Collaboration between BPM Workflow and RPA Tool
Describing collaboration between a cloud-based Workflow system Questetra BPM Suite and RPA tools.

 

Hi, there.

 

Concerning RPA (Robotic Process Automation), tools for automation which are a recent hot topic, it is said that when it is combined with BPM (Business Process Management), they have good compatibility and work efficiently.

Broadly speaking,

  • RPA: To improve efficiency by automating PC operations that human does
  • BPM: To improve efficiency by systemizing and visualizing the entire flow of business

Therefore, it can be expected to be effective with the RPA tool alone, if the amount of operation by a human is enormous, or if there are many repetitions that are easy to automate. However, even if it is possible to automate only a part of work in a series of tasks, it is likely that the effect as a whole will be insufficient. In such a case, it is possible to improve efficiency as the whole series of tasks by combining with the BPM system.

Also, for the BPM side, there will be advantages by collaborating with RPA, such as;

  • Cooperation with external service without API becomes possible, instead of the conventional system linkage in which API was used
  • It becomes possible to automate operations of the client application which could not be realized by API cooperation
  • In the case of cloud-based BPM, connection to systems in the intranet from BPM, which was difficult due to network constraint, becomes possible

In “BPM Forum 2018”, an event specialized for BPM which is scheduled to be held on November 7, 2018, many sessions related to RPA are scheduled. In last year’s “BPM Forum 2017”, sessions related to RPA was accounted for more than half.

Under such circumstances, as we may be asked questions that how can the RPA tool and BPM actually work together. Thus, I will organize the following in this article.

  • In what part of a business there are in cases to cooperate with the RPA tool
  • What cases there are for collaboration between RPA tool and the cloud BPM workflow Questetra

 

TOC
1: Which part of the business should be automated with the RPA tool
 1-1. Pre-processing
 1-2. Processing in the middle
 1-3. Post-processing
2: Ways to link the RPA tool and the BPM system
 2-1. RPA tool controls BPM system
 2-2. Connection by emails
 2-3. Connection by HTTP requests (REST API)
 2-4. Prepare Glue Code
3: Closing

 

1: Which part of the business should be automated with the RPA tool

There may be considered three patterns of automation that are pre-processing, intermediate and processing post-processing.
* These patterns may be combined.

 

1-1. Pre-processing

Specifically, the following cases are assumed.

  • The order form files sent in the PDF or the applications received in the email is read by the RPA tool (in some cases, in combination with the OCR), and is poured into the reception processing
  • In contract renewal management, read the customer list on Excel with the RPA tool, and Start processing one by one

The RPA tool will be the trigger only in this pattern compared to 1-2 and 1-3 of the later.

 

1-2. Processing in the middle

Specifically, the following cases are assumed.

  • In the newcomer management flow, after the contents of the application are approved the account issuance processing is automatically executed by the RPA tool, and the superior of the department in charge will correspond subsequent work
  • In the items rental management flow, after checking the contents of the request, automatic updating of the ledger is executed by the RPA tool, and it goes to item preparing Step of the next

Unlike the pattern of 1-1, the BPM system triggers the RPA tool.

 

1-3. Post-processing

Specifically, the following cases are assumed.

  • In the product master update flow, automatically executes update processing in the mission-critical system by the RPA tool after checking the content of the update
  • In the out-of-pocket expense reimbursement flow, data that has been approved on the claim is poured into the accounting system with the RPA tool

It can be said that it is similar to the pattern of 1-2 (only without processing after automation).

 

2: Ways to link the RPA tool and the BPM system

It may be possible/impossible or fits/unfits depending on conditions. If it can be realized by the method of 2-3, I consider that is the best.

 

2-1. RPA tool controls BPM system

Since Questetra operates on a browser, it is possible to automate the operation with RPA tool.

Regarding the pattern of 1-1 (preprocessing), there is also a method of incorporating Excel VBA when the list is in Excel. (use add-on if the list is in Google Sheets.) However, these methods require a little technical knowledge (API cooperation). Whereas you can correspond the method of using RPA tool if you can set up the tool. In case you are capable either of the methods, use the API cooperation since it is more stable, and consider the RPA as a method for when API is impossible.

 

2-2. Connection by emails

Questetra is capable of sending emails, and set up of flow start triggered by email reception is easy.
Whereas many of RPA tools as well, are capable of sending emails and being started by receiving an email as the trigger.

If an RPA tool is capable of email sending, it can be used in the pattern of 1-1 and can be used in the pattern of 1-2 and 1-3 if it receives emails.

However, when cooperating by email, it is necessary to consider the parsing of received email and delivery of the result. You can omit them if you simply start processing only, but what you can do will be limited.

Even though Questetra is capable of parsing the received email body by script and capture data, preparation of the parsing script becomes necessary, so the difficulty degree of settings is increased.

 

2-3. Connection by HTTP requests (REST API)

Questetra can send and receive HTTP requests with only settings.
On the other hand, the RPA tool also can be used in this pattern if it has functions to send and receive HTTP requests. Particularly for receiving, since many of RPA tools are client application type, it is necessary to have a type equipped with a server to receive HTTP requests. In addition, it is necessary that the network setting is permitted so that Questetra on the cloud can communicate to the RPA tool.

I suppose that the patterns that Questetra instructs to RPA tool, which is 1-2, 1-3 (intermediate process, postprocessing) is easy to imagine. And even the pattern of 1-1 (pre-processing), it can be realized with this method if an RPA tool has a feature of sending HTTP request.

Although more technical knowledge is required compared to the method of 2-1, you can realize stable cooperation (REST API cooperation) which is capable of corresponding even a modification on the user interface (operating screen).

In addition, among RPA tools, I have described the details of the collaboration with “BasicRobo!” (formerly BizRobo!/Kofax Kapow 10), which is provided by RPA Technologies.Inc, in the following article.
 Related article: Collaboration between RPA Tool and BPM System
Moreover, I am also verifying UiPath (+ Orchestrator), WinActor (+ WinDirector), etc., and I assume that there is a high possibility that I can deal with them since it seems sufficient functions are available.

 

2-4. Prepare Glue Code

Since you can retrieve the necessary information and timing by invoking Questetra’s API, so you can connect with RPA tools by preparing glue code.

In the case where the system you want to operate with the RPA tool is on the intranet in which the communication from the outside has been restricted, you can realize collaboration by putting a glue code on the intranet side to retrieve data from Questetra on the cloud. Although it is necessary to develop the glue code and maintenance and operation monitoring of it, you can realize even if the RPA tool does not have functions of sending/receiving HTTP requests or emails. So it can be said that the applicable range is broadest.

In any of pattern of 1-1, 1-2, 1-3 (Preprocessing, processing in the middle, post-processing), it can be realized depending on how you configure the glue code.

However, it requires more sophisticated technical knowledge than what is required in methods of 2-2, 2-3.

Related articles
 Refere to “Task Operation, retrieving information for displaying Task Operating screen”, “Retrieving a list of Tasks in My Tasks/Offered” described in “List of Questetra’s APIs“.

 

3: Closing

I hope you understand that there are various patterns for cooperation between RPA tool and cloud BPM/Workflow Questetra, as well as methods for that.

As there are advantages and disadvantages in each pattern or method, so you should make your choice considering what perspective is important, whether you can cope with even if technical elements are included, how stable it must be, etc.

If you have any questions, please feel free to Contact us.

 

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