From Venture Beat
Automation Anywhere’s push to refactor its core portfolio of robotic process automation (RPA) applications to run natively on the cloud was a big topic at the Automation Anywhere Imagine Digital Conference last week.
“Our goal was to help our customers automate any process anywhere,” Automation Anywhere CEO Mihir Shukla told conference attendees. He suggested the future of “anywhere” will increasingly include cloud-native RPA via cloud-first application programming interfaces (API). This requires segmenting various Automation Anywhere applications into microservices that can be deployed, scaled, and managed more nimbly than conventional server-based applications.
Shukla touted the advantages of this approach in the highly competitive and ultra-active RPA space. Competitors to date have largely focused on migrating existing server apps to run on cloud virtual machine instances, he said.
“We call that ‘cloud wash,’ because it is a hosted model where the customer does not get the same benefit of cost scaling and web access,” Shukla said.
Shukla said there was potential for cloud-native RPA to disrupt the RPA landscape much in the way Salesforce disrupted the CRM market and capitalized on the fact that traditional CRM vendors were slow to offer a true SaaS alternative.
Along with cloud-native RPA updates, Automation Anywhere has focused on building process discovery and intelligent document tooling on its own, rather than rely on acquisitions as some competitors have done. Shukla promised better integration via the homebrewed tooling. The company has also built out an open ecosystem that supports hundreds of vendors in the AI, intelligent process automation, and systems integration space.
Shukla claims that Automation Anywhere enhancements combine to reduce the cost of provisioning RPA, achieve better scaling, and speed the rate of automating processes, compared to the traditional server-based RPA architectures.
Health care process remedy
RPA gained considerable traction as part of a general move to greater automation that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath.
Automation Anywhere was already seeing significant growth and the pandemic kicked this into high gear, Shukla said. Among the biggest drivers of this growth have been businesses finding ways to use RPA to increase revenue, improve customer experience, achieve resilience, and enable better employee experiences. Over the last three years, some of the fastest growing sectors the company claimed have included:
- High-tech: 1240%
- Banking and Financial Services: 1040%
- Oil and gas: 800%
- Life sciences: 330%
Health care, of course, has continued to gain in interest. The United Kingdom’s use of RPA in its response to COVID-19 shows how the pandemic spurred technology use in organizations where it may have not been anticipated. Tremaine Richard-Noel, head of emerging technology at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust, said that Automation Anywhere cloud-native architecture allowed his group to get started quickly on application enhancements.
The NHS Trusts in the UK are made up of different health care providers that use a variety of technologies, systems, and processes that change at different times. RPA helps provide a seamless experience to doctors even as the underlying systems are upgraded, according to Richard-Noel. The cloud also made it easier to automate processes that spanned multiple organizations across his NHS trust.
“RPA is a game changer because it allows us to customize the experience for different types of clinicians,” Richard-Noel said.
His team started out by automating the process of monitoring oxygen at the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, they have been tasked with spreading RPA know-how across the hospital system. The team has seen early success in streamlining and speeding the scheduling and booking of patients and the associated communications.
One of the big insights has been finding ways to increase the support of doctors and health care workers. “There is not always the same drive in public organizations as in private organizations to innovate,” Richard-Noel said. He suggested his group invest in a communication team to help grow understanding and enthusiasm for the technology, which seemed like a bold suggestion at the time. Now, rather than fighting new approaches, the doctors are calling his office with new ideas for automations.
RPA bots take on medical records
Health care has been one of the fastest growing implementation areas for the company over the past year, as hospitals change business processes to support telehealth, implement new workflows in response to COVID, and accelerate their electronic health information strategy, according to Yan Chow, global health care leader at Automation Anywhere.
One big challenge that hospitals have faced is improving the interoperability for electronic health records (EHR). At the conference, Automation Anywhere announced a new RPA automation, or “bot,” for improving integration with Epic, a dominant EHR platform. This goes beyond simply cutting and pasting data, like older RPA bots do, to provide better API access in a way that is more accurate, scalable, and resilient.
Although telehealth has been around for about 25 years, it was not getting traction owing to disagreements about how to organize reimbursements. The pandemic has prioritized working through these disagreements. “The providers have realized this could be a feasible care option, but there is still much to do,” Chow said.
COVID has also increased contact center workloads by two to three times for many health care providers. So, a lot of these centers are turning to automation to help onboard remote contact center workers more quickly.
Vaccine developers have also turned to RPA to accelerate what is arguably the largest and fastest drug development in history. This resulted in the simultaneous development of multiple vaccines, including mass testing within a year. The success has opened the pharmaceutical industry’s eyes to new development models that are powered by AI and improved automation. RPA could also play a big role in pharmacovigilance to help aggregate data related to side effects or problems in the field after a drug has been launched.
Transforming legacy enterprises
Traditional industrial giants like Honeywell are also turning to RPA to drive digital transformation across multiple business units with many critical legacy systems. Honeywell hired its first chief digital technology officer, Sheila Jordan, 15 months ago, and she has prioritized RPA as part of her strategy. One early focus has been on how to create an internal automation team to automate repetitive outsourced work. “I am a big fan of systems integrators, but not when they are the primary way of getting the job done,” Jordan said.
Honeywell has seen some of the earliest gains in automating the processes of organizing data related to financial transactions. For example, RPA bots help gather all the documentation and data required for filing a claim when a supplier misses a service level agreement.
Honeywell was able to generate three to four times as many of these complex supplier claims packages with about a quarter the staff. Teams have used this as a template to find other opportunities, including complex report production, as well.