Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has really gone through the roof in recent years and is often used synonymously with process automation. RPA promises to be easy to implement and scalable, as well as adding value in many business areas and industries. RPA is based on so-called bots, i.e. software robots that emulate human clicks and can thus execute processes independently.
RPA is classically used for interface automation. This means that clicking, tapping or moving the mouse to interact with an application are automated. The special feature here is that RPA does not require software interfaces. However, this is exactly where the RPA alternative comes into play: iPaaS.
iPaaS as an RPA alternative
IPaaS is a competing technology of RPA and works slightly differently: instead of mimicking actions on an interface, the RPA alternative transfers the data processed in one software to another software via the existing interfaces. Alternatively, another action can be triggered in the same application. This creates automated business processes and independent workflows.
IPaaS offers a number of advantages over RPA. Bluntly put, RPA enables numerous complex individual developments, especially of on-premise but also of cloud software. This means that even your self-hosted ERP system can be automated thanks to RPA and thus execute processes and transfer data.
IPaaS, on the other hand, works in a modular way: Different tools are linked together and individualised thanks to numerous filters, functions and dependencies. The interfaces provided by the software used are the key to success. Simply put, with the RPA alternative, only the applications that are already available are linked.
The most significant advantages of this are:
iPaaS requires less time for development and setup
In addition, the RPA alternative is cheaper, as no individual developments are necessary.
Automations with iPaaS can be more easily adapted to changing processes
It doesn't matter how much data is being processed, iPaaS grows with you so you can scale your business.
Using RPA as an alternative - automating processes without RPA
The approach to automation is very similar whether you use RPA or an alternative technology. The following 5 steps are intended to show you what you need to consider when you want to automate business processes. Basically, take a strategic approach and define processes clearly and efficiently.
1. determine which processes are to be automated
Most of the time, the processes for automation arise by themselves, as if they were imposing themselves. But how? Think about the five processes in your company that are necessary and essential for long-term survival, but also time- and resource-intensive. This is where you should start if you want to use an RPA alternative. And then there is perhaps the most important question:
Is it a fully digital process? If not, digitisation is the first and most important step. Because without it, it doesn't work.
Once you have identified these processes, we move on to the next step:
2) Use automation by standardising processes.
As mentioned earlier, recurring and standardised processes are ideal candidates for process automation. However, this standardisation does not come out of nowhere. It is a goal that is strived for and implemented at some point. Especially processes that have been in place for a long time can seem chaotic at first. Standardisation is inevitable not only in the context of automation, but also in the context of business process management.
In our opinion, this step should not be neglected. It is not unusual for a process to be examined so thoroughly for the first time in a long time. Weaknesses that have been hidden for years come to the fore and should be fixed. Automating processes also means standardising processes.
3. software selection
Most likely you are already using one or more software solutions to support the previously identified and standardised processes. Emails, databases, a CRM, your website, an ERP system, shop systems and a variety of other tools can be used. These need to be considered. Are they cloud-based? If so, there is a good chance that they have a programming interface. And it is precisely these interfaces that determine whether a process can be automated or not.
Of course, it is possible that the software will prove inadequate and need to be updated, or that new software will be introduced at this point. Another advantage of iPaaS becomes clear at this point: it builds on SaaS (Software as a Service) applications. What exactly does that mean?
Not only are they all cloud-based (and usually have a user-friendly interface), but there are also different pricing options: Depending on the desired scope and criteria, different packages can be booked flexibly. For example, you may need the smallest and thus cheapest software package now, but in a few months or years you may need the larger one. In this way, you only pay for the functions you actually need.
4. process automation thanks to RPA alternative
All right, you have completed all the previous steps and are now ready for process automation. If the processes run digitally, are well standardised and you have made a suitable software selection, then this step is no longer the biggest one.
Because now the defined processes are digitally reproduced and linked. However, this is not done via individual developments, as with RPA, but via automation platforms. These provide us with an interface on which the interfaces can be linked without programming.
Two of them are Zapier and Make. They allow you to create autonomous processes and exchange your data automatically. The best thing is that you can test both applications free of charge and get an overview yourself. The RPA alternatives are also suitable for people without programming knowledge. Start now with Make.
5. use automation in the long term
All the effort you've put in so far would be for nothing if your automations don't last in the long term. This is where the previously mentioned advantage of iPaaS comes into play: your automations grow with you and your company. When you enter a growth phase, it's no problem. You simply book the next bigger package for your CRM and everything continues as before.
Scaling is the key word here. And that's exactly what process automation with iPaaS offers: a long-term solution for standardisation and automation that relieves you of work in many places and executes your digital processes independently.
In this context, RPA can be seen much more as an interim solution: Specially developed bots mimic human actions until the software is converted to cloud solutions and the interfaces are integrated. Thus, iPaaS is more future-proof as an RPA alternative in our eyes, although it does not yet receive the same attention.
Cloud Integration, iPaaS, SaaS, BPA… Ough, hard to keep track of all these terms. They are currently used frequently (and increasingly) in the context of automation, and it is sometimes difficult to make a clear distinction and distinction. We have already written blog posts on the terms iPaaS, SaaS and BPA, but we’ll take them up again here to make the difference.
But let’s start with cloud integration, because that’s the central umbrella term in which we embed all the other technologies in this blog post.
To illustrate these advantages, an example is suitable that we know well from our everyday work as an automation agency:
The central data to be used here is the data of a major customer. This can be the simplest information, such as the address. This address is required in numerous but completely different processes in the company: on the one hand, for correct invoicing in accounting. On the other hand, in the CRM system, where all the data of the large customer is also stored. But the address is also important in sales, for example, when employees go to the sales meeting on site.
Now the customer announces that the address of the company has changed after a move. This information will reach you by e-mail. There are now two options:
01. The e-mail is forwarded to all affected departments, accounting, sales, customer service, marketing… All persons open their corresponding program, CRM, accounting software, marketing tools (such as newsletter marketing) and change the data already stored there of the customer. This means that in multiple applications, different people do exactly the same thing: change one address. 02. But there is also an alternative: By connecting your applications, thus by integrizing them, the customer’s e-mail, or rather the information it contains about the address change, is automatically passed on to all affected applications: CRM, accounting, marketing, ERP. This does not require any clicks, because the cloud integration detects a trigger, i.e. address change, and thus automatically starts the process.
What sounds unimpressive in a single process becomes more effective when such a process occurs several times a day or weekly. Because there is a lot of data that is available in different applications and should always be correct. If these applications are cloud applications they are suitable for cloud integration.
But cloud integration doesn’t just happen. There are now a variety of applications that enable and implement this. Such tools usually allow us to link the relevant cloud applications on a central platform and define clear rules on when, how, where, how much data should be passed on and what happens to them.
IPaaS, SaaS, BPA, ABC – who can still see through it?
To realize cloud integration, there are various applications and technologies that are sometimes used interchangeably.
Cloud integration cannot be done without SaaS, iPaaS and BPA
Cloud integration is rather an umbrella term that includes numerous technologies, such as SaaS, iPaaS and BPA, and this is also absolutely necessary. Cloud integration is a concept that is made possible by appropriate technologies.
However, all terms share the commonality that they are cloud-based and thus offer enormous potential for growth and scaling. In addition, they are often cheaper to implement and maintain because changed requirements are easy to implement.
As an independent automation agency, we implement cloud integration according to your requirements. We use a variety of SaaS tools and iPaas (strictly speaking BPA) software. Together we find individual solutions that are flexible and scalable.