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Blue Prism 7 shifts focus from RPA to programmable digital workers

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Blue Prism, a pioneer provider of automation tools, announced a major overhaul last week as part of Blue Prism Version 7, which supports a new digital worker architecture and deeper cloud integration. This move highlights the company’s transition beyond robotic process automation (RPA) into the anticipated larger market for intelligent process automation tools.

The company saw 46% growth overall last year and 147% growth in demand for Blue Prism Cloud, its SaaS product.

“Scaling intelligent automation within the cloud and enabling increased demand will be the ultimate differentiator in a year of significant growth for the market,” Blue Prism CEO and chair Jason Kingdon told VentureBeat.

While other RPA vendors have aimed to improve the technical characteristics of RPA infrastructure, Blue Prism has focused on improving the programmability, manageability, and integration of RPA infrastructure.

Technical infrastructure efforts are important, as RPA’s original focus on making it easier to simulate user interaction with applications often incurred infrastructure scaling liabilities. Focus is shifting, however, as the major RPA vendors explore different approaches to scaling people’s ability to quickly create new automations with appropriate guardrails. That is key to Blue Prism’s recent efforts.

RPA puzzle: Task versus process

A pointed criticism of traditional approaches to RPA — despite what the name implies — has centered around their focus on automating tasks rather than processes.

“We looked at how to automate the process of programming not just tasks, but an entire digital workforce end-to-end, and that guided our redesign of Blue Prism’s platform for V7,” Kingdon said.

“Rather than in a bot constrained on every desktop, the future of RPA and intelligent automation is in centralized cloud platforms that seamlessly interconnect with all business systems, regardless of where or how they are deployed: on-prem, hybrid, or cloud.”

The company has also been shifting its description of these automations from “bots” to “digital workers.” This is not just a semantic revision. A traditional bot is a desktop automation that essentially copies and pastes data between apps. Blue Prism’s notion of a network of digital workers connotes more.

Blue Prism also made major improvements to Blue Prism Capture, its task capture tool. It uses machine vision to auto-generate screenshots, step descriptions, process data, and process flows from a process owner’s demonstration of an existing process.

A process expert further refines this into a process definition document (PDD) that is ready for developers. Kingdon estimates that this new implementation can reduce the time to produce a PDD by 25%, and he believes it can reduce this time 75% by the end of 2021.

Deeper cloud integration

Another key innovation is the release of the new Blue Prism Service Assist, which provides deeper integration into native AWS services like Amazon Connect (call center) and ElastiCache (data sharing). Blue Prism took a thoughtful approach around an architecture that could improve various call center workflows through a combination of attended and unattended automation.

Telefonica Spain used Service Assist to handle 3 times as many calls and reduce the average handling time by 80%.

To date, most RPA applications have focused on unattended automations running in the background. In contrast, attended automation focuses on how to run processes that augment human agents engaged with a customer. Service Assist makes it easier to multitask many digital workers in parallel in order to process work more quickly. It uses a centralized queue that intelligently orchestrates work across the digital workers, multiple inbound channels (calls, IVR, chatbots, and webforms), and systems of record or engagement (CRM, ERP, and ITSM).

One of the key innovations underneath this networked worker approach is a direct integration between AWS ElastiCache-based digital workers completing tasks in parallel and other AWS services. This makes it easier to kick off different processes simultaneously and coordinate communication through ElastiCache.

These data transfers also integrate with AWS’ own compliance tools to ensure each digital worker has visibility into the exact level of data required for efficient task completion, without creating consumption issues across the cloud. These and other updates provide a view of the path development may take as RPA evolves into intelligent process automation.

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