Robotic Process Automation: All what you need to know
What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is a type of technology that allows software robots to automate manual tasks. This can include anything from simple tasks like data entry to more complex processes like claims processing or customer service. RPA can help businesses improve efficiency and accuracy, while reducing costs.
RPA is different from traditional automation because it does not require any custom code or integration. This means that it can be quickly deployed and does not require IT support. Additionally, RPA software robots are designed to mimic human users, so they can interact with applications just like a human would.
How did it start?
The history of RPA can be traced back to the early 2000s when businesses began using screen scraping and macro recorders to automate simple processes. These tools were unreliable and difficult to maintain, so a new generation of RPA was needed.
In 2012, a company called Blue Prism released the first enterprise-grade RPA software. Since then, many other companies have followed suit, creating their own RPA platforms. Today, RPA is used by businesses of all sizes in a variety of industries to automate tasks such as data entry, customer service, and claims processing.
The benefits of Robotic Process Automation
Some of the key benefits of RPA include:
- Cost savings:
RPA is saving companies money by automating low-value, high-volume tasks that previously had to be completed by human workers. This not only reduces the amount of time needed to complete these tasks, but also eliminates the need for human workers to perform them, resulting in significant cost savings.
- Increased productivity:
Automating tasks can also help increase worker productivity. The more repetitive and mundane tasks you can automate, the more time your employees will have to focus on high-impact activities.
- Improve efficiency:
Automated tasks can be executed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which can help improve efficiency.
- Improve accuracy and consistency:
RPA can also help improve accuracy and consistency, because the software is preprogrammed to perform tasks in the same way every time which results in minimised human error, which can be a major benefit for companies with high-volume processes that require precision.
- Reduce processing time:
One of the benefits of using RPA is that it can help to speed up processes that are currently manual and time-consuming. For example, if you have to fill out the same form multiple times, an RPA bot can be configured to do this for you. This can free up your time so that you can focus on other tasks.
- Enhance customer service and experience:
It helps organisations to quickly respond to customers’ queries and complaints, allows them to offer personalised services to your customers, and helps organisations to keep your customers updated about the status of their requests or orders.
How Robotic Process Automation works
RPA technology is based on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) principles, which enable digital workers to “learn” from humans how to perform certain tasks (by the way, don’t confuse RPA and AI and ML. There is a difference between them). For example, if a human worker needs to fill out an online form to request a new credit card, they would first input their name, address, and other personal information into the form. The digital worker would then “learn” how to fill out the form by observing the human worker’s actions and mimicking them.
There are three main components of robotic process automation:
- Software robots: which are the heart of RPA. They are designed to mimic the actions of a human user in order to automate specific tasks. In order to be effective, they must be able to interact with the same applications and systems that humans use. They are programmed to carry out specific tasks, such as creating a new customer record or updating a product price.
- Workflow Management: Workflow management software enables users to map out the tasks for which they want to automate. It may also provide tools to design and test the flow of information from one task to another. Workflow management ensures that tasks are assigned to the correct software robot and that robotic process automation is integrated into the overall business process.
- Analytics: Which helps businesses to track and improve the performance of their robotic process automation system and identify process improvements.
It is not just about automating manual processes—it can also help with decision making and exception handling. For example, if an invoice doesn’t match up with the purchase order, the RPA software can escalate the issue to a human worker for resolution.
RPA is well suited for tasks that are rules-based, highly structured and repetitive with little to no variation. These “if this, then that” processes are ideal candidates for automation because they are predictable and require little human intervention or decision-making.
What are the different types of RPA?
There are four main types of RPA:
- Screen scraping bots: Screen scraping is a specific type of data extraction that refers to the act of gathering data from a website. RPA bots are particularly well-suited for screen scraping tasks because they can navigate websites and interact with web-based applications just like a human user. This means that they can click on links, fill out forms, and select checkboxes and dropdown menus.
- Rule-based bots: Rule-based bots follow specific sets of instructions to complete tasks. This type is best suited for tasks that are well defined and do not require any decision making. For example, a rule-based RPA could be used to automatically generate invoices based on data from a sales order system.
- AI-based bots: AI-based RPA uses artificial intelligence algorithms to understand the meaning of unstructured data, such as text or images. This type of RPA can be used for tasks such as identifying patterns, making predictions and providing recommendations. It is also used to identify the task which needs to be completed, understand it and then carry out the steps required to complete it.
- Natural language processing (NLP)-based bots: NLP-based RPA relies on pre-trained models that are designed to understand human language and generate natural language responses. In this way, it can handle simple and complex natural language queries from users, respond to them and, if needed, take the appropriate actions.
Business applications for RPA
- Data entry: One of the most common business applications for RPA is data entry. This can be a time-consuming task for employees, and often requires a high level of accuracy. RPA can be used to quickly and accurately enter data into systems, freeing up employees for other tasks.
