It’s tempting to think about delegation when talking robotics and therefore it’s always a popular topic — science fiction fantasies aside — when any discussion of automation enters the room.But, ironically because of its place in popular culture, robotics sometimes more theory-heavy than other areas of technology right now.In other words, great articles, videos and TED talks, but where’s the real-world application?

Enter Blue Prism – one of the few brands truly synonymous with intelligent automation.Speaking at ETOT next month, we always get a queue or two forming at their stands and so to give you an insight into why, we got the chance to speak to Brad Hairston, Advisory Alliance Director ahead of their starring role as lead RPA sponsors of ETOT this October.

Blue Prism is quite well known in these circles as taking the RPA industry by storm – what’s been the key to this success?

First Mover – Blue Prism began in 2001 and played a key role in pioneering the disruptive space that we are in.  In fact, one of our executives (Chief Evangelist Pat Geary) coined the term, “Robotic Process Automation.”  In addition, we developed/perfected our platform in highly regulated industries (banking, insurance, life sciences, etc.) over many years while establishing the company.  We have stayed true to our product design principles and business values since our inception.  In 2012, we became the first RPA vendor to go public.

Scalability – Other RPA products on the market have proven to hit a “wall” at some point as they strive to scale, whereas Blue Prism has numerous customers who have scaled up to hundreds of digital workers and continue to grow as they find more ways to add value through RPA.  Nobody scales like Blue Prism.

Usability – Blue Prism is designed to be owned/managed by the business operations with support and governance provided by IT.  Business people, who typically do not want to touch a single string of code or perform any type of system integration, find our platform to be highly usable and intuitive.  As one indicator of this, Blue Prism recently achieved a 50 Net Promoter Score, a management tool that gauges the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships, which exceeds the software industry average score of 31. 

“Today RPA is being utilized by companies of all sizes and verticals to enable business outcomes that impact topline and bottom-line results”

What are some of the frequent misconceptions you come across in regard to RPA?

  • RPA is just the latest version of “screen-scaping” or “macros on steroids.”

    • While it is true that many of the RPA products on the market are more oriented toward desktop automation, Blue Prism is an enterprise RPA platform that is designed for scalability, reusability (object-oriented) and easy maintenance.

    • Our platform provides a no coding / drag & drop, process-centric user interface intended for business usage and ownership, i.e., it is not dependent upon software engineers to get it up and running or build/maintain the automations.

    • The Blue Prism platform does not have a record button, which is more akin to desktop automation solutions and not scalable or easily governed.

  • Automating back office or front office activities through RPA adds risk.

    • Quite the opposite is true – RPA is designed to enhance security, governance and compliance. 

    • With Blue Prism software, every single action the digital worker executes is encrypted and written to a database which is 100% auditable and immutable. 

    • We were the first RPA vendor to achieve Veracode Verified Continuous certification, which is the highest level of the Verified program and builds on the security processes embedded in their development lifecycle.

    • You can train the digital workers to change their password 100 times a day, if you like.  Security is part of Blue Prism’s DNA.

  • RPA is only for Fortune 500 companies and caters to financial services.

    • Initially, this was true, as RPA emerged in big banks and insurance companies.

    • However, today RPA is being utilized by companies of all sizes and verticals to enable business outcomes that impact topline and bottom-line results.

    • Globally, Blue Prism has over 1,600 customers across 30+ industries.  The oil and gas industry is a late RPA adopter but is growing rapidly.

    • Anywhere you have high volume, repetitive, rule-based activity going on, there is an opportunity for RPA.

“Companies that embrace the digital workforce have given massive amounts of productive work time back to the business”

How have you seen the roles of staff develop after they have less of the repetitive manual labour to deal with? Is it ever fair to see robotics as a threat?

A 2016 book written by two professors at the London School of Economics revealed that most companies utilizing RPA have redeployed their human resources toward better / higher value activities after implementing RPA versus simply reducing headcount.  Companies that embrace the digital workforce have given massive amounts of productive work time back to the business, which enables a spectrum of business outcomes – lower cost, better customer service, higher productivity, faster turnarounds, improved quality, etc.  For example, our customer Siemens automated a freight procurement process that took too long (3 weeks) and touched too many people (15 FTE).  With the help of Blue Prism digital workers, they reduced the process to 1 week and 1 FTE, which significantly reduced costs.  But they also received financial benefit from obtaining the best carrier rates more consistently and ensuring compliance with the agreed-upon rates once the invoices arrived from those carriers. 

RPA has also provided a way for more people/roles across the business operations to get access to advanced technologies to innovate and exercise their entrepreneurial spirit.  RPA is the foundational gateway to Artificial Intelligence and other cognitive technologies like Machine Learning and Natural Language Processing as the digital workers can easily connect to the best-of-breed solutions in those areas.  This is how RPA has evolved into Intelligent Automation.  The digital workers can connect to intelligent skills that enable them to solve even more business problems.

It is understandable that some people feel threatened by RPA and view it as a means of eliminating humans or eliminating jobs. This has proven to be true of each industrial revolution that has come and gone.  However, the true goal of RPA is to automate repetitive, mundane business tasks so that human resources can focus on the things that humans do best – such as strategize, create, innovate, motivate, inspire, etc.  Our stated corporate mission at Blue Prism is to “unleash human potential.”  An example of a Blue Prism customer who gets this is John Lewis & Partners, a leading retailer in the UK.  John Lewis defined the following objectives for their RPA program, which has been quite successful:

  • Better Jobs

  • Better Performance

  • Better Pay

Thus, they understand the true value of the digital workforce and how it can lead to a more effective operating model if it is leveraged appropriately.

See Blue Prism in person at ETOT this year, see them on the programme here.