In this interview, I spoke with Husan Mahey, author of “Robotic Process Automation with Automation Anywhere,” where he outlines step-by-step the process for setting up automation in a business setting. Robotic Process Automation is a tool that allows users to automate repetitive tasks that would normally be done by a human. These sorts of tedious tasks are ripe for automation, especially in a scenario where the person could be better utilized doing tasks that require thought and decision making.
The book is a great resource for a beginner that takes the time to teach the benefits of RPA as well as a practical implementation of it. Since RPA can be applied to a variety of tasks, there is no one size fits all approach. Teaching the fundamentals allows the user to apply it to their own job experiences.
The following has been edited for length and clarity:
What are the major benefits for a business that’s on the fence about adopting RPA?
Husan Mahey: It’s about streamlining the administration side of the business. Especially in HR, Finance, we know that there are a lot of tasks that are quite repetitive, and actually have an impact on the business user because they are repeating the same thing over and over again. It’s not actually beneficial for the user and the company itself; they’re not actually growing their skillset in any way or using their skill to their full potential. In that aspect, RPA is the ideal tool because it’s not intelligent, it’s command driven. It’s there to do the simple things, the boring repetitive things. That’s where the main benefits lie, to get rid of all the boring and tedious and repetitive tasks.
What are some signs that a business could greatly benefit from RPA, and are there any specific industries that benefit the most?
Mahey: It’s not industry specific. It can be deployed in any industry, because what it is, is basically enhancing the business user. I see it as an additional tool to give to the user, to enhance their own task, whatever job they’re doing. There’s a concept going around of a citizen developer, which is actually giving a non developer, like a standard business user, the ability to automate and develop systems without having the skillset of a developer. T
hat’s where RPA comes in. It gives them the tools to be able to implement it quite easily. As a developer, you need to understand the systems you’re working with in terms of the back end and how to integrate with them, how the data is stored, but a business user doesn’t necessarily know all that and they don’t need to know all that. They interact via the interface, via the screen. What RPA does is exactly the same, it interacts via the interface. That’s what gives the user the ability to automate their job in the exact same way that they would be performing it, whereas a developer would look at it from a different angle if they were to automate it.
For a business user without a background in software or much knowledge about RPA, are there any common pitfalls that they should know to avoid?
Mahey: Mistakes can be made. The biggest pitfalls are where the actual process of how they’re performing the job could have actually been more efficient. They will replicate a process that should have been mapped out a lot more efficiently in the first place. As a developer or a business analyst, if they were to look at it, they would be able to identify these sort of pitfalls.
Are there any technological limitations to RPA in its current form? What could be done to overcome those limitations?
Mahey: For technical limitations, there are and there aren’t. There are some tasks and operations that it can not perform, but what it does do is it gives you a way that allows you to call external functions, so where you don’t have functionality, it will allow you to deploy them. It’s like having a toolbox. Sometimes you don’t have all the tools you need, but you do have enough tools to build the tools you need, so therefore the job can still be done.
Although RPA has all the standardized toolsets, i.e. reading screens, emails, webpages, automating that sort of stuff, anything beyond that, that it doesn’t have, it has the ability where a developer can fit it in and make use out of it. RPA in its basics, is not an AI tool and I think this is the big common mistake that people tend to fall into. RPA is instruction driven, it’s not intelligent. Where you have intelligent processes, that’s a different thing altogether.
Where do you see the future of RPA? Will it stay mostly as a business tool or do you think it has practical applications in people’s everyday personal life?
Mahey: RPA has practical applications wherever someone sits in front of a computer and does any form of processing. I see it as like when back in the day, physical machines were brought in to automate tasks that humans did. Obviously this started in industries and factories, but then it moved on whenever, it can be used for anything. It’s all down to how far you want to take it.
If someone is sitting at home and doing their own accounting at home, they can apply it to that. Whenever you feel you are doing something repetitively, and it’s getting boring and tedious, you can use RPA. Prior to RPA, you could still do it with VBA or VB, or any other program language, but for that, you needed that required skill set of coding.
I will say that it’s very exciting, and it’s relatively easy for most people to pick up because you know your job, and that is what you need. I encourage more and more people to pick up RPA to take advantage of the benefits of it.
To learn more about RPA in Mahey’s book, click here.