The invisible UX of RPA – an insight

Nikhil Desai,

DPA Architect

Published: May 28, 2018

Robots have been around for longer than we could think of, and they are here to stay. As we look at the bright future of how they would evolve and improve as the underlying technology improves, we are always lost at the thought of the user experience associated with the actions initiated in the due process. User experience is the invisible link between the End User and the Robot.

Having the right experience plays an important role in bridging the gap to eliminate the preconceived notion that the robots would replace the human workforce in years to come. This is not true, as a "robot is as intelligent as you make it to be". The robotic process is not as intelligent as you think it is; it can only act intelligent as it does not understand the true meaning of the potential outcome. As machine learning and data analytics come into play, robots take logical decisions based on those data elements. And unlike humans, the logical decisions made by robots would always be quantitative and based on similar patterns. This quantitative decision making process eliminates the risk of emotional human errors and does provide a wide range of patterns to derive the desired outcome from.

As we look around, we come across a number of potential candidates that have a high scope for automation - tasks are repetitive in nature, high in volume, and involve higher labor costs. With the evolution of extended business processes, there is a noticeable difference in the way systems work as of date with multiple interactions initiated through legacy systems, process executions, transaction process execution, and execution of predefined parameters to generate a desired outcome. These usually mundane tasks always come with a high labor costs, and this can be reduced with an RPA implementation to accomplish the process with the result of much improved productivity and reduced costs. Automation in no way eliminates the role of an individual, but it does support making that role more efficient and substantially lowers the costs involved with accomplishing one's goals.

During numerous meetings, where we brainstorm about evolving technologies and the way forward, we seldom think about how the entire user experience would come into force. Deriving an analogy from "The Bell Carillon Effect," an amazing article by Jamie Campbell, Jamie speaks about the complex yet repetitive task of playing a similar tune every time the process is initiated. The entire user experience of initiating the complex carillon to play its harmonious tune should be supported by an easy to use UX. Rather than been intimidated by the sheer size of the carillon bell, an appropriate end user experience is bound to make one feel at ease with the machine.

In the same way, as a faceless process medium gains momentum, the undying need for reduced intimidation and increased level of trust needs to come to the fore. Knowing the interaction medium and its capabilities does help imbibe the required level of trust and reduce the friction between humans and the technology. The fear of the unknown faceless medium can be intimidating, but building a level of trust by following a few core concepts helps in empowering the user to alleviate from the fear and bridge the gap of the unknown. Comparing Assisted Process Execution and Unassisted Process Execution, the level of intimidation is much higher in unassisted process execution and it is pragmatic to adhere to the concepts to help the user feel at ease.

Sense of Empowerment: Empower and enable the end user to accomplish the end result by reducing the friction between the human and technology. The technology is never at the forefront as the technology is always as effective as it is made to be, and technology should always act as an enabler to assist the user accomplish the end result. As an end result of the process, it is more the important for an automated process to be suggestive rather than decisive about the resultant outcome of the process.

Sense of Being Informed: Knowing the event that enables the robot to perform an action plays a vital role in keeping one informed and well aware of the executions taking place in the background. In contrast to the inherent nature of assisted robots, unassisted robots trigger and perform actions in the background, and these invisible events lead to a resultant outcome of the process. The end user should always be aware of these interactions and the status of the process at the given point of time.

Sense of Security: Empower the end user with the control over the process to ensure a tighter control over the process for if and when it runs rogue due to an unexpected turn out of things. A control over the happening of events is bound to keep the end user at ease and less intimidated during the lifecycle of the interaction.

As we establish these concepts and evaluate how they align with assisted and unassisted RPA offerings, we need to understand that the things that we see are only the tip of an iceberg and that there's more to this than meets the eye. User experience of any product offering should not only speak to what a user consciously sees and interacts with, but should also address what the user does in the subconscious state. The imminent fear and intimidation of being replaced by a robotic process should rather be replaced by the thought of "technology being a key enabler to improve the task being performed."

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