- Web scraping: This is the process of extracting data from websites. This can be useful for businesses that need to gather data from multiple sources. RPA can automate this process, saving time and resources.
- Transaction processing: This is one of the common uses for RPA i.e. claims processing in insurance companies, they receive thousands of claims every day, many of which are repetitive and time-consuming. RPA bots could be used to streamline the claims process by automatically collecting and entering data into the required fields.
- compliance-related tasks: In some embodiment, the RPA may be used to perform compliance-related tasks on selected transactions. These can include: monitoring a set of transactions for suspicious activity; generating an audit trail for.
- document processing: This might involve anything from scanning and OCRing documents to extracting data from them and formatting it for use in other systems. This can be a tedious and error-prone task when done manually, but RPA can handle it quickly and reliably.
- Customer Service:
- In customer service, RPA can be used to automate processes such as handling customer inquiries, providing support during product returns or exchanges, and managing customer complaints.
- it can help reduce the amount of time customers have to wait to receive a response to their inquiry.
- it can help ensure that customers always receive consistent and accurate information.
- it can help reduce the number of errors made by customer service representatives.
- Payroll: Robotic process automation (RPA) can be used for various payroll tasks such as calculating employee salaries, distributing paychecks, and processing payroll taxes. RPA can help organizations improve efficiency and accuracy while reducing costs.
- RPA can be used to automatically generate invoices from purchase orders or other data sources, and can also be used to validate invoices for accuracy before they are sent out. This can help to reduce errors and improve efficiency in the invoicing process.
- Additionally, RPA can help to ensure compliance with regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley by providing auditable logs of all invoicing activity. This can give organizations greater visibility into their invoicing processes and help to prevent fraud or misuse of funds.
- Analytics and reporting: Robotic process automation can be used to speed up analytics and reporting processes. RPA can be used to gather data from multiple sources and consolidate it into a single report. RPA can also be used to automate the generation of reports on a regular basis.
How to implement RPA:
To implement RPA, you will need to select the right software and hardware for your needs, put together a team of experts, and define the processes that you want to automate. You will also need to establish governance around your RPA implementation to ensure success.
To implement RPA within your company, there are a few key steps you need to take:
- Identify the processes you want to automate: Once you have identified the process that needs automating, you need to determine which activities in the process are repetitive, and then create a list of those activities. This can be done by interviewing employees who perform these tasks and reviewing documentation of specific tasks.
- Select the right RPA tools for your needs: There are several RPA tools on the market, including Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, and UIPath. You will want to compare the features of each tool and find the one that best fits your needs.
- Select the ideal approach for implementing RPA: You have a few options for implementing RPA. You can hire an RPA consulting firm, use in-house resources, cloud or on-premise, ..etc.
- Create a realistic implementation plan: Before you begin the implementation, you will want to develop a plan for your RPA project. You will want to outline all of the steps that need to be taken, including which tasks will be automated and which tasks should be left alone.
- Implement and test your RPA solution: Once you have a plan, you should begin to implement your RPA solution. You will want to test your implementation regularly to ensure that everything is working properly and that customer service agents are able to handle any exceptions that may arise. Train customer service agents on using the new software.
- Monitor and improve the process: The next step is to monitor the process and improve it as necessary. You may want to adjust the speed of your RPA implementation, or you may need to modify the tasks that are automated.
RPA drawbacks and challenges:
Robotic process automation, or RPA, can be a powerful tool for businesses looking to streamline their operations. However, there are some drawbacks and challenges that need to be considered before implementing an RPA solution.
- One of the main drawbacks of RPA is the high initial investment costs. The hardware and software required to implement and support an RPA solution can be expensive, and there may also be hidden costs associated with integration and training.
- RPA requires a certain amount of data to be available in order to work effectively. If a business does not have enough data, or if the data is of poor quality, it could limit the effectiveness of RPA.
- It can require significant changes to existing business processes. This can create disruptions and cause problems for employees who are not familiar with the new system.
- Some employees may resist RPA because they fear it will lead to job losses. While RPA does not eliminate jobs in the short term, it can lead to fewer employees doing the same amount of work.
- lack of flexibility. Unlike humans, robots are not able to adapt their behavior on the fly to changing circumstances. This can limit the ability of RPAs to deal with exceptions or unanticipated conditions.
- In some cases, RPA can lead to process changes that are too simplistic and do not account for all the complexities of the real world. This can result in errors and inefficiencies that offset the benefits of automation.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is an exciting new technology that is transforming businesses across industries. RPA can automate repetitive, rule-based tasks and improve efficiency and accuracy. When implemented correctly, robotic process automation can be a valuable tool for businesses looking to streamline their operations and improve their bottom line. However, as with any new technology, there are potential risks and challenges that should be considered before implementing RPA. Despite these challenges, robotic process automation holds great promise for businesses looking to improve their efficiency and competitiveness. When implemented correctly, RPA can provide significant benefits that outweigh the risks.