This article was initially published in April 2019 and has been updated in August 2020.
A study commissioned by UiPath shows that “41% of respondents believe their employees are concerned that their existing digital skills may not match what their job will require in the future, and more than half (53%) said employees are concerned or feel threatened by the growing complexity of tasks they face and will face in the future.”
This also applies to IT operations, where we’ve noticed a few questions repeatedly come up when talking to clients:
- Is automating some IT tasks and enabling those outside of IT to create software and intelligently manage IT infrastructure, an alternative to the traditional IT services performed by human employees?
- Should we talk about the impact of robotic process automation on IT jobs in terms of a “job killer”?
- Is RPA a burdensome project that will create extra work and thereby take its toll on the existing resources?
These are all natural questions that may worry IT professionals because there are quite a few myths surrounding RPA, like the fact that the configuration of RPA requires strong coding skills, RPA is incompatible with underlying computer systems, it’s invasive, it forces an “either or” choice between business and IT, and it doesn’t fit with existing governance structures — none of which are true.
Read on if you’d like to find out more about how robotic process automation can positively impact IT operations.
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In order to increase its economic efficiency, the main target of RPA providers is to facilitate the two most costly stages of RPA deployment, design & development and maintenance. To this end, in the maturation process various solutions will be pursued, such as the simplification of RPA programming (in accordance with the no-code RPA tendency), or the development of self-learning and cognitive automation.
Leveraging Natural Language Processing (NLP), Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and machine learning will broaden the category of automatable processes. The RPA application areas will expand beyond support functions to more complex operations such as end-to-end customer service with chatbots, performance of KYC checks over handwritten customer input or scanned documents. For instance, VentureBeat predicts that throughout 2019, up to a fifth of service desk operations will be eliminated by integrating RPA, chatbot technologies and cognitive systems.
With this trend towards RPA becoming more intelligent, sophisticated, and more widely applicable, it will most likely also be used to improve the performance levels of IT departments, despite professionals’ skepticism that it be nothing more than Macros. We thus argue that robotic process automation will change IT operations as it matures over 2019.
But what do we actually talk about when we talk about IT automation? To put it briefly, it refers to the use of software tools to manage the IT tasks in a business environment with minimal intervention from the part of IT administrators. In what follows, we’ll put some flesh on the bones of this generic description by introducing 8 concrete RPA use cases for IT.
Real world use cases of IT automation
Use of RPA to change IT operations amounts to increasing process quality, reducing service delivery time and Mean Time to Restore, enhancing the productivity of IT resources, and, as a consequence of all of the above, ensuring an overall improvement of operational efficiency. In the list below, you can find both back- and front-end processes.
1. Backup and patch management
These are routine, repetitive tasks that require meticulous handling without necessarily leaving employees who perform them manually with a sense of fulfillment or job satisfaction (on the contrary!). However, your business cannot do without them. So this is a typical kind of process that can be removed from employees’ shoulders and assigned to RPA technology.
2. Password resets
Requests for password resets are repeatable, have a typical and consistent structure, and few exceptions. Consequently, the process is a prime candidate for automation. All that’s needed is to provide software robots with specific templates (request, acknowledgment, etc.), and with access to the IT service management (ITSM) tool for active directory activities.
The next step is to set apart urgent from non-urgent requests, and allow bots to deal with the latter category. By logging into the Citrix app, bots can simply change the password, send the new one to the user, and change the request status to “solved”. UiPath provides an informative case study about the whys and wherefores of automating password reset requests. Their result was a reduction of handling time to 12 minutes per request, which means that the company was able to save 1 FTE per month.
3. User management
Leveraging bots in the IT department to handle activities like account creation, email address creation, etc. crosses over the benefits into the HR unit. Upon collecting user profile information for account creation, software robots equipped with access to email exchanges and the ITSM tool, can use that information structured in accordance with the HR templates and generate a service request.
You can see the automation of employee ID creation, and how it works, in the RPA Pilot video that UiPath did for BMW’s HR department.
Similarly to (2) above, bots first pass on the exceptions to the global service desk staff and validate the non-urgent requests. They can then handle the creation of a new user account based on the End of Day report. They set up an exchange account, provide the default access credentials, notify the HR about resolving the request, and change its status to “solved”. Finally, when the service desk decides that everything works as it should, they close the case.
4. Sending user notifications
Having to manually send hundreds of email notifications daily can seriously disrupt the workflow. The good part about the user notification processes is that they are carried out by means of predetermined rules applied to structured information, so end-to-end automation (via unattended robots) is a viable option.
A task scheduler can trigger a bot to log into the ITSM tool to pick up the pending cases and run the needed reports (e.g., send emails tailored to user preferences, send audit reports, update ticket status). As in the previous use cases, when exceptions occur, they are dispatched to service desk employees. Automation decreases processing times, improves service quality, and allows employees to concentrate on higher value tasks.