Monday, August 15, 2016

When Robots Integrate!

Why would you use a Robot to do integration?

We often hear from the less technical savvy that “Integration is easy” when in fact integration can be extremely hard to impossible for much more of a project than most realize. Alan Trefler uses a term that clarifies just how hard integration can be with “Applications that cannot be opened, even with a can opener”. Funny but true. And my old adage was “if it were that easy, it would have been done already”.

Let me clear up something else not always so obvious. Accessing a database and accessing business “data” are two different things. Databases of course contain data but most data is meaningless unless you first pass it through the years of custom developed business logic. Imagine writing a balance to a credit card field straight to a database without first calculating all of the interest, currency rates, charges etc., Or in reverse, reading a data field that looks like “last name” but actually needs to be used to part verify one of many names on an account as to who owns the greater share in an LLC.  This is why building API’s is hard. Many application developers never envisaged this data being accessed through anything other than the 1000’s of man hours of business logic they’ve evolved. If only they had a crystal ball in the past to have  considered;

Providing access to business logic level data through API’s
SOA and Enterprise Service Busses open up new worlds of accessibility
Their own applications would one day become legacy (or historic even!)

So, if  building API’s on top of old legacy applications is hard, what are the alternatives? Enter the world of Enterprise Grade Robotics. Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) from Pega are truly Enterprise Grade.

Pega Robotics  allows you to put a wrapper on the one interface that pretty much guarantees to go through the business logic and security layers when you extract or enter data. That is, the user interface. These applications have been built to run on desktops to display and take data all day long from workers, and ALWAYS go through the business logic layer securely.

Using Pega Robotics to build an API through automation (wrapper BOTS) to write or read business data against the desktop applications UI solves a significant problem quickly; How to deliver time to value for any BPM, Transformation and/or digitization project without having to break the bank and risk missing key critical security, governance or business logic.

So, with Pega Robotics you could automate an entire process (say to open a new account) and then when some or all of the account opening capabilities become available as fully-reengineered API’s, you can switch to them quickly. More importantly and uniquely, Pega robotics can partially automate just the key steps in real time, or in a longer running process by running alongside the workers (assisting) on their own machines. These Enterprise Grade Robotic options give great flexibility when you want deliver value quickly, to scale and robustly.

Any Pega Robotic Automation that is built can be called from a fully integrated server process, from another Robot, via BPM or Customer service application etc., In fact, Robots can even call Robots and self monitor their own work to your set SLA’s. It just makes sense to stop paying people to do work if it can be automated. Let your employees, do what they are best at, interacting with customers or using their intelligence where it’s required.

Pega Robotics has been designed to work fast (most competitive RPA only products are 3-5 times slower and require you configure more servers than is really necessary). In addition, Pega Robotics is fully integrated into the Pega platform meaning every aspect critical to enterprise security, auditing and control becomes part of the fully integrated solution as if it had been designed from the ground up to do so.

So, the next time you hear that building API”s is easy, think again. Build API’s using Robotics and it is much easier but more importantly, buys you time, and delivers value early so you can reap the rewards or whatever transformation journey you are on.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Why I am at Pega Systems

As you know, OpenSpan was acquired by Pega Systems recently. Proud of the founders, the management and the OpenSpan team, I am now very excited to be a "part of Pega" and their incredible teams. What a great fit.

I for one have always been passionate about application development done right and the subsequent importance of the end user experience. It is critical in the race to remain competitive, not just from what customers see, but also how cost effectively enterprises can serve those customers.

However, over the years, more and more legacy systems have become unchangeable or stretched to their limits to the point where many of them are beyond legacy - they are antique! Don't get me wrong, they can and do work but the business models in IT to support these old applications has run it's course and it is no longer acceptable for enterprises to ignore them and expect to remain competitive. To be quite honest, if they don't transform, over the next few years, I see it hard to see how they will survive!

Pega systems brings me back to my rapid application development days but on steroids. Where you are able to quickly build and easily change applications to match business requirements. But more than that even, the Pega 7 platform is a combination of all things phenomenal in application development ; it's fast, has the right visual tools, it's open, it can be deployed in cloud and on-premise, it's secure, it's flexible, you can build/adapt code quickly, without "coding", it allows instant creation of standards that drive reusability that is critical for long term maintainability  - and the applications built can run on any platform! The Pega 7 platform is core to any business that wants to transform - To me, Pega is transformation.

So how does the OpenSpan Robotics play in this space? First, it allows us to bring together amazing product teams but second, it allows Robotics (RPA and RDA) to be at the critical start of the transformation journey whilst living and breathing with it. Robotics is tactical, no-one will argue with that, delivering great ROI, quickly and without question, enabling businesses to be agile now. Just imagine, having this agile Robotics engine that starts the transformation journey and then runs along side it for as long as necessary why the full transformation journey takes place. Need to rapidly bring one of those antique applications into the transformation journey whilst you build out it's replacement in Pega? Use the Pega robotics. Want to have a robot or two execute an entire process or single task that runs across 1, 5 or 20 of those antique applications? Use the Pega robotics. Want to have a robot or human continue a task or process that is an integral part of  your BPM, Case management or new development strategy? Use the Pega robotics.

