Why ITSM Practitioners Should Understand Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Recently MRC was helping a client improve their IT Asset Management processes, which required some ServiceNow development work. We quickly needed an alternative when the ServiceNow Platform Manager said,

 "If your project requires ServiceNow development or enhancements, our resources are 100% dedicated to Q4 upgrades, and after that you'll have to wait behind 14 other projects. Try back in Q2 next year." We hear this a lot.

Virtually all of our Enterprise customers who have robust IT Service Management platforms have an increasingly looong waiting line. What can a department do to reduce manual effort if there aren't enough development resources to help them enhance or automate their workflows on the ITSM platform? Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a great, potentially faster and cheaper alternative.


What is RPA?

There is a high return on investment for outsourcing a task, whether it is moved to lower cost offshore labor,  or digital labor via robot-based process automation. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the use of software (known as a “bot” or “robot”) to automatically perform routine, predictable tasks on multiple systems much faster than a person, and without errors. This enables humans to focus on higher value tasks that require decision making, critical thinking or other tasks that are not methodical and consistently the same. RPA solutions work at the interface layer and do not require complex development.

Projected RPA share of human task hoursRobotic Process Automation is rapidly rising in popularity, with “RPA” being a top 5 search term with Gartner for the past 4 years. RPA is a top strategic trend for 2020, a year during which digital labor is expected to shoulder nearly half (42%) of task hours (a 45% increase from 2018). It represents the fastest growing Enterprise Software segment, with 60% growth from 2018-2019.




When Should RPA Be Considered?

RPA targetsA process is a good candidate for employing digital labor if it requires significant manual effort, if there is a high transaction volume (after all, the cost of robotization shouldn't be higher than what will be gained from automation), if the process has predictable rules and/or if it is prone to human error.  RPA can also be thought of as a strategy for reducing manual effort in cases where the process is not ready to be overhauled; in other words, a company might opt to not fix a process at this time, and instead, keep the process the same but just have robots do it. Organizations might also employ RPA to limit staff exposure to sensitive data, drive compliance with regulations and presentations to managers without incorporating more staff or disconnect the relationship between head-count and profitability, especially in seasonal tasks. 


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What are Typical RPA Targets for IT Departments?

IT Departments must execute many processes that require routine, repeatable manual steps. For example, in organizations that have not implemented single sign on, we typically see password resets account for 50-60% of IT service requests. A single sign-on solution for password resets can be challenging to implement in large, complex organizations because it requires a solid identity management framework and willingness of application owners to comply with centralized password reset policies. Password reset requests are a perfect use case for RPA, and the solution can be implemented relatively quickly compared to a single sign on project. Imagine how game changing it would be for an IT department to reduce IT service tickets by 60% through the use of a robot!

Robotic Process Automation can serve as a substitute for ITSM platform-based Automation or Integrations when organizations struggle to get their business case approved. Following are IT Services that should absolutely be automated, whether through the ITSM Platform, the use of RPA or other means:

  • Backup and Restoration
  • Routine maintenance
  • Email processing and distribution
  • Batch processing
  • Routine diagnostics
  • Testing

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ITSM professionals are often focused on their ITSM platform when faced with an automation requirement. Robotic Process Automation is another option that should be considered when trying to streamline manually intensive processes, particularly when other solutions are too expensive or will take too long to implement.

Watch for upcoming blogs on the use of RPA in Finance and Accounting, HR Service Delivery and Supply Chain Management, and industry-focused use cases.