Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that allows us to configure a software ‘robot’ to emulate the actions of a human interacting with a computer system. The robots are really just software programs that are typically installed on a user’s desktop System that can then record and then playback the actions of people, with some intelligence\AI thrown in.
The Camunda Platform is a complete process automation tech stack with powerful execution engines for BPMN workflows and DMN decisions paired with essential modeling, operations, and analytics applications.
How does RPA tie into a workflow, which typically has multiple roles working together?
For example, you might have someone who opens an email with the subject line “Request,” looks for the word “Invoice Number'' in the body of the email, copies that invoice number, looks it up in another system, and marks it as ‘paid.’ An RPA robot could do that 24/7, with no breaks, interruptions, or inconsistencies.
Let’s take an example. Imagine that Allan starts the process of opening and parsing the Excel File described above. Then Barry does another set of steps once the invoice is marked as Paid. And perhaps Charlie conducts an audit for all invoices over $50,000. Now you’ve got three roles working together to achieve a task. That’s a process, or, if you prefer, a workflow.
Don’t RPA tools already have a workflow capacity? And if so, why do I need a process engine?
This answer is two-dimensional.
First, while those tools have a workflow modeling capacity, those capacities are not nearly as mature as what you can articulate with a BPM engine like Camunda. You don’t want to paint yourself into a corner like that.
RPA robots are, by definition, fragile. Going back to the example above, if someone were to change the Excel sheet format that Allan receives, the entire workflow would break down. To really do this the right way, you’d want to write an integration to whatever system was used to generate that excel sheet and use that as the input source, so you don't have to deal with cosmetic variance.
Writing that integration for all the steps would take a lot of time, right?
Absolutely! It might take 3-6 months before you’re done with the technical work, not to mention the political jiu-jitsu required to get access to all the systems you want. So, in the meantime, the smart money uses RPA to automate Allan, Barry, and Charlie’s work, sets a BPM process to choreograph those Bots, and concurrently writes the connect to your integrations ‘the right way’ so you can eventually replace the Bots.
Use RPA to realize value from automation quickly
Camunda actually has a pretty excellent white paper on this topic, linked in the comments. I don’t agree with every point they’ve made, and I know they might not agree with every point I’ve made, but it’s an insightful, thoughtful read written by smart people.
What are the Top 5 things to know when combining RPA and Camunda?
This podcast discusses 5 things you need to be aware of as “Best Practices” when combining RPA and Camunda. Stuart and Max discuss the need for BPM-driven overall process control, integrations, RPA limitations, long/short term benefits of combining the two technologies.