CIO forum explores the future with robotic process automation


1The recently concluded CIO Forum held at the Kingsbury saw the country’s top chief innovation officers gather to learn the latest advancements in the field of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and its applications. As discussed and debated at the forum, these new paradigm shifts in IT automation have widespread disruptive implications for the local market that can revolutionize certain aspects of business and the allocation of human resources.

The forum, titled ‘Software Robots – friend or foe? The choice is yours’, was organized by the Computer Society of Sri Lanka (CSSL) and the Federation of Information Technology Industry Sri Lanka (FITIS) with VirtusaPolaris coming on board as the main sponsor.

Delivering the keynote at the forum Chandika Mendis, the global head of Engineering at VirtusaPolaris,with over 20 years of experience in the industry and a key architect of the company’s own RPA system Accello, explained that, while manufacturing processes have undergone several stages of optimization through automation the same has not happened in the services industry. It is this latest reality that has given rise to a new trend.

“A lot of repetitive work that needs to be done in banking, insurance, telco, and financial services in general currently need to be done by humans because their IT systems have not kept pace with the increasing complexity of their industry,” said Chandika.

“What software robots do is they undertake this work that is usually structured and rule-based. These capabilities are now getting complemented with cognitive capabilities due to the advances in Artificial Intelligence.  Ultimately, the application for RPA is widespread and disruptive from simple data entry to customer relationship management,” he added.

As Sri Lanka stands on the precipice of the next digital revolution RPA is fast finding itself as the driver of rapid industrial growth. According to Transparency Market Research IT the RPA market is forecasted to grow at a combined annual growth rate (CAGR) of 60.5% reaching $4.9 billion globally by 2020.

Despite this Chandika does not believe RPAs will replace business process management (BPM) or eliminate the need for traditional IT systems.

“Actually, RPA does not eliminate the need for the systems we have today. The challenges we face with those systems is the basis for change. RPA allows software robots to replace repetitive steps done by human operators using the same interfaces used by them without involving complex middleware and IT integrations. This makes RPA implementations very rapid and close to business, and deliver tangible ROI very quickly and at much lower cost,” he added.

The key note was followed by a presentation by Chamindra De Silva who heads strategic initiatives at the global technology office at VirtusaPolaris.

Chamindra, another forerunner of innovation and large scale engineering transformations for VirtusaPolaris’s Fortune 500 clients, enlightened the audience on the process of technical business consultation when selecting a business process to be automated using RPA.

“Robotic Process Automation is ideal for those processes that are repetitive, time consuming, that need to be scaled up quickly and need to interact with the same sources or systems mimicking human operators,” said Chamindra, who walked the audience through the process of identifying and prioritizing high value targets for Robotic Process Automation.

He added, “Businesses can reap the benefits of dramatically improved cost savings, higher productivity and reduced cycle times, as well asless human errors and time to market.”

Chandika was joined on stage by Keith Modder – Chief Operating Officer, VirtusaPolaris; Thilak Piyadigama – Chief Operating Officer, Nations Trust Bank; and Dr. Arul Sivagananathan – Managing Director, Hayleys Industrial Solutions, for a lively panel discussion moderated by Fayaz Hudah that explored the applications of RPA and its future.

Continued investment in RPA and recent breakthroughs in cognitive RPA, which is overcoming the gaps of traditional RPA, are helping businesses reap cost benefits and rapidly improve processes to be better equipped in a highly competitive market.