If ServiceNow had a robotic process automation (RPA) fan club, I’d run for president. After seeing firsthand how an RPA-driven bot can improve productivity, I’m a firm believer in this technology.
Not long ago, I was assigned a new project for my team: Use RPA to enhance data integration and management of our highly complex configure, price, quote (CPQ) system and processes, which our sales team uses to generate product configurations and pricing.
With my fingers crossed, I triggered my first unattended bot by sending an email to its Outlook account. I left for my lunch break, expecting the bot to take some time to extract and validate lengthy JSON payloads of data. As I headed out the door, an email notification alerted me that the bot had successfully imported and validated the data for CPQ.
Most people might be upset about cutting their lunch break short. I was ecstatic that the bot uploaded product data in record time. In only 15 minutes, it had completed a task that typically took anywhere from a day to a week, depending on the amount of product data involved. The bot accurately updated our highly complex system, required no human involvement, and saved our team hours of manual effort. I was sold.
My first bot took about four weeks to develop, with two of those weeks dedicated to designing a prototype as part of a proof of concept. I spent the additional two weeks building the first bot—without writing a single line of code.
ServiceNow RPA Desktop Design Studio helped me navigate webpages using user interface (UI) elements, manipulate Excel data, access Outlook to send emails, and make API calls to communicate with other systems. I easily connected these different RPA components to build an automated process that met our requirements.
With the use of RPA Hub, the bot is scheduled to check an Outlook inbox every 30 minutes for an email with the subject line of “Product Payload.” Once the email is received, the bot is triggered to begin the unattended process. It captures the product data attached to the email, including product relationships, attributes, and lifecycle data. It then validates the data and updates and inserts it across seven tables in CPQ.
Once the automation runs, the bot alerts the user via email that the process is complete and the newly uploaded data is ready for final validation. RPA’s error-handling feature notifies users if any issues arise or manual intervention is needed. From updating and inserting product data to managing intricate table relationships, RPA eliminates much of the drudgery of data integration.
RPA technology is modular, like Lego blocks. It’s easy to reuse RPA activities in other bot processes, making it simple to build and update new bots as you grow your fleet. For example, we were able to reuse most of the original flow to simplify data imports and exports with apps from companies such as SAP, Celonis, and Lightstep.
With every bot we create, we’re able to significantly reduce our development time. An RPA highlight for me was creating bots in less than 30 minutes by combining existing modules from past projects.
RPA shines when automating complex, UI-based processes with a definite, traceable pattern that can be implemented using a set of instructions. Unlike traditional automation, which uses preprogrammed functions to carry out tasks, RPA can mimic human clicks using UI screen captures and carry out an existing series of manual tasks. All I needed was a laptop running Windows and time to experiment with the new tool. I quickly discovered it was intuitive and simple to use.
Our journey to RPA started with a challenge: speeding up the original process for gathering and validating large data sets. We wanted to remove the manual tasks that delayed process completion and bogged down team members with high-volume, tedious, repetitive work.
We debated whether to build a new tool and design a new data integration process. Doing so would have required a significant investment of time and resources we didn’t have. Instead, we opted to try RPA technology to streamline the tasks of our existing process.
I can’t recommend RPA enough for simplifying workflows and automating time-consuming, UI-based interactions. By bringing new efficiencies to our processes, RPA has significantly reduced our typical cycle times from a couple of days to under an hour.
We’ve automated more than 50 monthly CPQ product data uploads, thanks to RPA, and that number continues to grow. Our team has deployed eight bots already and plans to launch more.
The biggest benefit of RPA is the impact on my team’s productivity. With fewer tedious tasks, my colleagues have more time to focus on more interesting work. For me personally, that extra time means I can now campaign for RPA club president.
Find out more about the benefits of RPA. Ready to start building your own bots? Check out this introductory RPA course.
© 2023 ServiceNow, Inc. All rights reserved. ServiceNow, the ServiceNow logo, Now, and other ServiceNow marks are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of ServiceNow, Inc. in the United States and/or other countries. Other company names, product names, and logos may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated.