RPA: A practical alternative to integrate systems

The growth of disparate applications being used by businesses has resulted in process inefficiencies and software integration challenges.

APIs have traditionally stood out as an integration solution, however due to their complexity and high cost businesses have been reluctant to act. RPA (Robotic Process Automation) has now emerged as a cost-effective alternative to system integration.

The proliferation of applications within businesses – large organisations having between 1,500 and 2,000  is inevitable as organisations embrace digital transformation and cloud solutions to add operational efficiencies. However, hosting multiple applications can also deliver inefficiencies when applications are not integrated ensuing in additional cost and risk to the business.

The ability to integrate systems has become paramount within organisations, and APIs (Application Programming Interface) has become a popular solution in the last 5 -10 years despite being complex and costly. In this article, we introduce RPA (Robotic Process Automation) as a simpler and cost-effective alternative to connect systems and create seamless processes.

Human Resources – An example

The HR function has evolved over recent years with expanded responsibility across payroll, recruitment, wellbeing and culture. Because of this evolution bespoke applications have been implemented to keep up the demands of the HR role.

Employees’ accurate data is needed across but systems are frequently not connected as legacy payroll applications are outdated –~43% of HR payroll systems are > 7 years and on-premise – and do not include APIs within them which demand high volume of manual data entry. This approach increases the risk of human errors and compliance, and time and resource wasted in delivering low value work.

Considering APIs vs. RPA

APIs are a robust and permanent solution; nonetheless businesses are reluctant to implement due to their unavailability in the native applications or the high costs of programming. With the rise of RPA and its swivel chair capability, these constraints are being removed and the data transfer across systems is becoming quicker, cheaper and easier.

It is important to clarify that RPA is not necessarily a replacement for APIs, but an alternative to be considered under certain scenarios. The below table depicts the considerations you should take when deciding what technology to use to integrate systems:

Considerations

API

RPA

Objective

  • Multiple systems are required to be fully integrated
  • Integration needs to happen in real-time
  • Specific datasets need to be transferred across systems
  • Data integration or transfer does not need to be in real-time

Availability

  • API connectors are available in systems. New cloud applications are usually built with APIs incorporated within them
  • API connectors are not available. Legacy systems are typically not built with APIs

Costs

  • Costs to develop, implement and maintain APIs
  • Costs to develop, implement and maintain robots.

 The total cost is usually lower than the   deployment of APIs

Time

  • There are no critical risks associated with the disparity of systems, and API development can wait
  • A quick fix is required due to the risks associated with the lack of integration

Functionality

  • Systems’ functions and data are required to be integrated
  • The exchange of data is the only requirement

Systems

  • Suitable for applications that undergo constant updates
  • Applications need to be stable as robots are vulnerable to systems changes

Key use cases of RPA as an integration tool

Payroll:

  • Timesheets: Transfer of employees’ timesheets from the rostering to the payroll system. This integration ensures that employees are paid accurately for the time worked and on time.
  • Employee status and data updates: RPA can facilitate the movement of employees’ data such as termination dates, salary changes or contact details on the HR system to the payroll system. The data transfer can be triggered by pre-set events or scheduled prior to initiation of payroll activities.

Supply Chain:

  • Transport management: When freight is outsourced having real-time and accurate information regarding the shipment is crucial to plan warehousing activities and improve customer service. RPA robots can be utilised to obtain shipment information from freight providers’ sites to update inventory or sales applications.
  • Inventory reconciliation: RPA robots can integrate inventory systems across multiple locations to consolidate and reconcile inventory under one system.

Procurement:

  • Supplier master data: Keeping suppliers’ information up to date and cleansing is one of the main challenges’ procurement teams face. If your organisation has implemented a vendor management system and suppliers’ information is being gathered on this platform, any updates must be reflected on the Accounts Payable (AP) system too to ensure invoice payments and analysis of invoice data is accurate.

Empowering Possible

Aquiliti uses the latest technologies and innovations to empower possibilities. We have worked with various clients to automate processes that humans do not enjoy doing including manual data entry and reconciliation of data due to the lack of integration between systems. The benefits go beyond cost savings, and include 100% accuracy of information, increased employee productivity and improved customer satisfaction.

Contact us to discuss the potential of RPA as a tool to integrate data across your systems.



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