Robotic Process Automation Provides Key Solutions

Efforts within the emerging Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Center have proven successful in optimizing customer service and efficiency for Purdue University. In August 2022, Purdue IT deployed two pilot automations using RPA – the BoilerBot and an Invoice Reconciliation (IR) Bot. The associated productivity savings allowed Cooperative Services Desktop Support (CSDS) to transfer two desktop service specialists, Will Oprisko and Scott Tatlock, to become RPA developers in the new center. In January 2023, Oprisko was appointed interim manager.  

“The overall success of RPA involves creating a more satisfying work experience by automating the drudgery and increasing time for people to focus on meaningful tasks and responsibilities. I know achieving this goal requires maximizing RPA technology to decrease costs, increase efficiency, and streamline business processes,” Oprisko said. "My intention is to help lay the groundwork for RPA integration within Purdue by building strong partnerships and deploying effective automations that meet tangible needs.” 

One of the first projects RPA launched was BoilerBot, a chatbot feature designed to help university students, faculty and staff quickly resolve passcode issues with Purdue’s BoilerKey two-factor authentication. The automated process helps resolve passcode issues more quickly, which reduces the wait time for others contacting the IT service desk for more complex needs. As of Feb. 15, BoilerBot effectively resolved nearly 20,000 BoilerKey issues. Based on an average call time of 10 minutes, this equates to over 3,000 hours not spent on the phone by customers and representatives. 

“This has helped to reduce average wait times, further lessening the time customers have had to spend on the phone for other issues,” said Director of IT Service Excellence Bob Geswein. 

The team has since expanded functionality of the BoilerBot so that customers can reset their career account passwords with or without access to BoilerKey. These password-reset-requests accounted for approximately 15,000 tickets in 2022. By visiting, users can request to reset their Purdue career account password in as little as five minutes in the event of a forgotten password or security breach. To use the chatbot, users will need to have access to their Purdue email account or BoilerKey on their mobile device.   

The RPA team also launched a project in collaboration with the procurement operations group to improve efficiencies with the procurement related Goods Receipt/Invoice Receipt (GR/IR) process. The IR Bot works an overnight schedule identifying orders where goods have been received and an invoice is needed from the vendor. The IR Bot logs into a SharePoint site where a weekly Procure-to-Pay report is maintained. The IR Bot reviews the spreadsheet and identifies line items marked "goods have been received" and then sends an email to the vendor asking for an invoice. Since its August launch, the IR Bot has sent 11,349 emails and saved an estimated 473 hours of staff time.   

"Timely posting of procurement expenses promotes informed allocation decisions as account balances more accurately reflect reality," says Executive Director of Finance and Business Operations Kristi Mickle. "In this way, the IR bot is generating efficiencies beyond procurement processes." 

A companion Goods Receipt (GR) Bot launched Feb. 6. The GR Bot contacts requestors (using the Ariba on behalf of field, as applicable) when it finds that an invoice has been received but the item has not been marked received in Ariba. Marking an item received is a critical step in the Procure-to-Pay process but is often overlooked. In these instances, the GR Bot can speed up the resolution of GR report issues. 

As items continue to be cleared from the GR/IR through the work of the bots, the university should begin seeing quicker turnaround times in the invoicing process. This quicker turnaround will allow the time saved to be redirected to more complex, value added activities, reaping additional administrative savings to the university. It should also help to improve vendor relations which could have benefits beyond the initial scope. The procurement operations team will continue monitoring the work of both bots, refining their processes to take advantage of these new tools. 

Last updated: Feb. 24, 2023