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Is RPA the way forward? How robotic process automation measures up against low-code/no-code

As organisations increasingly rely on technology to drive their operations, the need for effective and reliable automated IT solutions has never been greater. In recent years, many companies have turned to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate repetitive tasks and streamline their processes, allowing their teams to put more energy into projects that create lasting impact.

But is RPA really the way forward?

Owen Pettiford is an SAP architect with 30 years’ experience in SAP. He thinks RPA isn’t always the way forward, but believes that no-code/low-code is a viable option for business leaders who want to create time for their teams to focus on strategic direction and innovate thinking.

Throughout his 30-year career, Owen has seen businesses thrive or fail based on the resilience of their IT infrastructure. As a result, he wants to enable business leaders who seek to empower their teams with the right digital toolkit to see that it’s easier than they think to create momentum and build robust solutions quickly.

Following decades of success implementing business strategies, Owen shares his insights into why he believes that no-code/low-code app development tools offer greater benefits to businesses in 2023 than traditional RPA.

‘While RPA has proven to be a useful tool in many cases, it is often used as a ‘sticking plaster’ to fix poorly integrated IT systems,’ Owen says. ‘This can lead to fragile solutions that are easily disrupted by changes in the underlying systems, meaning that teams end up with a lot more work to do to than they initially anticipated following necessary system changes across a business. In times like these, people are left facing an Excel-based nightmare that is dependent on a single point of failure.

‘Fortunately, there is a more robust and scalable alternative to RPA: no-code/low-code app development tools. These tools allow organisations to build custom apps without the need for traditional coding skills. By leveraging application programming interfaces (APIs), no-code/low-code apps can integrate seamlessly with existing systems and have proven to be more reliable at handling large-scale changes than RPA.’

Explaining the downfalls of RPA, Owen likens the system to bots being held together by glue, leaving little room for creative expansion, and creating fragile bonds across business processes.

‘There’s no doubt that RPA is a very intelligent system, but it has its limitations’ says Owen. ‘RPA is often built around individual-centric models that cater to specific needs and wants, but these don’t leave room for flexibility should a team member move on from their role or find themselves in need of a new way of working. The glue fails to stick when an RPA bot is asked to do something new, or, on the other hand, the glue becomes so stuck that there’s no visible way to move forward, slowing down the speed of a business’s progress.

‘Low-code/no-code, on the other hand, uses APIs to integrate with existing systems, making them more able to provide a seamless and reliable connection. This creates a more robust, flexible process that works across an entire business.’

Owen continues: ‘One of the other key benefits of no-code/low-code app development is its accessibility. With these tools, anyone can build custom apps, regardless of their coding experience. This allows organisations to quickly and easily develop solutions that are tailored to their specific needs, without the need for expensive and time-consuming IT development, especially when considering new digital SAP solutions.’

‘SAP no-code/low-code app development is also extremely flexible. These tools allow organisations to easily adapt their solutions as their needs change, without the need for extensive reworking of the underlying code, as is required when RPA solutions fail to meet the mark.

‘This means that no-code/low-code apps are able to evolve and grow along with the organisation, providing a scalable solution that can keep pace with changing business requirements.’

Concluding his thoughts, Owen asserts: ‘Overall, no-code/low-code app development tools offer a powerful and scalable alternative to RPA. With their accessibility, flexibility, and robustness, they offer organisations a reliable and scalable solution that can help them drive their operations forward. By replacing fragile and unreliable paper-based, Excel or RPA solutions with no-code/low-code apps, businesses can unlock the full potential of their IT systems and take their operations to the next level.’

About the author

Owen Pettiford is a Sales architect at Neptune Software, a rapid application development platform vendor with more than 730 enterprise customers and over 4 million licensed end users globally. Their mission is to empower IT departments to drive business results. Neptune Software is the leading low-code enterprise app development platform in the SAP market to digitises and optimises business processes and user interfaces – at scale and with ease. The platform gives IT professionals the right tools to rapidly build the apps they need, across IT landscapes.