What is Robotic Process Automation – RPA? The Complete Guide

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What is Robotic Process Automation?

In simple terms, RPA is the usage of computer programs known as software robots with advanced capabilities such as artificial intelligence & machine learning to automate manual and repetitive human activities based on business rules.

Organizations are constantly looking for new ways to increase efficiency and cut costs by digital transformation. The automation of internal systems is one of the most satisfying transformations.

RPA is one of these technologies consisting of software robots to execute tasks usually humans perform by interacting with different digital systems (e.g. ERP, CRM, and other applications).

Employees nowadays use a multitude of business applications in their daily operations. Some are legacy systems that do not integrate with other main applications. Manually transferring data between devices is the standard.

Employees may use RPA tools to record themselves doing these manual and tedious activities through many digital systems. Later, automated bots can mimic the reported behavior by communicating with programs in the same way as an employee does, but in a more effective and reliable manner.

RPA tools robot never gets tired, always consistent, and makes no mistakes.

Common RPA examples and use cases are automation of data entry, data extraction, and invoice processing.

Employees will be able to focus on more critical everyday operations by automating manual and routine processes with robotic process automation tools. This would result in significant increases in efficiency, morale, and skillset enhancement.

As per PWC, 45% of work activities can be automated and this will save $2 trillion in global workforce costs.

One of the most common RPA usage in small and medium businesses is chatbots.

The incorporation of advanced cognitive functionalities in RPA will enable bots to operate more intelligently through user interfaces.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can also improve the processing of unstructured data and the handling of errors.

Major RPA tools are heavily investing in AI and ML to automatically identify internal processes that could be automated. Their tools will analyze how employees are conducting their daily work and suggest improvements.

Check out the below article to know the difference between BPM & RPA

6 Mind-Blowing Differences Between BPM and RPA (theecmconsultant.com)

What is RPA Used For?

RPA is used for various purposes like:

  • High-value, high-volume, rule-based, and highly repetitive tasks can be automated
  • Simplifying and optimizing business operations
  • Accelerating business process execution
  • Facilitating an error-free work environment
  • Reducing reliance on human intelligence for routine tasks
  • Putting cost-efficiency back in the spotlight
  • Increasing the compliance and resilience of businesses
  • Improving product quality
  • Improving customer experience
  • Commercial functions activities Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Employee Onboarding
  • And so on

When Can RPA Be Used?

RPA can be used to automate repetitive manual tasks performed by employees. Automation of data entry, data extraction, email processing, ERP data entry, payroll processing, employee onboarding, data analytics, customer service handling, data management, and invoice processing are some common RPA examples.

What Are The Types of Robotic Process Automation RPA?

There are 3 major types of robotic process automation: attended automation, unattended automation, and hybrid RPA. Each type of RPA has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, but it is important to remember that these types exist only due to practical constraints.

  • Attended automation: It is a type of automation in which the bot or agent passively resides on the user’s machine and is invoked by the user at specific times.
  • Unattended automation: It is a great way to reduce the workload of back-office employees. Unattended automation can be started using the following methods: data input in a specific location, bot initiated, orchestrator initiated, and specified intervals.
  • Hybrid RPA: RPA bots, both attended and unattended, are combined to provide automation for both back and front office activities. This enables process automation from start to finish.

Robotic Process Automation Benefits & Advantages

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Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

In a study by Capgemini, they concluded that organizations of all sizes started to use or intend to implement RPA within the next 3 to 5 years and these companies realized that it is a major digital transformation step.

The proven benefits of RPA for businesses include lower costs, increased employee productivity, improved legal and regulatory compliance, faster business operations, less error-prone data entry, and more work 24 hours a day, seven days a week by automating manual repetitive processes.

Let’s take a closer look at how it can benefit organizations and what the advantages of implementing it are.

Reduced Cost

The use of RPA tools to automate manual, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks would undoubtedly speed up business processes and reduce human errors.

RPA can reduce operational costs by up to 50%.

Increased Productivity

By using robotic process automation software robots to execute time-consuming tasks, employees can leverage the gained time to work on higher important projects and tasks that involve creativity and decision-making.

As a result, this will help organizations increase their ability to react to changes and new business opportunities.

