RPA and CRM – Deal or No Deal?

We all know that sales people don’t like data entry (who does?) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is all about moving mundane tasks to machines away from humans. Is this a match made in heaven? Or more hype with little substance?

Let’s explore more on this piece today.

How does RPA differ from other Automation ?

We’re all familiar with Process Builder, Workflows and Visual Flows in Salesforce, they’re all automation tools. In fact most of the efficiency an organization derives from a Salesforce implementation is via the effective use of these ‘no-code’ automation tools.

In each of these cases a developer produces a list of actions to automate a task and interface to the back-end system using internal Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) or dedicated Admin Interface.

In contrast, RPA systems develop the action list by watching the user perform that task in the application’s Graphical User Interface (GUI), and then perform the automation by repeating those tasks directly in the GUI. RPA tools have strong technical similarities to graphical user interface testing tools. These tools also automate interactions with the GUI, and often do so by repeating a set of demonstration actions performed by a user.

This sets RPA apart from the automation we regularly do in a Salesforce implementation. In my mind they are different tools available to a solution architect and the scenario demands the use of the tool which fits the best.

Salesforce and RPA Combo Use Cases

  • Customer Support and 360 – One of the best reasons to apply RPA automation to Salesforce is to help provide a more efficient customer service experience. All large and mid-size companies will have their sales and order information in their ERP system, but not in the Salesforce. While REST or SOAP API based integration is best way to get data to your Salesforce system many times the ERP systems are old and even written directly on the mainframe in COBOL thus creating an external API is a huge project with a tough to find programming skill set. In such cases RPA can be the method of choice to automate this process and have the ERP system records to Salesforce which can then trigger a thank you email or a notice to a sales person to follow up with the customer.
    • This can be extended to synchronize data from various systems and create a single view for the customer representative within a few seconds. Moreover, details like customer name, previous interaction history, billing details and user preferences can also be collected by RPA to help agents in delivering better customer experiences. Thus, user interface automation works when there are no APIs and you want to extract information from a Windows desktop or web browser to save time on data entry.
  • Contract management – Managing customer and vendor opportunities is an important part of many Salesforce orgs, as it plays a key role in subscription based businesses where contracts have to be renewed every year or every three years. RPA can be used to track these contract documents and expiration dates. This can be especially useful in a reseller scenario where the company has only access to pdfs of contracts and even paper scans and nothing else. This could be the case where reseller can be a third party and privacy laws prevent sharing of anything else other than a purchase order. RPA in combination with Salesforce Sales Cloud can then be used to automatically send notifications to vendors and customers whose contracts are about to expire. Alternatively, these two systems combined can also create a report containing details or contracts with upcoming expiration, and then send this report to the contract manager who can take further action.

Deployment and Takeaway

The hosting of RPA services also aligns with the metaphor of a software robot, with each robotic instance having its own virtual workstation, much like a human worker. The robot uses keyboard and mouse controls to take actions and execute automations. Normally all of these actions take place in a virtual environment and not on screen; the robot does not need a physical screen to operate, rather it interprets the screen display electronically.

Robotic process automation in Salesforce and other front end systems has a promising future. As discussed above, the technology is demonstrating its capability in streamlining various customer-facing tasks in Salesforce and can work hand in hand with other technology such as Einstein AI and Intent which also aim for increased job satisfaction and intellectual stimulation, characterizing the mix of the two as having the ability to “take the robot out of the human”.

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