For years, robotic process automation (RPA) technology has been the gold standard for creating a seamless interaction between various programs. While this solution still has its value, emerging technologies provide enterprises with more efficient ways of sharing data between vital systems to drive automation.

As modern enterprises shift their automation approach away from only using legacy RPA-based solutions, they should turn their attention to technologies that create true interoperability between solutions in order to stay competitive.  

What Is Interoperability?

Generally speaking, the term “interoperability” refers to the ability of various digital resources to connect and electronically exchange information with each other. Interoperability moves beyond the limited capabilities of RPA to enable truly dynamic interactions between enterprise systems.

Understanding the Enterprise Shift

The best way to understand interoperability is to consider the evolution of how data was shared between enterprise systems. 

In its simplest form, a system that provides open interfaces and allows data to be freely passed in and out of the system would be considered “open.” Legacy enterprise software didn’t do a good job of supporting the easy sharing of data between systems. These legacy systems are typically described as “closed.” Sharing data between closed systems used to require “swivel chair” automation where an employee had to copy data from one system to another. This process was manual and error-prone.

Along came RPA which helped with automating the task of moving data from one system to another by focusing on recording mouse clicks and screen scraping to create “bots” that mimicked a task frequently done by a person. RPA’s sweet spot has been in its ability to connect legacy enterprise systems that were closed or that didn’t provide a means for sharing data. 

Today, most modern enterprise systems are being designed and developed with a focus on interoperability. These “open” systems will change how we approach connecting systems. As organizations embrace automation, modernize their enterprise systems, and, most importantly, adopt cloud solutions, the focus will shift from legacy approaches for data sharing, like RPA, to more flexible and powerful approaches to connecting their systems, such as integration platform as a service (iPaaS) solutions.

It’s More Than Connections

But connecting your systems isn’t enough. Data types and data volumes in organizations continue to grow. Much of this data is being stored across a vast sea of data silos. And, even more of it is unstructured and lacks the meaning necessary to make it discoverable or computable. 

Interoperability isn’t just about connecting systems but also about connecting systems to the data they need. Intelligent document processing (IDP) solutions help unlock the valuable data trapped inside unstructured documents making it available to the systems that need it. It’s this combination of integration solutions, like iPaaS and IDP solutions, that will revolutionize how organizations approach automation in the future. Enterprises must work with structured data to have true interoperability.

Can RPA Be Saved? 

For companies that have already invested in RPA initiatives, a similar approach to interoperability can be applied. RPA is typically used to automate redundant tasks. However, RPA requires structured data and is unable to work with unstructured data. This unstructured data consists of information that does not necessarily conform to set standards or rules that machines can understand

To convert this data into a usable format, organizations must deploy IDP solutions. Using RPA and IDP together creates a starting point for interoperability. While many other technologies can be connected and used outside of RPA and IDP, these two often form the cornerstone for interoperability. Therefore, the bandaid only has to be ripped off if RPA is left alone without the right data and integrations.

Practical Applications of Interoperability Solutions

Technology that facilitates more dynamic interoperability and data sharing can improve various aspects of an organization’s day-to-day operations. These are three common use cases of interoperability technology.

Accounts Payable

When using traditional RPA technology, enterprises can automate repetitive tasks such as entering the details of an invoice into the AP system. But RPA solutions require using structured data, so they are limited if the data is not already in the right format, which will require manual data entry or the need for IDP. When RPA and IDP are combined, they eliminate the need to enter data into financial systems manually. But what happens when the user interface for the system changes? Or the data structure changes? RPA requires a constant effort to keep businesses up and running. While this is undoubtedly beneficial, interoperability technology can take processing invoices a step further.

By utilizing a combination of iPaaS and IDP solutions, organizations can automate more processes. They can also connect all of the various solutions and software that they are using. Their accounting or ERP software can then perform more dynamic tasks, such as identifying and reconciling discrepancies between what has been ordered, delivered and billed. These interconnected programs can process invoice exceptions, approve documents based on historical trends and identify instances of fraud. 

Organizations across all industries can benefit from these enhanced accounts payable processing capabilities.

Customer and Account Onboarding

Both customer and account onboarding are some of the most tedious and time-consuming processes for businesses. Due to the complex nature of new customer onboarding, only a few aspects of this process can be automated. However, IDP technologies provide organizations with access to more structured data, facilitating better interoperability.

Taking an approach built on interoperability allows organizations to automate tasks such as analyzing public records, validating identifying documents and linking data silos to create a 360-degree view of new clients. 

This technology can significantly streamline the entire onboarding process. The result? A more enjoyable experience for clients and significant cost-savings for the enterprise.

Digital Mailroom Automation

While it may be hard to believe, many organizations still receive and process a lot of mail. The only thing that really has changed is that mail comes in many forms, both paper-based and digital. Businesses have deployed RPA technology to help with automating this function with varying degrees of success. However, advancements in technology have made it possible for companies to move beyond the basic RPA bandaids. Specifically, intelligent document processing technologies enable businesses to transform all the incoming mail documents, whether paper or digital, into structured data that can then be shared with the appropriate system via an iPaaS solution. This data will allow companies to streamline their operations through interoperability. 

Benefits of Focusing on Interoperability to Drive Automation

Achieving greater interoperability of core systems can offer significant benefits for organizations across many different industries. Specifically, approaches built on interoperability of systems can help enterprises within the banking, insurance, mortgage, healthcare and government spaces by allowing them to:

1. Enhance Productivity

The better each piece of software communicates, the more productive each staff member will be. Interoperability allows employees to speed up processes and tasks so they can spend more time with customers and less time performing redundant, time-consuming tasks.

2. Reduce Costs

Interoperability will also result in massive cost savings for enterprises. Interoperable systems are less brittle and can easily evolve as the business needs and systems change over time. This flexibility will prove more cost-effective over time compared to organizations that have invested heavily in RPA and have to deal with the looming RPA “bot sprawl” and legacy applications.

3. Improve Customer Experience

The most significant advantage of enhancing interoperability capabilities through intelligent data processing is improving the client experience. This will strengthen an enterprise’s brand image and accelerate responses, which will ultimately lead to more profitability.

Take Advantage of Interoperability

Corporations of all sizes need to look beyond simple RPA band-aids to full-enterprise, structured data solutions. By prioritizing how data interacts across all platforms, interoperability can be achieved and businesses will run smoother, more efficiently and with an improved bottom line.

If you would like to learn more about the importance of system interoperability and our IDP solutions, contact Ephesoft. We provide our clients with solutions designed to enhance productivity, reduce costs and enhance the customer experience.