Learn how RPA helps in solving many automation challenges
Sarah-Lynn: All right, good morning and welcome to our webinar Robotic Process Automation RPA and Test Automation. My name is Sarah-Lynn Brunner and I will be your host for today. Today’s presenter is Deven Samant. Deven is the director of Enterprise Cloud and Data Solutions at Apexon, a technology solutions partner helping enterprises in accelerating their digital initiatives with quality engineering, IOT solutions, and data analytics. Deven carries more than 18 years of IT experience in architecture and design, coupled with product and project management experience of large volume, high-performance cloud stack solutions for advanced analytics, decision management frameworks and enterprise application. Welcome, Deven.
Deven Samant: Thank you. Thanks, Sarah.
Sarah-Lynn: Before we begin let me just review some quick housekeeping items. First, this webcast is being recorded and will be distributed via email, allowing you to share it with your internal team or watch it again for later. Second, your line is currently muted. Third, please feel free to submit any questions during the call by utilizing the chat function on the bottom of your screen. We’ll answer all questions towards the end of the presentation. We will do our best to keep this webinar to the 45-minute time allotment. At this time, I’d like to turn this presentation over to Deven.
Deven: Thank you. Thanks, Sarah, for that. Thanks, everyone. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, depending on wherever you are in the globe. I just want to first begin with laying out our agenda for today. We are going to cover the Overview of Robotic Process Automation. Why and what part of it, why we need Robotic Process Automation. We will also go over the common use cases of RPA. Specifically, we are going to target the FinTech and Healthtech industry today because that is where most of the client interactions are, so we are going to cover that. We will talk about RPA and Test Automation a little bit to understand what their relationship- are the same, similar? Are they competing with each other?
Then I’m going to show you RPA in action, specifically from the Test Automation perspective, how we have seen it actually used in practice and how it can augment the whole process. Then at the end, we will keep some time for Q&A sessions, and we will go from there. Let’s start with our presentation today.
Let’s talk about automation. Automation is key for digital transformation for any organizations. The organizations that are using AI, bots, are definitely going to have a competitive advantage in the market. We are today basically challenged with devising new business models which can drive the labor cost lower and deliver faster, and create better productivity for our labor force. That’s our challenge on a day-to-day basis.
What if you started seeing a software as your worker or what we call digital workers, and using your human workforce for more productive, more value-added services rather than looking at them to doing the mundane jobs that they are doing? Anything that is repetitive. What can be automated? Anything that is repetitive, something that is time-consuming, which is high-risk tasks or tasks that are lower-quality yield. That is something that you definitely should consider automating rather than having a human workforce actually working for that.
Before we talk about what should be automated, we also should be thinking about what can be automated? Let’s talk about that a little bit. Something that is well-defined, which is rule-based and has logical workflow sequences. Something that can render an input that can be consumed by software systems, that can be deciphered by software systems. Output that can be accessible and can be reused by other software systems and their applications that you have in your business operations workflow. It’s important that all these things are taken into consideration.
Last but not the least consideration that you should take into consideration is benefits should be better than the cost that you’re going to invest into. Benefits always outweigh the cost because if you don’t want to automate things and create the cost so high that you’re not really achieving the goal that you have set for your automation. Let’s talk about Robotic Process Automation. By definition, it’s a software which mimics the human execution of business applications, usually for repetitive processes. It is controlled by business users and governed by IT.
I’ll talk about it a little later because it’s very important that we understand how it is different from the conventional automation that we have been using through Script, macros, things like that. Automation is something not new to our world but how you look at it and how you use it in your business practices is what Robotic Process Automation actually brings today. Let’s consider two things. One is before you go to this whole AI cognitive behaviors of your applications, you have to take into consideration the processes that can be replaced or can be automated and can be operationalized in an automated manner. What it is not? This is very important to understand this is not a replacement for human workforce. Rather you can use your human workforce more productively by assigning them value-added activities. That is where you should focus on because that is an important aspect of RPA.
We don’t want to consider RPA as a replacement to our human workforce. Let’s put this in a perspective. If I create a spectrum of human productivity and this whole concept of replacing human workforce by artificial intelligence, let’s start seeing what we used to do. We used to have scripting as I mentioned earlier, we used to have macros, procedures that could be used to call.
These were there to assist and support the repetitive work that the human workforce was doing. Mostly it was governed by other- it was managed, maintained by the IT organizations in your organization. It was hard to scale, difficult to govern, difficult to secure, many parties are involved in it. It becomes really difficult to scale from that perspective.
On the other hand artificial intelligence, the nirvana that everybody wants to live in, yes, we would like to create that decision intelligence at some point of time which is driven by machine learning in a natural language processing, natural regeneration, computer vision. That is really going to happen someday maybe.
In between, there is this critical stage which we need to start thinking about migrating to which is this digital workforce which is execution intelligence and replacing the repetitive work that you are doing in your organization. Provide that scalability and security and predictability that we are looking at from the digital workforce and key aspect that we would like to achieve is give more control to business and less intervention from the IT perspective.
IT will build it still, IT will operationalize it, but when it comes to controlling and managing it we will have business users better control all of it. That is exactly where RPA can start helping you.
Let’s put that in and from that look at some of the data-driven against the process stream and perspective. If you look at the evolution, what we call the robotic desktop automation, robotic process automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, this is evolution.
We have seen robotic desktop automation is something that– There are a lot of manual interventions, running macros, correlating those macros to robotic process automation which I just talked about. Creating digital workforce where automating your business processes which are very defined, business processes to machine learning, understanding your decisions and operationalizing them. The last which is artificial intelligence where machines can start making decisions for you.
If you look at it, the first two are more process-driven. They are all about process, they are about automating the process, something that is very defined which is more deterministic in nature. Then looking at the data-driven approach in machine learning and artificial intelligence which is more I would say non-deterministic in behavior. It’s really a migration from doing things to a thinking machine.
Making the machines work for you, where under the second– It’s basically let machines think about. That is what robotic process automation really brings to you. It is the creation of automated or digital workforce for you so that you can be more productive. Your human workforce can be more productive.
Let’s talk about the benefits. Benefits are pretty obvious. If you look at higher quality of services, definitely that there is a predictability. The software is doing that work for you once you get it perfected, you are going to have better quality that you’re going to get. You are going to get better accuracy. You are going to have improved analytics. We can generate a lot of logs, we don’t have to rely on the human to keep track of what they are doing.
Definitely, you are going to have a lot of analytics that you can deduce out of it. Reduced cost and increased speed. As you are reusing or re-purposing your human workforce in more productive activities. You’re going to definitely see cost benefits there. Greater compliance is another important part. You can actually start creating the audit logs, start providing the better compliance there. Better management, of course, there are tools that are available which can provide you the better management and better control on this. These tools that we are going to talk about, they are pretty non-invasive. They really don’t change your processes so much or they work with your existing applications seamlessly. It becomes very easy to adopt.
Scalability with simplicity is another key aspect that we need to take into consideration because that is something that– That’s an important aspect because if it is not simple and it’s not scalable, you’re not really achieving much on that one. Let’s talk about the RPA in detail. What are the different components? What are the things? The diagram that you see is a very generic diagram. I’m not talking about a tool. I’m talking about what these different components are. You can divide this whole tooling about RPA into four main things. A development studio, a tape recorder, mechanism for extensions and plugins, and the bot run time itself.
Let’s talk about the development tool. It is basically used by developers to create the robot configurations, train the robots and how they should behave. This is where you are actually going to use the instructions and decision-making logic either through coding or through workflows is what you will be coding here. Most of the tools that are available, they provide you some kind of flowcharting capabilities like Visio. There are tools where some amount of coding as well is needed. Recorder is the next thing. Recorder basically provides you the way to record these repetitive steps that we talked about. That is where you are actually recording just like macros that you have used in Excel or any word processing tool that you may be using.
