Project management

RPA in project management: a threat or an opportunity?


Füsun Borluk, who graduated from the Mathematics Department of Middle East Technical University in 1994, has held various positions in leading institutions in Turkey such as Yapı Kredi Bank, Akbank, Turkcell Superonline and in the world such as BNP Paribas Cardif and Johnson Controls within it. career in information technology. Starting with Systems Engineering, she specialized in Project Management, Information Technology Quality and Governance, Nearshore/Offshore Resource and Project Management, and Holistic Technology Service Management. some information. She worked as an internal trainer on various topics in almost all the institutions she worked for. She is currently working as a Group Manager responsible for Agile Transformation, Project Management, Robotic Processes and Quality at AgeSA.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is one of the latest trends for businesses. It automates structured, repeatable and rule-based processes and thus makes life easier by reducing time and cost and eliminating human errors i.e. with increased efficiency and productivity. According to some forecasts, 72% of companies are expected to invest in RPA in the next few years. There may be a matter of difference between macros or scripted solutions and RPA. Unlike macros or traditional software tools that handle simplified basic processes, RPA software solutions automate complex tasks. At the same time, RPA can interact with multiple applications simultaneously and perform multiple functions at once by interacting with them. So calling it one of the foundational technologies wouldn’t be an overstatement.

However, sometimes employees may not think of it as a lifesaver, in fact, it is sometimes seen as a threat of job cuts. Most of the time, RPA bots free up the employee’s time for development or more useful activities, but there isn’t always a different role.

Another risk of bots is that although there is great temptation to reduce costs, increase productivity and efficiency, there may be an unrealistic expectation. Think thousands of bots, it can get more complex than most had hoped. There is no direct correlation between automation rate and cost reduction.

Now, the second part of this subject is project management. A very special role, managing the project with impact. I always see projects as an organization and therefore the project manager as the CEO of that organization. There are many aspects to consider: budget, people, time, strategy, risks, quality, supplier…etc., like a business. Therefore, a project manager must adapt daily to sudden and total changes, like a superhero or a multitasking assistant.

So, with all of this on the table, can RPA help project management activities reduce time and costs and increase efficiency? Also, there are other parameters such as machine learning, cognitive computing, pattern matching, artificial intelligence which is not just bots but brings intelligence into the equation. So, is this a threat or an opportunity for Project Management?

Of course, at the moment, the answer is no. As I have already talked about the role of a project manager, whenever the job of CEO would be automated, there could be a possibility.

The most important reason is that project management is not just about processes or rules, but also about risks, issues, changes, and humans. So it’s not very well structured even though we all use certain methodologies. It is not repeatable; each project has a different story. We always collect lessons learned after each project; however, can we use it verbatim? So how can we produce rules that can be made by bots? Especially after Agile has taken so much place in our lives. Agile says “people and interactions over processes and tools”

But that doesn’t mean we can’t use RPA in project management. The thing is, we can’t replace a project manager or an Agile leader as a Scrum Mater or whatever, with a bot. We can only assign certain repeatable tasks to bots rather than humans in project management. Data-driven progress management, resource planning, real-time reporting, follow-ups, and closing activities are the first examples that come to mind. Structuring website forms for requirements gathering is just another good example of using RPA. Verifying the functionality of user interface elements, data entry, process flows, API calls, integration and system response by means of RPA is called test automation, which helps to properly manage time rather than manual testing. Especially in Agile sprints, testing or supporting a prototype or pilot project would significantly increase the cost of the project.

Supporting customers through chatbots is another best practice to use. RPA is integrated into intelligent systems that include features such as text analytics, sentiment analysis, and natural language processing. This allows companies to have responsive chatbots, which is important especially in the maintenance phase of projects.

Therefore, for me, RPA cannot be a threat to a project manager, but rather a great supporter who gives more time to communication, which is a key aspect of the role.

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