RPA tools have the ability to move companies to the next level of productivity optimization. Don’t forget that robots can work anytime and take on vacation.

Improved Compliance with Robotic Process Automation

RPA enables access to and processing of confidential data without the intervention of humans, thus lowering the risk of data breach and disclosure.

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Increased Accuracy & Consistency

RPA tools bots are more consistent, make fewer mistakes ,and work significantly faster than humans. This will result in improved business operation accuracy.

No Need For Advanced Technical Skills

RPA tools are easy to use, easy to configure, and don’t required advanced technical or development skills thus even non technical employees can benefit from RPA tools which will allow them to automate their tasks themselves by configuring software robots.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

RPA tools bots can do the job more efficiently and accurately, resulting in higher customer loyalty.

Robotic Process Automation With Your Existing IT Systems

RPA does not necessitate improvements to an organization’s current IT system that is in operation on a daily basis.

When RPA tools bots are configured, they are programmed to operate directly from the user interfaces of the appropriate systems, simulating employee work.

This is one of the most substantial advantages that has resulted in a higher rate of RPA adoption within organizations.

Improved Scalability

When the organization’s work load suddenly increases, more RPA tools robots can be deployed easily and at a low cost. When interacting with humans, it is difficult to achieve the extreme scalability offered by RPA.

Increased Process Transparency

Manual processes are difficult to measure, but RPA tools bots include measurements, reports, and a full audit trail of the processes being performed.

Implementing RPA results in 92% improved compliance, 90% improved accuracy and 86% improved productivity

How Many Types of Robots Are There in RPA?

RPA uses different types of bots including Tasks bots, meta bots , and IQ bots. Each of these types of bots is used depending on the automation needs. Task bots automate the replication of rule-based tasks and the processing of structured data. Meta bots can perform visual captures that are used for front-end automation. IQ bots extracts information from semi-structured and unstructured data.

Check out the article below for more information about types of data

Structured vs Unstructured Data: 5 Main Differences (theecmconsultant.com)

What Technology is Used in RPA?

Robotic process Automation RPA uses advanced cognitive technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Computer Vision in order to help organization automate their most time consuming data entry processes.

RPA technology does not use physical robots; instead, it employs computer bots to handle high-volume, repetitive time-consuming tasks that previously required humans to complete.

What Are The Disadvantages of RPA?

RPA Drawbacks and Limitations

RPA has its own drawbacks and limitations.

  • RPA will not fix inefficient processes. All RPA will do is speed up a bad process.
  • Someone has to tell RPA what to do. RPA cannot make its own decisions. for example For eg, it cannot determine which supplier is the most cost-effective to re-order from; the intelligence must come from a person or AI.
  • Robots are brittle and will crash if the interface is changed even slightly.
  • There is no innovative thinking.
  • It is a costly technology when compared to other technologies. However, if you live in a country with high labor costs, this could be useful.

Robotic Process Automation & ECM

RPA and Enterprise Content Management (ECM) work well together. RPA software bots may add a variety of benefits to an ECM solution, to name a few:

  • Automatic identification documents types based on content.
  • Extract metadata from the document content.
  • Migrations from legacy ECM systems.
  • Integration with legacy applications and databases.
  • Importing content to an ECM solution.

Major ECM solution providers have already acquired RPA tool companies; it will be interesting to see how they will incorporate this technology into their suite.

If you are new to ECM, check out my article What is ECM?

Conclusion

The estimated market size will reach USD 6.10 billion by 2027. During this pandemic, organizations are more than ever in need to automate back and front end office processes, and taking into consideration RPA benefits, there is no doubt it will continue its high adoption rate in all organizations sizes.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

The usage of computer programs known as software robots with advanced capabilities such as artificial intelligence & machine learning to automate manual and repetitive human activities based on business rules.

How is robotic process automation used?

Using RPA tools, employees can record themselves performing these manual & repetitive tasks across different digital systems and later software bots can repeat the recorded actions by interacting with applications in the same way that an employee does but in a more efficient and consistent procedure.

Why do we need RPA?

The automation of manual and repetitive tasks using RPA tools will allow employees to concentrate on more important daily activities. That will result in huge boots in productivity, improve morale, and enhance their skillset. As per PWC, 45% of work activities can be automated and this will save $2 trillion in global workforce costs.

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