As a business leader (especially if you are in finance), you may already have tried an intelligent automation initiative, perhaps using an RPA (Robotic Process Automation) technology. Your IT department supports, or more likely tolerates, RPA as a way to quickly automate simple business processes.

However, your IT team is probably also critical of RPA as a technology that is perceived as being brittle and only a temporary solution. These criticisms are often well-founded. Far better to use a technology that is more robust and is API (Application Programming Interface)-led. Indeed, technologies such as Mulesoft, Boomi, Workato provide an "integration Platform as a Service" (iPaaS), allowing exactly the kind of integration and connectivity that makes IT leaders happy(er). It is likely your IT group is already using an integration platform such as one of those mentioned above, for their own purposes. At many of my clients, the business clients (especially in Finance) have all heard of RPA technologies but few have even heard of iPaaS technologies.

Here is the key, for me, based on my understanding of these technologies so far:

  • RPA can probably handle 100% of the automation use cases that you might be considering it for,
  • iPaaS technologies on the other hand can handle only a subset of these use cases, but for those cases where it can be used, then it really should be. In my own experience, it is significantly faster to create an automation where an iPaaS technology can work - creating something more robust, faster, and easier to implement, and can call RPA bots for those tasks it cannot handle. 

The recent news of Salesforce acquiring an RPA company, Servicetrace to pair with Mulesoft, seems logical and makes it likely that there will be more of this kind of market consolidation and pairing of these technologies in the future. 

While a lot is written on making RPA-bots more intelligent with machine learning and AI (something that will surely come), combining RPA and iPaaS is perhaps a far more pragmatic and nearer-term need that should make business and IT leaders happy, and allow automation to happen faster and more robustly.