mission much faster. It's been proven the world over and no longer just a tactical solution. It is part of the transformation journey every company wants to make or is making. Typical tried and trust integration works BUT it is hard and expensive and carries with it great risk. The business needs solutions today. Desktop Automation and software Robots are tactically strategic in delivering solutions quickly - with little risk (more risk from Robots as you have to do it all). Desktop Automation robustly automates what your humans already do, so it happens much faster and without costly errors!

What's not to like... Desktop Automation is growing in every part of the world. Here is a snapshot how many industry leaders are leveraging OpenSpan to impact their business and build world-class customer experiences:

·         Three of the UK “Big Four” and five of the top six US commercial banks
·         Eight of the top global telecom / cable providers
·         Healthcare – Four of the top six US managed health plans
·         Four of the top five property and casualty insurers
·         Some of the world’s largest online retailers and global commerce leaders

·         Two of the top five US food and drug retailers