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How is RPA different from other enterprise automation tools such as BPM/ODM?

By Doug Williams

Key points: 

  • Business leaders often question when to use enterprise automation tools like business process management (BPM) versus robotic process automation (RPA).
  • RPA uses software or cognitive/AI robots for performing process operations instead of human operators.
  • BPM is an approach to re-engineer and streamline underlying processes to drive efficiency.

Earlier this week, I had an opportunity to meet with the C-Suite team from one of the largest insurance companies in the US. We engaged in a vigorous discussion around when to use enterprise automation tools such as business process management (BPM) versus robotic process automation (RPA)—a topic that is frequently on the minds of business leaders. Many organizations have a similar question if they have either deployed BPM or are considering deploying BPM and RPA.

By definition, RPA is a software code that runs virtual workforce (robots) for process operation. RPA processes rules- based, structured data through the user interface of the robotic software that supports the process. Examples would include repetitive data entry functions and enterprise resource planning (ERP) downloads and uploads. This technology aims at automating processes without changing, replacing, compromising or adding maintenance overhead onto existing applications, reducing costs and enabling the long tail of change. Given that these software robots have similar capabilities as existing users, there is no real requirement for additional system testing.

On the other hand, BPM and IBM Operational Decision Manager (ODM) are established as an overall approach to streamline business processes for optimized efficiency and value. The BPM platform has been an integral part of process workflow automation solutions. It involves re-engineering of the underlying process to drive efficiency and create a more consistent customer experience. Data from the underlying system of record is passed between the new application and back-end systems, bypassing the established user interfaces. BPM requires extensive additional testing as data layer integration creates brittle interfaces between applications. This chart delves deeper into the differences between the two approaches.

    This table compares Robotic Process Automation (RPA) with Business Process Aanagement (BPM). RPA uses software robots or cognitive/Al robots for performing process operations instead of human operators. BPM is an approach to process operations management which focuses on improving process performance by streamlining business processes, removing bottlenecks and adding value.

    Learn how RPA and intelligent automation can help your organization re-imagine how work gets done.

     

    Digital transformation: New business models, new customer expectations

    By Ragna Bell and Saul Berman

    The new digital age.

    Individuals and businesses alike are embracing the digital revolution. Social networks and digital devices are being used to engage government, businesses and civil society, as well as friends and family. People are using mobile, interactive tools to determine who to trust, where to go and what to buy. At the same time, businesses are undertaking their own digital transformations, rethinking what customers value most and creating operating models that take advantage of what’s newly possible for competitive differentiation. The challenge for business is how fast and how far to go on the path to digital transformation.

     

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    Download the executive summary about digital transformation in the automotive industry (883KB)

     

    Study highlights

    Companies with a cohesive strategy for integrating digital and physical elements can successfully transform their business models - and set new directions for entire industries.
    Successful digital reinvention is two-fold: Reshaping customer value propositions and transforming operating models for greater customer interaction.
    Businesses need a new portfolio of capabilities for flexibility and responsiveness in addressing fast-changing customer requirements.

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    Business consulting

    Digital Reinvention™: Are you ready?

    Using Agile to build a robotic process automation Center of Excellence at scale

    By Cinthia Murillo

    Key Points: 

    • The fast-paced nature of robotic process automation (RPA) requires agility, accuracy and flexibility within a Center of Excellence (CoE) framework
    • Using an Agile approach for implementing RPA helps maintain visibility, manage risk, and enable flexibility
    • Agile drives short development cycles that deliver viable, iterative products to the client

    Learn more

     

    Yes, today’s businesses are increasingly focused on RPA for business processes and IT applications. But what does Agile have to do with it?

    How can your enterprise automation journey incorporate powerful approaches, strategic partnerships, differentiating technologies and digital skills? How can you implement RPA in a way that engages your client and helps ensure accuracy and flexibility?

    Embrace an Agile approach. Agile is a set of values and principles that drive how teams manage implementations, and it’s a powerful enabler for RPA. The benefits of Agile are:

    • Constant visibility into the project throughout the RPA lifecycle
    • Highest risk managed at the project’s start, and reduced risk at subsequent stages (contrary to a traditional waterfall approach)
    • Flexibility to quickly adapt to changing environments
    • Use of short development cycles to deliver viable, iterative products

    Using Agile to build large-scale Centers of Excellence (CoEs)

    Clients often seek large-scale RPA implementations within automation CoE frameworks—requiring seamless orchestration between multiple moving pieces. Agile’s signature component, a scrum approach that breaks work into small iterations, is a game changer. Scrum delivers value to clients faster while capturing feedback to use in the next iteration—and helps ensure that the project’s long-term goals are being met at every step.

    What does a scrum approach look like? It typically includes:

    • Establishing a common understanding of requirements and objectives
    • Defining the overall scope of the project
    • Planning necessary iterations (sprints)
    • Dividing sprints into specific requirements and accomplishments
    • Setting daily scrum meetings for real-time effective coordination
    • Hosting retrospectives at the end of each sprint

    Additional Agile practices include frequent playbacks and peer reviews. And instant collaboration tools, like Slack, promote team collaboration and timely knowledge sharing.

