Q&A: Robots-as-a-Service (Yes, really!)

Posted by Dustin Strydom on 7 August 2017 in: robotic process automation, Robots-as-a-Service, RaaS

Yes we know. It’s Everything-as-a-Service nowadays. But we’re pretty excited about Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) so we quizzed Dustin Strydom, Director of Automation Services at Open Box to find out more.

Q: Another acronym. Really? OK, we’ll bite, what is RaaS all about?

A: I know! But this one is very cool. And it is about to change the business of doing Real Estate in profound ways.

First, I need to explain robotic process automation (RPA). This refers to using software robots to take over tedious, repetitive, manual work, such as capturing invoices or migrating data. Robots are better than humans at this sort of thing, and it frees up humans to do more intellectual, creative, strategic work.

Now, instead of you, as a Real Estate organization, developing these capabilities yourself, you come to a software vendor such as Open Box to help you with this and deliver these services over the cloud. Hence, Robots-as-a-Service.

There are a number of really good reasons for doing this.

Q: So it’s not about actual robots in the workplace then? No androids making me cups of tea?

A: Physical robots are one flavor of RaaS. Imagine robots in a warehouse automatically updating inventory information in the cloud as they pack and ship items.

But at Open Box, and when talking about the Real Estate world, we mean software robots that exist in a virtual environment but interact with your systems in the same way you do, in other words by logging in and using your current system front-ends.

Q: You mentioned there are good reasons for Real Estate organizations to access RPA on a RaaS basis. Tell me more about these.

A: Well, you can go it alone, but you wouldn’t get the following benefits that RaaS gives you.

  • You don’t pay a cent until the service is deployed and working.
  • You know what the costs are at the outset, allowing you to figure out ROI in advance.
  • You benefit from our 15 years of experience designing software solutions for the Real Estate industry. We’ve built up the skills and experience, and learnt from trial and error so you don’t have to. Also, our robots are Real Estate specialists and already know your systems.
  • You can do a phased roll-out: pick one or two suitable candidates for automation and get your organization comfortable with the idea before proceeding with more extensive automation.
  • You can keep your internal IT team working on mission-critical projects. They don’t suddenly have to change lane and become RPA experts.
  • We do this one thing well, and are always looking out for the next innovation so we are good at it by the time you need it.

Then, of course, there are the typical Software-as-a-Service benefits:

  • You only pay for what you need on a subscription basis, and can scale according to demand.
  • You are always running the latest software.
  • SaaS is an opex, not capex expense.

Q: Is RaaS only for the Real Estate industry?

A: No, not at all. There are applications across all sectors. Healthcare, retail, financial services, mining and industry are already using RaaS effectively. But at Open Box we focus specifically on the Real Estate industry so that we can do one thing really well.

Q: What about data security? Can I trust this RaaS robot?

A: Yes, more than you can trust your people and on-premise servers to keep data secure. At the data entry and handling stage, a software robot never gets tired, bored or distracted and starts making mistakes. It also never takes confidential documents home or spills coffee on them. Then, once your data is in the cloud, it is statistically safer than on-premise. Cloud-providers’ very reason for existence is to keep data safe. At Open Box we use Amazon Web Services -- and its capabilities and budget for security are bigger than you can dream of. Plus, we work with a wide breadth of clients with varying rigorous security requirements, which means our default is set pretty high.

Q: You mentioned ROI. Tell me more.

A: Choosing the RaaS route means your RPA implementation takes weeks, not years, and delivers an ROI far faster, resulting in a saving of 30% to 80% in processing costs on day one. Compare this with the 65% of internal RPA projects that fail for a variety of reasons. And those that don’t, only show an ROI within 18 months

Q: So this all sounds peachy. Surely there are a few gotchas along the way?

A: Unsurprisingly I’ll always recommend you choose a RaaS vendor that is a Real Estate industry specialist. A specialist doesn’t need to first get up to speed about your world, instead they have spent time in the trenches and are constantly on the lookout for new, relevant innovations. Plus, the main thing to get right with any RPA project, RaaS or not, is choosing the first tasks to automate. A specialist RaaS partner will work with you to identify the best projects to pilot, and get your RPA service live quickly.

Q: Are you a robot?

A: Haha, nope, I’m meatware. But let me introduce you to my colleague Rob Sparke-- he’s a robot.

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