RPA in Action: Building Robots Live at SIG

David BrainBlog

During the 2017 SIG Global Summit in Amelia Island, Florida, Symphony was tasked with configuring and deploying a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) robot from scratch in front of a live audience of over 400 people. The team was tasked with automating part of Honda’s talent acquisition process within two days. Symphony Co-founder and COO David Brain explains how this unprecedented, technical feat played out.

Over a glass of wine at the Acresis founder’s summit, Dawn Tiura (CEO and President of SIG) offered me a unique challenge: to show what exactly is involved in automating a process, by doing so on stage over the span of a two-day conference. I was delighted to accept, or at least I was that evening. The next morning, the challenge set in.

The Plan

The mission was to configure an RPA robot from scratch over 28 hours in front of attendees at the SIG Global Summit. We would be automating part of Honda’s Human Resources talent acquisition management process. To spice things up, we decided upon a few rules:

  • No reuse of pre-built components
  • No shortcuts in either documentation or approach
  • Permitted preparatory process capture and mapping
  • All configuration had to be done onsite
  • The process must be automated end-to-end

Among the integrated systems to be used were PeopleSoft, PeopleTicker, Sharepoint, Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Excel. Symphony would perform the process configuration using the Blue Prism RPA toolkit, using both PeopleTicker and Denali Sourcing Services to source hiring and job data.
Our team was composed of Symphony Co-founder and CSO, Ian Barkin, Americas Operations Director, Eleas Wilson, and two of our talented consultants, Eric Gustafson and Nida Ul-Hasan.

David Brain Answering Q&A at SIG Summit

RPA in Action

On the day of the event, we immediately got to work. First, the mapped processes were validated by our team in the early morning. Then we headed the introductory keynote and Q&A session with Dawn and Bill Harris of Honda, before kicking off the configuration work using Blue Prism. Attendees were free to come by the ‘Configuration Lab’ we had stationed outside, where our process maps were on display and the team was hard at work.

There, we configured the connections to each of the five systems we were automating and mapped the screen elements. Next, we started to build the actions that we would then need to string together to create the business objects. Then, we built the business processes in Process Studio. To handle any system or process exceptions, we made sure to build in resilience and exception handling. Since our consultants had to rest at some point and time was tight, we had our Krakow Robotic Operating Center (ROC) team take over at various points and while we slept.

There were a few obstacles we had to overcome throughout this challenge. For instance, we were unable to get access to a non-production PeopleSoft environment to automate so we had to build another web application to mimic those steps. Also, frighteningly, hours before running the live process our Robot got locked out of PeopleTicker for processing too many checks in 24 hours.

Frankenstein

It’s Alive!

And then came the grand reveal… “IT’S ALIVE!” These were the words that came to mind as we unveiled the creation of our two-day, end-to-end, RPA ‘Robot’ in front of the 400 event attendees. While, to some at least, the creation may not be as dramatic as the creation of the creature depicted in Mary Shelly’s classic novel (I accept that), it did come with the same sense of relief and accomplishment for those involved as it fired up and started working seamlessly.

SIG Summit Speakers Lined Up

Takeaways

This was no Proof of Concept, with only a few steps automated, but a complex end-to-end process that integrated three company applications and five systems. It was composed of 73 steps, 12 decision points, 25 Blue Prism Process Pages, and 122 Blue Prism Object Layers. The process completion time was cut from around 2 days as-is to just 2 minutes per case when automated. So, despite the minor obstacles, it ended up being a very successful implementation and a powerful demonstration of the potential of RPA. It was also a great opportunity to show attendees the entire configuration process, from mapping to testing phases, and interact with them throughout each stage. We are very grateful to SIG for offering such a unique challenge and proud of our team for pulling through on it.

During the session, there was a great series of questions and answers that David Brain participated in. You can catch a glimpse of the 7 most pressing questions and answers in the following blog post.

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