You must have used them. They’re similar to that, so I just wanted to- not exactly the same but similar to that, I would say. Then comes the extension and plugins because as you are using these different workflows, you will be interacting with multiple applications that you have, multiple ERP systems, or your HRMS systems. You may have different third party or even from the web you want to put some data out. A lot of things will be there. Creating that kind of plugin and extensibility is what this particular model is going to provide.
Then comes the bot run time. Bot run time is very important. This is where all this logic that you have built through the designer or the development studio is actually going to get executed. Last but not least, one component and this is not common, but you’ll see is this control center. The control center is a controlled room from where you can actually manage your bot run time, so that what is running, when it is running, what are the priorities that you want to set when you are running these processes. All those kind of things can be controlled. This is what overall– I would say architecture, but a component schematic that looks for these RPA tools. Let’s look at how the overall landscape looks from the tooling perspective. We have different tool vendors that are available from Automation Anywhere, UIPath, WorkFusion, KOFAX, Blue Prism. This kind of different- depending on what really you want to achieve. You can choose one or the other. They have their advantages, disadvantages.
I’m not going to get into recommendations of what you should be using, what you should not be using. These are very powerful tools. UiPath, Automation Anywhere really go more towards what I would call [unintelligible 00:19:25]. Even Cold Fusion. It provides a lot of that capability of creating the cognitive part of it, using OCR, things like that. Blue Prism, KOFAX are more towards the process or streamlining the process.
They really lack, especially KOFAX, lack the cognitive part of it when it comes to the RPA part of it. I just wanted to lay out– Thoughtonomy rarely uses Blue Prism behind the scene to operationalize things but there are these options available. As part of this presentation, I just wanted to call out where you should be looking for when you look for the tools. Let’s talk about the familiar use cases. As we are working with our client partners in industry, we come across various use cases.
Today I just wanted to share a few use cases with you and how we see the world sort of evolving and adapting to these RPA use cases. Let’s talk about FinTech first. FinTech Home Loan Processing, new account acquisition, auto loan are some typical cases. We are working with large banks here in California and we are seeing these things getting adopted very fast. Loan processing, for example. Everybody who has gone through the home loan system in the United States knows how much paperwork is needed and how much churn happens in that process.
A lot of things that are very methodical or they are well-defined steps. You can actually start doing RPA on top of that. You can actually take your paper forms, convert them into electronic forms. All those things can be actually achieved through the RPA process. New account acquisition. That’s another part that you must have seen that there is a lot of error more possibilities there. Reducing this downstream errors, improving the system data quality can definitely be achieved by employing the right workflows in here.
Auto loan is another aspect. This is something that we have worked with one of our bank clients is actually integrating with external sites like DMV, for example. Getting the data from DMV and creating that workflow in a smooth manner. You may ask how it is different from the business process management tools that are available. No, I don’t want to really sort of compare contrast here but what we are trying to do here through RPA is really identifying the things that requires minimal human intervention in the process and try to automate those process so that the human workforce as I mentioned can focus on more productive activities that you have in your organization.
Other part- this is about your FinTech the next part that you’re going to look is really the HealthTech. This is another part where we contribute is the patient scheduling, for example. Today you have seen a lot of appointments, people don’t show up to those apartments and there’s a lot of sort of missed appointments and sort of based off time for the doctors’ offices is taking place.
Using RPA for sending the appointment reminders or auto-checking if you want to do that way, all those thing can be created automatically by reducing the number or time that the person spends in the queue for the check-in when they go to the doctor’s office or even from the office staff, doctor’s office who is involved in checking process. All those things can definitely be reduced.
There’s billing and claiming, another area where there is a lot of error possibilities that you’re seeing. We look at when applying RPA in such cases to reduce the sort of errors that are happening in the billing and claims process. That is another area that we are seeing. Adjudication of claims is area where especially with our clients who are in the PVM business or patient benefits management business, they do a lot of these things very much manually. There are a lot of customer service agents, things like that are involved in are doing some jobs which are which are pretty repetitive and predictable, very rules driven if you may say.
