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How RPA Bots Help Chatbots Get Smarter

Imagine if process automation was a matter of simply typing what you want. Well, this just became a reality. At a recent hackathon, an NTT DATA team demonstrated an innovative approach that integrates RPA bots and chatbots. The result was a tool that freed users from time-consuming, repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on adding value while using natural conversation capabilities.

01 February 2022 • 3 min read

At a recent SAP Hackathon, NTT DATA Business Solutions and its NTT DATA sister company, everis, applied an innovative approach to existing technology – and won second place. The team integrated chatbot and RPA (Robotic Process Automation) bots in a solution that streamlined some of the administrative work that an HR colleague might face when onboarding new employees. The solution helped SAP discover new ways of running a process within SAP SuccessFactors, but it has use cases that go far beyond HR.

Conversational AI and Intelligent RPA integration

Chatbots are seemingly everywhere online. They’re a convenient tool for supporting users by answering questions and providing contextual help. RPA bots also serve important functions in today’s technological spaces. RPA bots automate repetitive, rule-based tasks, like certain kinds of data entry and search functions, for example. Though these are both familiar tools, integrated solutions that enable these bots to work together are uncommon.

For the hackathon, NTT DATA Business Solutions designed just such a solution. It enabled a chatbot – developed with SAP Conversational Artificial Intelligence – to trigger a series of RPA bots (using SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation, or IRPA) that automated tasks inside SAP SuccessFactors.

Those RPA bots generated lists of new hires, scheduled meetings for their continued onboarding and compiled relevant support documentation, among other things.

Our solution turned a number of previously time-consuming tasks (searching, scheduling meetings, preparing documentation) into duties that weren’t just automated but could be triggered through a single iteration with a chatbot agent. Everything could be accomplished from a single UI, requiring no specific commands or keystrokes to set the RPA bots in motion.

A first step towards intelligent applications

Solving monotonous, time-consuming administrative tasks is something that can bring value outside of HR and SAP. In an e-commerce setting, for example, such a solution could help streamline both the ordering and fulfillment processes by allowing users and customers to carry out transactions via a chatbot – then triggering the RPA bots to do their work in the background, such as filling out order forms, printing package slips and receipts or sending out email surveys to measure customer satisfaction. But e-commerce is only one example of the many potential use cases.

The result goes right to a company’s bottom line.

It doesn’t matter if it’s ERP, email, Word, Excel, or another application – these integrated bots can make a difference.

The result goes right to a company’s bottom line. By freeing users from mundane jobs, they’re free to focus on more high level duties. Doing so also reduces the possibility of human error, for example when filling out a work order. And let’s not forget the importance of user experience.

By removing mundane tasks from to-do lists, employees are able to focus on the areas where they feel they bring the most value. Their work lives, as a result, take on greater purpose. Working with purpose brings greater work satisfaction, productivity and happiness.

What’s the future for automation?

Already, there is wide potential for chatbot and RPA bot integration. The next step is to apply voice recognition and speech components. Such a step would free users from the need to be at a workstation altogether. It could also further enhance the user experience, as the vocal component brings a more personable, empathetic feel to the human-technology interface. As NTT DATA Business Solutions showed with its Kia Mia project, this voice-enabled technology already exists.

Chatbots and RPA bots are nothing new, but with the right approach existing technology can help solve daily challenges and tedious tasks. At the SAP hackathon, NTT DATA Business Solutions developed its solution in a short timeframe, relying on remote workers in three different countries, combining innovation with worker flexibility.

It was a big surprise how a distributed team could productively work together. But our Spanish, German and Russian colleagues supported each other throughout the competition, and we achieved a big result.

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