Old RPA and Integrations
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is still a fast-growing IT area as it is easy to understand and brings benefits of automation with ease. Integration platforms that connect data between systems are a mature area, yet still a must-have in today's heterogeneous system landscape.
Both - integration platforms as a service (iPaaS) and RPA tools can do process automation. In RPA, there is no need to understand the actual process or include the tedious work of digging the API specs from third-party line-of-business applications. Just copy the actions humans have done and automate them. For the past years, IT departments, that get to upkeep the RPA solutions often bought directly by business people, have been suffering from this error-prone approach. Recordings fail from any outbound change like OS update or slightest internal change in the code of a SaaS UI. Recording can still do tasks that integration platforms cannot, like accessing legacy systems without proper business APIs.
The future of RPA is Hyperautomation
A lot of debate between analysts and automation specialists also concerns the future of RPA. The joint agreement is something more than mere recording automation. Automation gets more intelligent and can replace human decision-making. Gartner describes hyperautomation to be a combination of RPA, intelligent business management software and AI. At frends, we think it is a combination of a robust and powerful orchestration and integration abilities of an integration platform like frends iPaaS and recording skills of RPA tools. Pour in some machine learning to make decisions that humans did and use AI to automatically read documents like invoices within the process. Voilá - you've got hyperautomation or intelligent process automation (IPA), as Forrester calls it. I chose the name Gartner uses - hyperautomation - just because it doesn't get mixed with Indian Pale Ale - IPA. I describe the concept of hyperautomation and hyperautomation platform in my earlier blog that you can find here.
The image above illustrates an API with the full low-code implementation of the process orchestration.
The future of integration platform is Digital Integration Hub.
Digitalization has been on everyone's lips for years. The COVID-19 situation made it even more important to have a digital channel and automated backbone for your business. Quite often, enterprises have old and new systems. Some still sit in the shadows of on-premises hosting environments, and some rely on a cloud platform. Integrating the data and processes between these have been the job of hybrid integration platforms. Of course, all modern ones are implemented "as-a-service" and are called integration platform-as-a-service or ipaas. Some ipaas have more enterprise-grade capabilities and services like 24/7 support with SLA. Those are called enterprise ipaas or eipaas. iPaaS includes the ability to implement API and publish them. Integration platforms also have API management capabilities in how to authorize, secure and even monetize them. Integrators develop, publish and manage APIs on top of ipaas. These APIs are quite often business functions like "receiveOrder" or "getCustomerInformation". These APIs are used by digital channels like mobile apps or websites. Nowadays, ipaas remove the need for an additional cloud backbone for digital solutions.
What happens when we gather the customer data from an on-premise CRM and add something to it from some other legacy systems and publish it as an OpenAPI for a mobile app to use?
We get a coupled system. Assuming that our mobile app is used by thousands of people, we can easily congest the underlying legacy systems and halt them by the mere quantum of requests. Gartner presented and old solution with a new name: Digital Integration Hub. Practically it removes this coupledness between API and the legacy system they connect to by adding and fast data storage between them. In frends digital integration hub, we use visually defined processes to pump data back and forth from this intermediate data storage. This protects the underlying legacy systems from too many concurrent requests they were never designed to handle. You can read more about the digital integration hub from here.
Hyperautomation and Digital Integration Hub - Hyper DIH.
Why not broaden the thinking to whole processes and how they, for example, trigger from an API call by mobile app or website? For example, a municipality may have a web form that citizen fills out as an application. The API built on top of an integration platform is where this application is posted from the website or mobile app. In frends, we have combined the APIs into hyperautomation. The API and the process it starts is are one single monitorable process with full audit trail capabilities for each executed instance. In the situation when the API will be exposed to a massive amount of requests, we use the digital integration hub approach to uncouple the old system from the heavily used API. The API's logical process is developed with the same visual low-code language that the whole process automated is orchestrated with. And unlike competing RPA tools, frends uses standard BPMN2.0 notation for defining the orchestration and the logic of API itself. Within the frends orchestration, a ready-made machine learning engine may decide how to approve the application or reject it based on continuous learning. This is now the whole process: it starts from the app or website -both can utilize the same API. The entire process may be automated to the approval or rejection of the application. Now let your imagination fly: the same concept can be a loan application, taxi order, purchase order with the whole invoicing process, and more.
There is no need to use a stack of separate tools to create a full API enabled process automation. One pervasive iPaaS can do the job. The recording may still be a part of the orchestration as frends can easily command UiPath robots. You can use the right tool for the need and build the whole automation from the very point it starts with Hyperautomation Digital Integration Hub - or Hyper-DIH.