Oracle RPA Implementing Robotic Process Automation

Implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Are you taking a sledgehammer to a nut?

Daivd Wright
Daivd Wright

Product Expert

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Implementing Robotic Process Automation... Are you taking a sledgehammer to a nut?

In a world filled with non-integrated software applications of all shapes and sizes, shifting data from one system into another can be a nightmare. Desktop users spend countless hours manually re-keying and copy/pasting data at a snail’s pace, creating errors, slowing up month-end close, and creating unhappy stakeholders along the way.

System to system integration has long been achievable

Most modern systems come with APIs to help organizations create robust process automation, however, this requires coding, which is skilled work and expensive, therefore reserved for the smaller number of high-volume tasks where the ROI justifies the expense.

How big is that nut you are cracking?

Before going down the track of considering an RPA, have a look at the pain points that affect your organization the most.  When you find these pinch points, start by looking at how the process could be improved without any additional tools or software. Put it simply, if the process is complex and difficult to use, can it be simplified?  Afterall, you don’t want to be part of the 30-50% of RPA project failures (See research by HFS).

Adopting a new technology requires change and can be more disruptive than many realize.  Changes include new IT teams to support and control what RPA processes are setup, how they are tested and future proofed.  The implementation requires thorough testing before deployment.  Introducing risk and requiring time and resources.  This isn’t for the faint hearted and it will take many months to be fully up and running.

RPA tools interact with software at the UI level, one area prone to failure is around Error handling.  RPA solutions need exception handling to be programmed in.  You can only program for so many of these, as other errors appear, they will have to be supported and dealt with.  Adding a risk of incorrect or invalid data entry.

Feedback from an employee at a Canadian insurance company highlights a typical situation.  “The company mandated that we had to automate.  The support required for the automated process was more expensive than the cost of 3 CPA’s, sometimes the cost doesn’t justify the tool.

Got an Application Programmable Interface (API) or Web Service?

Even though there are some great examples for its use, you need to think about if it is the right tool for the job.  Sure, it can help with complex multi system transactions, especially where there is a lack of interfacing options but it does require a lot of work to get it up and running, then ongoing support.   

Banks, utilities, and telecommunication companies are making use of robotic process automation services. But why are these industries using it more than others? A key reason is they have to take data through multiple systems to create an end-to-end process, which when done manually is cumbersome and slow.  They also tend to use old mainframe type applications that are hard to modify and don’t provide standardised API plugins for other technologies.  

If the software you are thinking of putting RPA into has APIs or web services then there is a high chance you’d be better off using these and other methods to control your data.  RPA is no match for other tightly integrated solutions which leverage APIs and Web Services.

The RPA sledgehammer is not cheap.

Putting in an RPA solution is a lot more expensive than the software itself.  In order to leverage robotic process automation, the end user must possess significant technical know-how. 

We’ve not even covered the politics over ownership.  Because each RPA service requires development, the IT Team will need to assume ownership.  This in itself creates another overhead.

Organization overestimates the number of processes suitable for RPA, and underestimate the work required to fine-tune process rules.  The time required to get processes up and running can be substantial.

When an update is made to a user-interface, the RPA service will fail. Having a multitude of scripts, bots and processes is a heavy overhead resulting in long term technical debt.  This debt is one that IT will feel the brunt of, even if they didn’t build the bot themselves. 

What’s the big issue with Task based automation?

A user’s desktop is very prone to change. Especially with SaaS based software like Oracle’s Cloud ERP product (a.k.a Fusion).  A person’s capability to handle and accommodate these changes cannot be matched by a bot.  Result – Bots break frequently across your organization. 

This means users have to revert to inefficient manual processes while they or others have to spend time making repairs. Worse – these bots are usually specific to individual users.  You could have hundreds or even thousands of them.

The value of a bot quickly disappears, and can even become negative hitting the total cost of ownership (TCO).

This is made worse by the failure of RPA vendors to help the organization easily track which applications their bots depend on, and which users depend on those bots.

