What is the Presentation Layer, Anyway?
If you’ve ever heard the term “presentation layer” thrown around in discussions of computers or software, you may have been able to make a pretty good guess at what it is. In the world of robotic process automation (RPA), the presentation layer becomes a major topic, so let’s take a minute to flesh it out.
In technical speech, the presentation layer is the sixth of seven layers of OSI code that translates data stored in another layer into something a human can interpret. It’s the presentation layer that knows to put the right information into the appropriate fields of a customer record, for example: Name, Date of Birth, Address, etc. The presentation layer is where you’ll find the code for making a program look nice as well. Most importantly to this discussion, the presentation layer is where RPA functions.
One of the main goals of RPA software is for it to behave just like a human being would in any situation. Since most human workers interact with data through the presentation layer of a software program, that’s what RPA robots do. This key component of RPA allows a business to keep its existing information systems while trying new things. You don’t need to overhaul everything in order to make new uses for the information you have.
With the presentation layer aspect of RPA, a company can gain a certain amount of technology independence. Your IT professionals are more important than ever, but RPA software like UiPath allows more people to interact with the data and the systems that make them better workers. An employee doesn’t have to wait for a “deep tech” solution if she can set up her own automation workflow. In addition, as existing systems get more and more out of date (though still vital to a company’s processes), there will be fewer and fewer computer programmers able to rework them. It’s similar to the idea that very few computer repair shops can fix a machine that runs floppy disks: the knowledge is simply lost over time. By using a presentation layer approach, you can cut that dependency and trust that any new IT hires will be able to keep pace.
There are other benefits to the RPA presentation layer approach, some of which are outlined in the 2011 Forrester report, “The Role of IT in Business-Driven Process Automation.” RPA’s ability to work with the presentation layer is, essentially, what makes it so useful in the world of automation.