I had a chance this week to present a webinar, “Understanding the Impact of RPA on the Mainframe.” We committed to doing this webinar months ago. When we chose the topic for it, it was with some uncertainty. Would enough people care about RPA and the mainframe to attend a webinar? This was my concern because our message about Robotic Process Automation was cautionary. RPA is a great technology with some compelling benefits. Enterprises should exercise caution in how it interacts with the mainframe. This starts with assessing the impact of RPA on your mainframe. But before anyone thinks we’re condemning RPA, please read on…
We are recommending caution regarding RPA where your mainframe is concerned. To understand why, read our account of helping a customer understand the asymmetric increases in mainframe transactions they were seeing. We discovered that the source of the unexpected workload increase was RPA bot activity. As RPA bot activity proliferated throughout this enterprise, it was having an adverse impact on the mainframe. Our analysis showed why: RPA bots were using the least efficient and most brittle mechanism for getting data out of CICS applications off the mainframe: screen-scraping. As leading-edge and artificially intelligent as many RPA platforms are, many RPA vendors are relying on low-tech screen scraping to get mainframe data. This is not a good development for those enterprises where RPA adoption is soaring.
Our View of RPA
At this point, you may assume the HostBridge team thinks RPA is a bad thing. Not so! Here is what we believe about RPA:
- RPA is providing significant productivity and human cost displacement benefits to enterprises that are using it.
- Many RPA platform providers use screen-scraping technology to get mainframe data.
- When screen-scraping is the mainframe integration technology, as it scales, RPA activity to the mainframe drives up transaction volumes and costs asymmetrically.
- Many IT groups are experiencing the impact of RPA on their mainframe(s) and suspect RPA as the cause. But, they are unable to link the impact to RPA activity.
There’s great news: enterprises can keep the benefits of RPA and minimize the impact of RPA bots on their mainframe. It’s simply a matter of using the optimal technology for getting data out of CICS or other mainframe applications. Furthermore, it’s a relatively simple matter to have RPA bots switch to a more efficient, better performing approach to getting mainframe data. We’ve figured it out, but more on that at the end of this post.
How Widely Adopted is RPA?
As I shared, I was worried about how many people would show up for a mainframe RPA webinar. I needn’t have worried! We had almost 300 people register, and over 110 attended the live broadcast. During the webinar, I took a poll to find out the adoption status of RPA among the attendees. Here are the results of that poll:
One-third of the attendees report moderate to extensive use of RPA in their organizations.
Analyst research also points to a strong wave of adoption, with organizations like Gartner recognizing RPA as one of the top strategic technology trends for 2020.
Assessing the Impact of RPA on the Mainframe
Our experience helping one enterprise client assess the impact of RPA on their mainframe led to a new service offering: the HostBridge Mainframe RPA Assessment. In the eBook I recently published, Understanding the Impact of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) on the Mainframe, I share the details of our mainframe RPA assessment process. The assessment requires no effort other than providing us with the data to complete it. From the assessment, organizations can know with certainty how much RPA activity is reaching the mainframe, and what impact it is having. With these insights, organizations can easily optimize and remediate mainframe RPA activity. I discuss all of this in detail in this recorded webinar presentation:
HostBridge offers this mainframe RPA assessment as a service. In our opinion, enterprise RPA implementations must include assessing the impact of RPA on your mainframe. It is possible to know what impact it is having, and furthermore, to do something about it. Contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation discovery conversation.