    IBM pioneers Agile to deploy automation technologies at scale

    One example: IBM used Agile to manage a large RPA CoE implementation for a leading financial services group in Asia. The client benefitted from progress and feedback opportunities throughout the project –without waiting until the final stages to provide guidance. Scrums enabled collaboration through daily stand ups, backlog maintenance and other Agile rituals.

    Agile teams maintained clear focus on top priorities and objectives in every step of the implementation journey. Furthermore, from a staffing perspective, IBM scaled up to organizational needs based on inventory backlog and sprint schedules, optimizing all resources when needed.

    Consider these key roles for your Agile CoE

    Through numerous engagements, we’ve learned to consider key roles when creating staffing plans for large-scale RPA CoE engagements. Potential roles include:

    This table lists the roles that fall under four categories: project management office leadership roles, core development squad roles, deployment team roles, and maintenance team roles.

    RPA Center for Excellence roles

    *Based on the scope/size of the work, consider dividing the teams into squads, including: automation SMEs, process consultants, developers and a scrum master in each squad. The agile coach and PMO leadership roles can be “floaters” across the squads as needed.

     

    Learn more about transforming your business processes with RPA.

    RPA and Intelligent Automation for Business Processes

     

    Business Transformation for the Cognitive Era

    Discover how you can transform your entire enterprise through cognitive. Take advantage of IBM's global reach, outcome-focused methodologies, domain skills and deep industry expertise today.

    Visit ibm.com/consulting

    Digital transformation: Preparing for a very different tomorrow

    By Saul Berman and Anthony Marshall

    The individual-centered economy is already here.

    The newest digital technologies – among them social media, mobility, analytics and cloud – keep changing how people, businesses and governments interact. These digital forces enable unprecedented levels of connectedness and so the world is already investing in consumer-centricity. However, these new technologies are truly still in their infancies. The transformation that is already underway will soon intensify, resulting in a paradigm shift from customer-centricity toward an everyone-to-everyone (E2E) economy.

    The implication for value creation and allocation will be profound. New IBM research shows that many organizations are still not ready to navigate the E2E environment. To prepare for the radical disruption ahead, companies need to act now to create experiences and business models that are orchestrated, symbiotic, contextual and cognitive.

    Download the executive summary

     

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    Download the study infographic (145KB)

     

     

    Cover of PDF with IBM logo

     

     

    Study highlights

    63 percent of executives surveyed expect consumers to gain even more power and influence over their businesses.
    69 percent of executives surveyed expect more cross-industry competition.
    58 percent of executives surveyed expect new technologies to reduce barriers to entry

    Read related IBM executive reports

    Digital Reinvention in action

    What to do and how to make it happen

    Digital transformation

    Creating new business models where digital meets physical

    The digital overhaul

    Redefining manufacturing in a digital age

    Download the IBV App

    Access our latest thought leadership, including C-suite studies and industry insights. Maintain a library, receive regular updates. Explore enhanced content.

    Subscribe to the IdeaWatch Newsletter

    Sign up to receive monthly e-mail updates on recent papers from the IBM Institute for Business Value.

    Business consulting

    Digital Reinvention™: Are you ready?

    Social CRM as a part of customer engagement

    By Carolyn Baird

    The new frontier in customer relationship management

    Social CRM – the integration of social media with customer relationship management (CRM) strategies – is the next frontier for organizations that want to optimize the power of social interactions to get closer to customers. With the worldwide explosion of social media usage, businesses are feeling extreme pressure to be where their customers are. Today, that street corner is increasingly virtual, located inside a social media or social networking site. But in an environment defined by customer control and two-way dialog, are customers anxious to engage with businesses?

    To find out, the IBM Institute for Business Value surveyed more than 1,000 consumers worldwide and interviewed 350 executives. What we discovered may come as a surprise to those companies that assume consumers are seeking them out on social sites to feel connected to their brand. In fact, customers are far more interested in getting tangible value, suggesting businesses may be confusing their own desire for customer intimacy with consumers' motivations for engaging.

    Social media holds unprecedented potential for companies to get closer to customers and, by doing so, facilitate increased revenue, cost reduction and efficiencies. Businesses are rapidly embracing social media not only to build virtual communities, but also to create innovative social commerce programs, improve customer care and streamline customer research.

    With so much to gain, companies need to invest the effort to understand how to break through the noise and offer current and potential customers a reason to reach out to them via social media.

    Businesses need to realize that most consumers do not engage with companies via social media to feel connected. It turns out, customers are far more pragmatic. To successfully exploit the potential of social media, companies need to design experiences that deliver tangible value in return for customers' time, attention, endorsement and data.

    From social media to Social CRM - A two-part series

    Download the IBV App

    Access our latest thought leadership, including C-suite studies and industry insights. Maintain a library, receive regular updates. Explore enhanced content.

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