We have seen our client partners actually employing RPA techniques there as well. You can use those techniques by defining those rules and creating that automation, whether it’s the forms that are submitted through paper forms or fax to your facility can be automated and we can actually digitize those forms and push that data by scraping those forms into the database that you have which then creates a smooth flow for your application and adjudication of claims. Now, I just gave you this overall view of what RPA is and how we are using it, where it stands really in this large spectrum of human productivity against the AI automation that we will reach at some point of time and why it is important to have this digital workforce.
Another area where there is a lot of this manual testing or that is happening or there are certain areas where no test automation techniques that we are using today really are not applying. People start thinking that what is the difference between the test automation that we are doing and what is the difference of RPA. In this webinar, I just wanted to touch upon that one aspect because it’s important to understand what is the difference between RPA and test automation and given we have worked a lot especially Apexon partners have worked a lot in the test automation space. This is something that definitely we would like to share as our learning.
One thing that I would like to say is they’re similar but they’re not the same. When we look at the test automation, the test automation are applied to the products and they are run especially in Dev, QA and UAT environment. That’s what we do when we go about testing our product, so we create these test automation suites and then we basically go about employing them in these different environments. RPA, on the other hand, applies to products and business processes that you have in your organization and they predominantly are employed in your production setups not on your Dev or QA or UAT. These are the clear demarcation that you will look at.
If you look at how RPA is actually augmenting it, thinking from a little different perspective. Looking at the way we are doing the testing in a little different perspective making your testing more codeless to add the simplicity in how you’re doing it using this kind of flowcharting tools that you’re using. Providing the scalability, that is always a challenge that we are having in our test automation, then cost saving by reducing the workforce. Again, I’m going to go back to the same thing, accuracy, more audit capability, compliance, these are some important things that RPA can bring to your testing process. If you augment RPA with your testing process.
Flexibility, that is another thing that I wanted to touch upon. This doesn’t have to be in a constraint to just testing the web application or anything like that. You can actually augment that by tooling the plugins and extensions that I talked to you about earlier. You can actually start looking into automating your data validation through your databases if you can or the database or the data that is stored in file systems, things like that also can be further augmented.
In a nutshell, what I’m trying to say here is RPA can be seen as a tool for business testing that allows the business testers to do more by removing the dependency on the testers who are more– Or the automation tester who are more IT-oriented, you’re giving power to the business user to do more. That is what RPA brings to the table when it is augmented to the test automation. It’s not replacing test automation but it is more to look into from sort of a co-working if you may, to get the value that is needed for the business users.
With that understanding, I wanted to share with you a small demo that we have and this is a real use case that we are using for our application here in Apexon and this is something that will help you understand how we are actually using it. We have this application, the HRMS application that we use here for all our human resource management. It’s called Nest and all our leaves management or benefits management or our expenses everything we submit through this application. It’s a homegrown application written using macro services and more responsive UI. We have a UI for the mobile application. We have UI for desktop applications and also complete rest APIs. Now, when we go about testing this we use Selenium/Appium about testing the functional part of this application.
We have given the automation leaders and it comes to know what our CEO would like to call as drink your own champagne, that’s what we do but then we augment the RPA tools like UiPath, for example. We can actually augment to do the data validation. You have finished the functional validation now. The data has gone into your database. Now, you verify these two steps and make sure that the data that is getting inserted is consistent. There is no data loss, there is no workflow in between which is creating a problem.
That is where we are using UiPath to validate the data and that is what you will see in this demonstration today. Let’s play. What I’m going to do is I’m going to play a small video in the interest of time and I can walk you through exactly what is going on here. Let me start with this video.
What’s happening here is on the right-hand side you’re seeing that we are basically testing a mobile application front end for this Nest application where a person is simulated to apply for their expenses. Left-hand side you’ll see that we have these PM test cases written here which are getting executed on the right-hand side that’s what you’re seeing. We will go through the functional part of it. All the assertions are taking place here. We are making sure that what needs to come on the screen at what point of time is actually covered here. We are going to validate that entire workflow by going through these test cases.
