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How Liam Neeson got me to program my first bot
Doug Erb

It was the Super Bowl in 2015 and Liam Neeson is on a commercial promoting a game that my children had been playing a little. I enjoyed playing games when I was younger, and thought this one looked interesting, plus my kids wanted me to get on and play with them. The game was Clash of Clans. I joined the game and started to play, I got to a certain level not spending any money, which took a fair amount of time. In time we created a clan, and began to engage in battles with other teams. Like any good spirited gamer and father, I was looking for ways to increase my village without shelling out hundreds of dollars to supercell. Like anyone, I searched the internet to see how once could accomplish this. I came upon a site called mybot.run. I do not endorse using this bot or doing this in anyway as it spoils the game, but I did it. Enter setting up my first digital worker.

Most of the hard part was really done by the developers, all I needed to do was install the bot, calibrate to my screen and give it directions on how to attack, and what my objectives were. I know this defeats the purpose of the game, but it would have taken me countless hours to get the game based currency needed to make the next levels and have all the fun weapons and building options. It is today that I reflect on this game, and the time I played it, that I realize that this is the first utilization of RPA for myself personally. See, I had done the evaluation of how much it cost in real dollars to get all the game based currency. In one week the bot could mine the equivalent of 200 dollars in spend on the game currency. If you start putting it that way I was realizing ROI on the bot, which in this case was free, looking at the game currency I was getting and the hours saved to myself in time spent playing to achieve game currency. The ROI for the clash bot was compelling. Yes of course there are two downsides. One, they figure out you are using a bot and cancel your account. Two, why are you cheating in a game that is meant to be played for leisure(what did this behavior teach my children)? In the first case I didn’t get caught, second point, my kids stopped playing anyway.

If you haven’t figured out yet how this applies to your business or life, I think it is fair to walk through the process and ROI of what I set up in the context of the business world.

1. Identify mundane processes that high value individuals are executing. Start with low hanging fruit and then work your way up. In the case of Clash of Clans, I looked at how often I had to attack to steal game currency, and what the most efficient and often used techniques were. This was the process the bot executed with some instructions from me. In the case of your business, your processes, what are the long processes that get executed daily, that are relatively mind numbing? Their are other processes in the game, like attacking, but those were the things I enjoyed, so I didn’t automate them. Further, they required some thought and strategy as a team.

2. Search for and RPA/Digital worker software. Look at the references, successes, how the organization and the software models to your process. Cost is often a factor, but shouldn’t necessarily be a driving factor. I would have paid money for the bot (you can donate to the developers of mybot.run), but in this case I found a great tool for free. For a business, you will expect to pay something for the software, but it is small compared to the net benefit which gets me to ….

3. ROI calculation, for me this was a no brainer. I was looking at the time I was spending in the game and getting nowhere. The value of my real dollar to game dollar was at an imbalance in my opinion, which is why I sought an alternative. In the case of a business, the value may not be easily recognizable until a year later when you have fully implemented your COE(center of excellence). You will be able to see a reduction in hours easily, but other things like correction in errors won’t likely be as identifiable until a larger data set is available. Further, my ROI was based on two things, reduce hours worked in game and cost avoidance. Had I turned around and sold my village, we could have added revenue generation to the ROI line.

4. The last part here is monitoring. Much like a real RPA COE, I had to monitor my bot. There were upgrades to the bot often, along with changes in the game that required recalibration. Also, just in some cases, it would stop performing for several reasons which required some investigation. Even though that happened, the benefit far outweighed my cost.

Just like anything my first digital worker could have been better, but I was happy that it did the job. What would have I liked front the bot, maybe attack suggestions, or other slightly sophisticated options. It’s the equivalent of graduating from a digital worker/RPA to light ML. In your day to day business it would be nice to have suggestions that help guide you that are founded in strategy and data.

In the end I kept playing a year after my kids stopped, but the lure went away as often does with gaming apps. Having said this I am happy to have had the time with my kids to play Clash, and even happier to have created my first bot using the game as a test bed.