Gartner’s Derek Miers described a Southeast Asian bank who deployed 2,000 bots across its team’s desktops, but failed to track which bots were being used for which processes. 

“They wish they could roll back the clock because they don’t know which part of the bank is going to stop working on Monday morning if they change an application.”

This has led organizations to overestimate how many of their processes are suitable for RPA, and underestimate how much work is required to fine-tune process rules.

Who’s recommending an RPA for your ERP?

The whole landscape of ERP implementations has changed. Consulting organizations are performing rapid installations, which in turn means they don’t get the same amount of development consulting.  

To mitigate this, many are suggesting the installation of RPA as part of the project.  This opens up another stream of income for them to replace the development work lost with the newer ERPs.  In some circumstances this is a win / win for both parties but for others, they are left with an expensive piece of software that may not have been the best option for them.  

If you are going through an implementation and your ERP has APIs or web services and your implementation partner is pushing for a particular RPA solution then they may not have your interests at heart.  A great implementation partner will be able to bring more to the table, including process changes within the ERP or alternative independent software vendor with solutions to help you out.

Using a nutcracker to crack a nut...

As mentioned earlier, RPA is great for taking data from one system to another or multiple systems.  But it is also a massive undertaking.  Ideally you should right size the solution for the required job.    As an example, putting in an RPA to create requisitions from end user spreadsheet data into an Oracle EBS ERP system is slow… Feedback to requestors appears hours later, which slows down the procurement process.  To reduce performance issues your RPA team will have to program a solution that interfaces directly with the server, meaning more time, money, risk and support.  At this point the RPA loses it’s value add.  

If your example is similar to the one above, then there’s a good chance that an RPA isn’t the right option for your data entry needs.  An ideal solution would be to improve data entry speeds and keep the user at the center of the process.

Enter - Semi Automation

We can dream of razor-sharp reflexes and turbo-charged muscles, but alas the Marvel world is not real. There is software available to augment human abilities by empowering end users to own their data and do the heavy lifting, with none of the expense, infrastructure or risk.

The software devised by More4apps fits perfectly into this position.  By letting users download/manipulate/upload data using the most user-accessible desktop data manipulation tool in existence, MS-Excel. More4apps adds functions to the Excel menu to read from and write to the ERP system using the available APIs.

This means you have the mind of a human user augmented by the power of software. A formidable team!

Like fully automated processes, this combination deserves a seat at the integration table.  It is the best option in the following scenarios:

  • Ad-hoc create/update requirements on master data
  • Where a spreadsheet is the ideal environment for the task. i.e. Budgeting
  • Where the data requires cleansing/completion by users
  • When data entry and resulting feedback is required quickly

Installation is simple and doesn’t require ongoing support from your IT team.  These products put your users as the center of data creation and ownership meeting many organizations’ process requirements, at a fraction of the cost of an RPA and without any of the disruption and none of the risk. 

Here is what a few of our users have experienced.

"We were able to complete updates to Supplier records that would have taken an estimated 60 hours manually to only a single hour!"
Man walking up stairs
Andy McGirr
Seadrill
"Origin estimated after the first 3 months of using the More4apps AR Invoice Wizard, the company had achieved a return on their investment of time and money. The More4apps AR Receipt Wizard realized the ROI within just 2 months of use."
Origin Energy
“The uptake of the Wizards by my team has been amazing. They are simple to use, and we are using them on a daily basis. Issues such as updating the WIP supply type on Bills of Materials are handled in minutes rather than hours.”
James Avery
"Streamlining data management processes in HR and finance have had roll-on effects throughout multinational Experian bringing significant cost savings and improvements in data quality. "
Experian
"Streamlining data management processes in HR and finance have had roll-on effects throughout multinational Experian bringing significant cost savings and improvements in data quality. "
RCI Europe
*Sources: Ernst and Young – Up to 50% of RPA projects fail, Abbyy CIO – Surveyed failure rate at 38%).
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