Project manager is probably one of the broadest terms ever conceived for an employed human. The practice is quite old: Henry Gantt developed his charts in 1917 and projects such as the Hoover Dam, Enigma encryption and atomic bomb were all developed using rudimentary, early project management principles and practicioners. Jacks of all trades and be-alls, these brave souls vary in range of responsibilities from templated, standard Scrum facilitators, to general “make it happen” guys and gals. While certainly rewarding, the job does entail a fair bit of stress and responsibility, especially if one aims to achieve success and proceed with their career.
RPA in Project Management
What does Robotic Process Automation have in common with PMs? Automation and management are not a direct pair, though there is a lot of overlap. The goal of project managers (the good ones) is to facilitate and enable. They are tasked with helping the team, expanding capabilities and removing barriers (at least in Agile: in distant times PMs were basically prison guards yelling about delays). Oftentimes issues with a project’s delivery lie in integrations, testing and plain old lack of time and money.
Imagine being a PM in a bog-standard IT project. Your team has delivered a working solution, fully audited and ready for deployment. JIRA Scum Board has 0 issues with type ‘Bug’, coffee is ready and pizza will arrive soon. Life is great, right?
Then one of your developers comes to you and says ‘Listen, the final phase of integration with our custom ERP system and it has no documented API since 2009.’
Here RPA comes to rescue – instead of stalking the other team and hoping a proper documentation will finally appear overnight (most likely it will not), you can do a quick integration using Robots. They work on standard user accounts, do not require administrator or database access and are very security- and privacy-friendly. Robots made with G1ANT can be deployed inside of a single Agile Sprint, even in military and government operations, where data security is crucial and must be absolutely guaranteed.
RPA allows for automation of manual testing, however strange that might sound, allowing manual testers to record and teach robots. Further, with AI these robots can discover new paths of an application and learn on how to respond to different on-screen messages. Compared to Selenium or other testing tools, RPA has much more comprehensive coverage (and works cross-application), is platform independent, doesn’t require separate testing environments and is much better at mimicking real users. Even standard automated testing tools have a hard time performing really complex scenarios, such as:
- Log in to a custom system with a user account
- Click around, encounter a specific error (ex. 501)
- Log in to a different system, clear server cache, restart microservice
- Go to Windows settings, change network
- Restart browser, clear cache
- Re-log on the user, check again, then check of 700 other users
And even fewer (if any) can achieve this with no coding – by just showing the robots on what to click!
Testers, developers and purpose-built tools cost money. A lot of money. Even if it’s company cash that is being spent, a PM will be responsible for the budget and a big inflation is never something higher-ups are happy about.
An RPA suite is a great replacement for manual testers. It also reduces the man hours needed for automated testing folks, as well as developers (especially in the context of integrations). Being kind of a swiss knife tool for IT, it will allow you to integrate anything with anything, or automate literally any process – this is great for making fast, cost-effective PoC and implementations and may save many a project from doom.