As we come to the conclusion of the functional testing or functional assertion part of this test, we will hand this thing over to UiPath through these steps itself. We will just call the UiPath workflow to do the next step which is basically validating the data. Now, the validation of data that you’re going to see in this demo is more from the web application. We are entering this data from the mobile application. We are cross-validating that from the web application, but it doesn’t have to be web application. You can write that to validate from database or from REST API or however where you think you would like to validate that data, you can create that validation routine. You just saw that the expense has been submitted here. Then now we are switching. Now, you’ll see that now we are invoking this activation workflow. You will see that now we are in the web application. We are logging in and all these things are automated at this moment using the UiPath too.
We are going to go to the specific module of expenses and then we are going to start scraping the data from here on the same expense report that was submitted from the mobile app. Once it is scraped, you will see that we will generate output which is a JSON output from the data. This data now is available to you for validation against your REST API response or the database entries that has happened to it.
You can see here that we went for this launch application, navigate to the expense list page. Open new expense. Enter the expense details. All these things are mobile application step. Submit the expense request, then invoke the RPA validation. That is where we invoke the RPA validation through the web application process and then went about validating the data. How this automation and RPA can work together to create this complete loop is something that in a very quick and dirty manner. I just wanted to demonstrate today so that you can understand that these two technologies can work hand in hand for us to work with. With that, we are going to jump into the questions. I guess Sarah-Lynn has already talked about the questions. If you have any questions we can take those questions today.
Sarah-Lynn: Great. Thanks so much, Deven. Appreciate the demo and all the information here. We do have a couple of questions for you. First one is, what is the purpose of RPA and why should we even care?
Deven: Okay. That’s a great question. That really depends on the specific requirements that you have. I talked about a lot of benefits. We talked about the operational efficiency, the human use of your workforce and the compliance part. There’s another thing. Operability that actually that brings to your repetitive processes. These are some important aspects that you are to take into consideration. At the same time and I, again and again, tell all my client partners the same thing is you have to look at just because something can be automated, don’t go about automating them.
Look at the benefits that they bring against the cost involved in actually implementing those things. Certain things may be just good enough to be done through human because they might not be as repetitive as you think. That really depends on a case to case basis. This is where we can help you identifying these use cases and working with you to understand how you should go about employing RPA more effectively. Any other questions?
Sarah-Lynn: Great. Thanks. Yes. Another one for you. What’s the difference between RPA and macros in scripting?
Deven: That’s a great question. Always everybody has that question in mind. We used to do these things. We used to these things all the time in the past. What is so different? One thing that we have to understand when we used to use the macros or scripting or the method of procedures and we used to automate them, there are a lot of human interventions needed and those things are fixed. They are linear in nature. They run in the same way again and again.
RPA and more so RPA part as we are going to the cognitive part can learn as they go through. They can evolve all the process. They can make them smarter and you have a better control through these control panels and things like that to prioritize them, to change their behaviors for a period of time as you deem important. These tools give you that power. Again, as I said, the macros and scripts are more IT-driven approach. You have a dependency on your IT department to do these things. Whereas if you look from the business users’ perspective, it is going to help you a lot. You’ll get that feel of importing the business and the business users that want to be more productive and they want to be happy with employing RPA rather than using macros and scripts. I hope that answers the question.
Sarah-Lynn: Thank you. We have a couple more here for you.
Sarah-Lynn: For someone that has very little experience in scripting, what is the best learning strategy or route for getting into RPA?
Deven: The scripting is not, as I mentioned earlier, the tools and especially if you’re looking at UiPath or you’re looking at Automation Anywhere, they provide a lot of tooling. Today they have these development studios which can work with you. They can actually help you create that. Scripting knowledge is not absolutely necessary for you to start with but if you want to really harness the power of these tools, scripting does help definitely. Coding helps you especially when you’re interacting with this sort of [unintelligible 00:34:55] applications or integrating these workflows with third party application, that is where you’re going to start having these things. Not everything that is out there is point and click and creating charting workflow but to get started, I don’t think there are some as much are required.
Sarah-Lynn: Great. Okay. A couple of others for you?
Sarah-Lynn: This seems to be very similar to other products, RPA and other processes. Why should we use this over something else or freeware?