You see, Robotics has been waiting for Pega and I'm excited by the future, I am excited for what this brings to the Robotics space and transformation journey combined.

Friday, March 18, 2016

When is a Robot, not a Robot?

I live and breath Robotic Automation every day for my enterprise customers so I thought I'd wrap up this week on something for you all to ponder on!

A few weeks back I brought an Amazon Echo. It's a lot of fun, and if your into tech, you just gotta get one yourself.

However, would you consider the Amazon Echo as being a "Robot". Perhaps not literally but let me explain why she (Alexa) very much might be!

Take one simple chore in our lives... going grocery shopping. "Do we need milk" isn't a difficult question/chore a but in reality we have to maintain some kind of shopping list back home. When we realize we need something, we need to find some paper or existing list, a pen (or phone), open up the app/paper and write on it. Then we need to remember to take the list (if paper) with us. Repeat throughout the week and we all get to eat!

This shopping list task is no different to an enterprise worker, opening up an application, looking for information, taking notes and/or remembering to pass information onto a customer.

Either way, we waste billions of hours globally, doing stuff we could simply "automate" to Robotic Automation.

So, is the Amazon Echo a Robot? You tell me because now I use it to fully automate my shopping list gathering process. Whenever I realize I need something, all I have to say is "Alexa, can you add milk to the shopping list please" (Please is optional by the way but my Mum brought me up to be polite). That's it. Alexa (the amazon echo) automatically adds that to your "cloud" list and when you go to the shops, you pull up the amazon shopping list and hey presto. Also, anyone at home can ask Alexa to add items to any kind of list. She's not fuzzy who speaks to her.

Most of these "micro" tasks, at home and, more importantly, in the enterprise, are readily auto-matable with technology. The benefits in cost savings to the enterprise are massive once you know the technology exists. And now you do... Robotic Automation

Friday, March 11, 2016

Robots prefer Intelligence !

I've had fun over the last 2 weeks with my new found friend of the most "intelligent" photo album application I have ever used - Google photos. That gave me an idea for a blog - I hope you like it.

If you are embarking on any Transformation program, for Robotic Automation (RPA, RDA), BPM and/or re-engineering program, check out why I believe the games changed on how you figure out where to start. No more guess work on  where the opportunities for improvement are ripe... Robots will be deliver significantly more value if you base their work on real intelligence of the workers work first!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Taming The Robots - Hype v Reality of Robotic Automation

The last 24 months has seen more attention to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) than any other “UI” automation approach since the invention of the term “swivel chair” integration.

In fact, as a side-note, if we were to actually assume that most kinds of integration could be considered a “software” robot then in fact there is already a Googolplex of software robots in the workplace today. Architecturally incorrect but food for thought given the end results are the same - human optimization!

Using software Robots to do the work, in the same or similar way as a human, was often called swivel chair integration. This had it’s benefits, even if sometimes a little brittle! But now the technology has dramatically matured into significantly more robust “Robotic Automation”. For further clarity, Robotic Automations that do all of the work of a human is more commonly today known as RPA (Robotic Process Automation) whereas Robotic Automations that works alongside the human, solving the swivel chair conundrum in real time with the human, is known as RDA (Robotic Desktop Automation). Collectively all known as Robotic Automation.

So, what’s the hype v reality? 

Well after 10 years, RPA case studies are showing us that this still really has only ever achieved savings in the few 100’s of workers in the larger enterprises across the globe. Not too shabby but replacing a few hundred employees in a 10,000 or 50,000 employee back office business with multiple years of development effort isn’t exactly going to win any big CEO pats on the back. Still, it's very powerful and cannot be ignored by any serious organization on their transformation journey.

However, when RPA is combined with RDA, the case studies and testimonials for large ROI are rampant. Some of the worlds largest banks, insurers healthcare and retail companies are using Robotic Automations on tens of thousands of desktops with hundreds of thousands of Robots (RDA) deployed globally. Offering the opportunity to more rapidly enhance the productivity of the larger workforce groups with 20-50% improvement in a matter of months starting with RDA, and then implementing RPA where applicable provides a significant contribution to the transformation strategy.

The C’suite is learning that you need to pick the right Robots for the right tasks. A 20% improvement in productivity and increase in customer satisfaction for the front office is highly important. Robotic Automation can be everywhere, front office, back office and in the branch. Taming these Robots, for RDA and RPA, to run the right ones, to provide maximum value for each environment is key to success.

2016 - This is the year of Robotic Automation….