RPA: A fast track to legacy software integrations
Long-standing enterprises have deep roots, and entangled in those roots is their legacy software. Years of critical information and processes live on those solutions, making them essential to operations and seemingly irreplaceable.
But businesses must grow and change shape over time. This evolution necessitates new digital tools, many of which will not integrate well with grandfathered-in software. In response, enterprises often feel corralled into one of three ways forward, each more unfavorable than the last:
- Replace: A time-intensive, costly, disruptive replacement or rewrite of your legacy systems.
- Custom API integration: Develop hooks which code integrations between legacy solutions, re-executing quality, risk management and certification efforts.
- Data-entry integration: Make it a person’s job to manually migrate data from one solution to another, over and over again.
Until recently, these seemed to be the only options. However, there is a fourth way, and it’s significantly less disruptive, less expensive and less tedious than the others.
Robotic process automation, or RPA, involves using software robots to interface with existing front-end infrastructure. These bots mimic the behavior of the aforementioned third option, so no human has to be subjected to the manual tedium of repetitive, painstaking data migrations.
Critically, no underlying infrastructure overhauls are necessary for RPA bots to interface with existing APIs since they interact with front-end UI. This means no CAPEX to redesign IT infrastructure, and no back-and-forth coding to manually build and rebuild integrations with new tools. The incredible ability to behave in an API-agnostic manner makes these bots the perfect intermediaries between the new and the old.
That brings us to how the integrations between the new and the old happen, which is quite simple.
The first option is to teach bots to extract data out of the legacy system from the newer software. Alternatively, they can be conditioned to infuse, or push, data from the legacy software to other tools. The actual order of operations is less important than ensuring that your mission-critical software is always being powered by the most up-to-date data, so that you can compete effectively in your market.
To that end, bots will perpetually and accurately perform this ongoing data-entry migration so no critical information falls through the cracks.
Rather than uprooting the foundation of your business operations, bots allow you to bring your applications and processes together without significant IT investment. This is crucial not only in terms of cost, but also continuity. This deferment circumvents disruption of your operations. Simultaneously, it buys you more time to evolve for the long term.
Enterprises with legacy processes need to evolve, and RPA frees up the resources they need to do so gradually.
Case in point, integration woes have plagued manufacturing for years now. Nevertheless, a monolithic reconstruction of IT infrastructure isn’t viable, according to the Harvard Business Review:
“It’s not about starting from a clean sheet of paper but integrating efficiently within the existing design and manufacturing environment.”
RPA is the enabler of those efficient integrations, regardless of the industry in question. It holds the door to digital evolution open while you plan your next step. It’s about having better processes now, so you can evolve gradually and without whiplash.