“Robots could take over 20 million jobs by 2030, study claims!” This and similar headlines have been threatening workers for decades. But the business efficiencies made possible by robots—to say nothing of the human spirit—should not be discounted.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology uses software robots to simplify business process delivery. It’s an alternative sourcing option to human labor and outsourcing. Instead of removing the human entirely, RPA frees up humans from repetitive work so they can focus on higher-value contributions. In this COVID world, many large organizations have been forced to reevaluate poor processes and maximize their team member contributions. Managing machine identities—such as TLS keys and certificates—is one area where organizations continue to struggle. For many organizations, Machine Identity Management can be a process rife with repetitive tasks that if not handled effectively, can not only slow operations but result in a certificate-related outage that brings down a critical application. On behalf of Venafi customers, over 30 sponsored developers are working hard to change that.
Recently I had the opportunity to meet with Reveal Group, who are leaders in RPA and have delivered hundreds of successful automation to clients worldwide. As part of the Machine Identity Management Development Fund, Reveal Group have built RPA Bots for the Venafi Platform. In this continuing interview series with developers, I am speaking with Jacko Smit who is Principal at Reveal Group.
Please start by telling us about Reveal Group.
Jacko: Reveal Group was established in 2005 with the purpose of delivering technology-driven, innovative consulting services that accelerate change, reduce costs, increase productivity and improve the overall performance of our clients around the world. Since then, Reveal Group has become recognized as an international leader in Operational Intelligence and RPA tools. We are Australian founded, with locally-based teams across the Asia Pacific, the Americas, Africa and Europe; Reveal Group’s experts are helping clients to drive rapid, sustainable change across all service industries.
Which current challenges can RPA tools address for Global 5000 InfoSec teams?
Jacko: When we talk about people using the Venafi Platform—as they get requests for adding new machines to networks, removing them, updating their certificates, and more—we find that there's usually a small team that manages that, and that work can get quite tedious. In fact, the process can get downright onerous, and there could be delays in how long it takes for those certificates to be approved or denied or extended. In a digitally transforming world, it just doesn’t make sense to use manual processes to manage automated resources. So, the goal is to have an automated workflow that can actually do that work for administrators.
I understand that organizations can save time on some menial certificate-related work. What’s the bigger benefit to the business?
Jacko: Preventing the aftermath of certificate expirations. I mean, as part of that process, there's managing the certificates and knowing when they're coming close to expiry, and then also looking at what the steps are around that renewal process. The robot can go into accounting systems to make sure that there's a budget within a specific cost code, look at a directory of people in the organization to make sure that the person who's requested the certificate actually has the right to do so. The robot can go into various pieces of software to check that projects are still running or not. Those are the things that would be automated instead of having a person do it, and instead of having a person act as a bottleneck, the robot goes and does all those checks and then approves as instructed. That would help immensely in preventing certificate-related outages. Right? Instead of a single person going through the same mundane steps every time and risk human error, you have a robot do it! The beauty of a robot is that the robot doesn't care if it's mundane. It likes mundane work because then it can keep doing it, and it doesn't run into problems.
Talk specifically about what Reveal Group built as part of the Machine Identity Management Development Fund. What RPA technology did you choose?
Jacko: Reveal Group looked at the leading RPA software, and the two that stood out by far were UiPath and Blue Prism. Their technologies are slightly different, but they do the same things effectively, which is orchestrating certificates through Venafi. As we approached the project of building connectors to the Venafi Platform, we knew we had open APIs that we could do a lot of work with. We knew that many Global 5000 organizations already have RPA in place and the two main players would be Blue Prism and UiPath. This was the obvious approach in making it easy for Venafi customers who already do RPA to then automate their processes around the Venafi Platform.
Tell me more about the differences between your integrations with Blue Prism and UiPath.
Jacko: For Blue Prism, we've built a workflow template and a Web API Service Library that connects to the Venafi Platform. These connectors call the APIs to do all the authentication and various requests—like acceptance, denials, and deferrals—and then go and do those tasks via the back end. Blue Prism works slightly differently from UI Path in that we built a release, which then gives users access to the code.
For UI Path, we have used an activities package, which are activities that make different calls directly to the Venafi Platform. The UI Path packages allow direct contact with the APIs of the Venafi Platform. In the UiPath world, we built it in such a way that once the Venafi package is called within UiPath, it automatically becomes a standard option. And for UiPath, there’s a function that a user calls that has all the Venafi connectors in it.
Which specific machine identity management use case did you design for?
Jacko: We chose an ITSM use case for ServiceNow, but the template could easily be adapted for other purposes—that's left to the RPA developer's discretion. In our use case, the Venafi robot grabs the tickets from ServiceNow. It will then action them based on the instructions from Venafi using API calls. The way we've built the bots is a pretty straight forward way to get started automating machine identity processes.
How does a Venafi customer already using RPA get started?
Jacko: Typically building an RPA use case would involve a number of extra steps, so we've just gone for the very simple—from the start of a ticketing system, into the Venafi Platform, and back out again. The real value though comes when we start looking at the other steps in the process, and the bot task list continues to grow.
For an organization that already has an RPA practice in place and already uses Venafi, they have two options:
- They could build it out further themselves. If they've got an RPA program up and running, and they've got people in place to do that, then they can use the Venafi connectors we've built and go out and build the extra steps within the RPA platforms to fully automate that process.
- Reveal Group could go the extra step of helping to document their specific processes. Then we could create a custom robot that can do these other parts as well for a truly end to end automation of the process.
Either way, organizations using RPA get all the benefits of automation where you can scale up and down, as required. They can run 24/7 or 23/7. And the robots don't ever make mistakes. There's no guessing if the answer's right or wrong. It's either right or wrong and it keeps going. And that then frees up the human team to focus on other things that are much more important.
Learn more about both Reveal Group RPA bots today from the Venafi Marketplace. And stay tuned for future interviews with Machine Identity Management Development Fund recipients.
This blog features solutions from the ever-growing Venafi Ecosystem, where industry leaders are building and collaborating to protect more machine identities across organizations like yours. Learn more about how the Venafi Technology Networkis evolving above and beyond just technical integrations.