Deven: What I today covered is not really as a product and what I was trying to show is what’s really a methodology or the process rather than singling on a tool or not. Just to say, what I just showed you as using UiPath and test automation. Our partner in tri-centers have their own RPA solution as well. They also provide a similar and as you know, they have their own test automation toolset as well. There is no good or bad thing that you should look for. It all depends on what you are trying to automate, how fluent that you want to be, what is your final goal, do you really are looking from the IT perspective or looking from the business perspective? Those are the questions that you need to ask before you choose the tool. I won’t say that it is one way or the other.
Sarah-Lynn: A couple more for you, Deven. Thank you. You mentioned that you don’t need scripting experience, is this a point, click, record product?
Deven: Mostly yes. As I mentioned earlier also, most of the cases point and click record kind of a product that you’re looking. Again, what I showed is not really a product. I just wanted to show you the process rather than emphasizing on products, but yes, most of them have point, click and record behaviors, but as I said, when it comes to integrating with your different workflows, what we showed, some amount of scripting may be needed.
Sarah-Lynn: Another question for you. Using the demo project as an example, what would be the best– Excuse me, what would be the average amount of time to get all the developments done?
Deven: That depends on each module and the complexity of that module. In the sense of how much UI you feel that you want to scrape, what data you are gathering, where you’re validating that data from. I would not like to put any numbers, but it is definitely faster than what you would have done if you would have written your own custom tooling for validation. It’s definitely going to be faster because it’s going to give you that automation and the repetitive process that you’re going to follow. You can modularize that, you can use those modules again and again in the process so that you can reduce the churn that will go through.
Sarah-Lynn: Great. I think we have time for about two more here. How about security? How do RPA solutions secure information for compliance and audit?
Deven: That’s a great question, thank you. Again, what you are looking at here is an automated process, a robotic process which is going through this definitive task, the repetitive task. As they are going, they are producing a lot of data. They produce logs, audits and those things are very important. They are even better than what your human workforce would have done, right?
It becomes very productive for companies and regulated industries like FinTech or HealthTech who are required to keep these things from the compliance perspective from either SOX, HIPAA. It becomes very easy and provides you that good mechanism actually to [unintelligible 00:39:06] that. RPA, RC are not actually touching your data directly. They are using on your existing application workflows but they are, at the same time, producing a lot of these audit and log activities which can provide you that compliance that is needed for the regulated industry.
Sarah-Lynn: Okay. A couple more here. What would be the best way or method to combine AI with RPA?
Deven: As I said, in a sense, AI would be seen as more of an evolution of this process. What we are doing in RPA is more process-oriented, but AI is more data-oriented. You can add certain states. If you look at the tools like Automation Anywhere is doing or UiPath is doing, then actually start augmenting these decisions that you are making which are more rule-based or more deterministic in their nature. You can start modifying those things using some kind of machine learning or AI activity or steps if you want to do it that way. Yes, you can start marrying that, but that decision really depends on how much maturity that you really need from your decision-making process.
Sarah-Lynn: All right. Great. We have time for one more. Thanks for all the questions that have been coming in. Do you know any tool in the market which can run the bots in parallel?
Deven: Bots in parallel. I’m not really sure if I understand in what context this is asked for but it depends on how you’re deploying your bot run time. I should be able to these are independent tasks. Sorry, in essence, I might not be getting that question or the specifics but whoever is asking this question
Sarah-Lynn: Yes. We could always follow-up.
Deven: Yes, follow-up on those things and I can definitely jump into details and answer the question.
Sarah-Lynn: Absolutely. Great.
Sarah-Lynn: Great. Well, thank you so much, everyone. At this time, this is all the questions we are able to answer. Also, if you haven’t heard of it, be sure to check out and subscribe to DTV. It’s a new digital transformation channel that brings in industry experts. Very cool. Many thanks to our speaker Deven and thank you, everyone, for joining us today. You’ll receive an email in the next 24 hours of this live presentation and a link to the webcast replay. Also, there’s been a lot of questions coming in. If you have any further questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-408-727-1100 to speak with a representative. Again, thank you so much and you all enjoy the rest of your day.