How Does Robot Process Automation (RPA) Impact ITSM?

In the popular view, robots are machines that can do some tasks like a human. Robots are excellent alternatives for dangerous tasks that humans shouldn’t do because of the risk. Often, the concept of robots includes human guidance similar to playing a computer game. Science fiction (sci-fi) movies often present a future with artificially intelligent robots that act human. These capabilities and many others were and sometimes still are how we think of robots.

Robots today are not just physical devices, but also are becoming digital devices to help with business processes. Enter Robot Process Automation (RPA). It is based on fundamental robotic capabilities but enhanced with machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), natural language processing capabilities (NLP) and access to big-data analytics. AI is the most significant of these capabilities, which some or all of the other emerging technologies support.  

With more organizations trying to be more agile and improving performance, the application of RPA to most business models is increasing rapidly. RPA is transforming how we work today. RPA can replace many of the manual, repetitive business processes workers currently do. Many RPA applications use the concept of “screen scraping.” In this case, the RPA application reads a screen or message intelligently just like a user, captures the data, analyzes the data and then executes a script to process the data. With most customer and business interactions being digital, RPA can easily replace these interactions and data-analysis capabilities.


Applications of RPA

RPA can be applied in any area where digital IT capabilities exist, especially in IT Service Management (ITSM) implementations. Digitization enables RPA, and RPA could not exist without digital content. As more organizations and the industry welcome the emergence of cloud computing and trust its capabilities, it has also fueled digital automation solutions, such as RPA.  

Here are some applications of RPA:

  • DevOps testing – RPA can be configured to perform repetitive manual testing, which workers do today. The more RPA is applied, the faster the overall development cycle and implementation of the production of new products and services can occur.
  • DevOps and ITSM integration – RPA can help DevOps teams, tools, and their practices collaborate with data exchanges between ITSM practices, tools, and processes.
  • Service Knowledge Management System (SKMS) – The SKMS uses not only a company’s resident data, but also can use any data or information from any accessible source, such as another Website. RPA can collect this information and help transform it into knowledge for decision support in the requesting organization. 
  • Marketing – An organization can use RPA technology to help it understand buying habits, with the collection of data from Internet searches, other collaborative company data stores, etc. to determine the best marketing approach to engage successfully with customers.
  • End-to-end processing – RPA can assist end-to-end processing to help with the demand and supply chain process as well as order-to-order fulfillment processing.
  • B2B/B2C processing – RPA can help with business-to-business transactions, including business-to-customer transactions.
  • Email applications – RPA can integrate email and generate auto-responses based on defined rules, route email to the most appropriate person and solve or escalate issues based on rules
  • Compliance testing – RPA can help with compliance efforts for any digital data and associated relationships, including security and data-access concerns.
  • Log processing – Manually looking for trends, abnormalities and other data can take forever. RPA can automate log processing and integrate the results with actions in incident, problem or change management.



IT Service Management practices and processes include many activities. Activities-support processes and the processes support the practice that supports organizational services. When designing process, procedures and work instructions for ITSM practices, the designer must understand: 

  • The desired outcomes
  • The many cases the current process/practice manages
  • The efficiency of each process and activity
  • The value of each activity
  • The process position and relevance in the service-value chain
  • The data exchanges and translations of data to information
  • The practice and process integrations and handoffs

These understandings are used to apply knowledge to the implementation of RPA for ITSM. RPA must add value, and adding value through automation is how to understand how ITSM works and deliver value to an organization and its services. RPA can be especially helpful with lean efforts by reducing manual activities in ITSM processes.

The overall impact of RPA on ITSM is more agility and better process performance. Each processing activity can be assessed to determine if RPA can help remove manual intervention, orchestrating data exchanges or automatic responses. 

For example, RPA can be used to:

  • Capture input traffic from emails and transfer it to incident management for faster response and routing.
  • Integrate ITSM and the phone system for more efficient and effective responses to customers.
  • Integrate request fulfillment with vendor management for ordering supplies.
  • Automatic escalations of incidents or problems instead of waiting for manual intervention. Service-level and operational-level rules can be applied to RPA.
  • Faster routing of data and information to facilitate decision-making support for organizations’ other internal or external functional areas.
  • Onboarding a new employee by helping with digital collaboration between various functional business units, such as facilities, HR, etc.
  • Reporting ITSM performance metrics, such as the number of clicks, steps or activities for a particular function or use case.

RPA implementation in most ITSM tools requires no or little code. Capabilities are built into most ITSM tools that require no programming expertise or knowledge that you are leveraging RPA. This enables faster deployments and the capability to be agile with ITSM-automation efforts. This will improve performance and service desk analysis experience and increase customer satisfaction.

ITSM and RPA working together just makes sense to improve the running of ITSM systems to deliver value to customers and the organization itself. RPA will not replace ITSM, but will enhance ITSM capabilities by providing the value of the various ITSM practices and process areas.

People are still required to enable RPA. People write scripts and rules instead of performing replaced tasks. People’s performance and contribution to service success is significantly increased, which provides more value to the business. Business value to serve more customers with fewer resources and to improve the economic cost of service and the performance of employees can all be realized with RPA, including improved experiences for all.

Automation throughout history has replaced manual tasks and, yet, simultaneously, created new job opportunities. Some may think people will not be needed during the immediate future because of RPA. They are correct, but only to replace repetitive tasks, not for the emerging job opportunities of managing and creating RPA. The goal of automation just as the goal of RPA is to make our lives easier while simultaneously improving the performance of business outcomes. That can improve the value of any business to society and we shouldn’t fear automation technologies, such as RPA, unless we don’t want to benefit from the change. Change is constant and continual improvement with automation can also be constant. RPA will continue to evolve, but it requires people and their skills.

Cover Image by Prasanna