RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation. It is the technology used for software tools that automate human tasks (which are manual, rule-based, or repetitive). It enables to create software robots (known as bots) to automate such tasks.
RPA bots perform tasks at a much higher rate as they never sleep and make zero mistakes. They can learn, can be cloned and can interact with in-house applications, websites, user portals, etc.
For example: They can log into applications, enter data, open emails and attachments, calculate and complete tasks, and then log out. Moreover, they can take received forms, send a receipt message, check the form for completeness, fill the form in a folder and update a spreadsheet with the date filed, the name of the form, etc.
RPA technology division:
RPA technologies can be further divided into three categories:
1. Probiotics: These are the bots that follow simple, repeatable rules to process data.
2. Knowbots: These are the bots that search user-specified information from the internet and respond to the user.
3. Chatbots: These are the bots that act and respond as virtual agents. They reply to customer queries in real-time.
The term ‘RPA’ was coined in the early 2000s, the initial development was started after the 1990s.
It had four key predecessors. They were as follows:
1. Screen Scraping -
Screen Scraping technology is considered as a significant step towards the creation of RPA. This technology is used to extract data from web, programs, and documents, which is further displayed by another application.
2. Desktop Macros-
Desktop Macros is a utility that records all mouse and keyboard events such as key presses, mouse movements and clicks. The recorded macro files can subsequently be played back number of times as per the requirement. Desktop Macros record macros while you are working with any Microsoft Windows application.
3. Workflow automation & management tools-
Workflow automation is the process that includes a series of automated actions, which helps in reducing the human task. These actions must be repetitive so that their steps are predictable. Such actions can be automated by using automated management tools. Workflow automation uses business rules to decide when the step has been completed, and the execution of the next can be started.
4. Artificial Intelligence-
Artificial intelligence is the ability of computer machines or robots to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI programming is based on three techniques: learning, reasoning, and self-correction.
There are so many benefits which industries are gaining with the use of Robotic Process Automation technology. Few of them are:
- Low Technical Barrier - RPA does not require coding skills to complete 80% of its task. Only for major advanced functional level automation Java or .net is required.
- Improved Efficiency – When RPA handles repetitive daily tasks and workflows, the process runs much quicker and subsequently more efficiently.
- Greater Productivity – With RPA output will be significantly increased. Moreover, workers can apply their skills and experience to more important projects that drive innovation and growth.
- Elimination of Human Error - Even the most careful human worker can make a mistake. Sometimes these errors can prove to be incredibly costly. With RPA technology, this risk is eliminated, resulting in greater accuracy.
There are numerous tools that are used to implement RPA technology.
List of most widely used tools is as follow:
- Automation Anywhere
Few others are:
- NICE Systems
Selection of right tool:
It is also important to select the right tool according to the industry requirements where it has to be used.
Major criteria for choosing appropriate RPA tools are:
- Understand the requirement for which RPA needs to be implemented.
- Learning required for the tool should be minimal i.e. it should be easy to understand and is adaptable to support basic automation tasks.
- Base Technology Used should be secure as the usage of RPA will involve handling private data.
- Accuracy It is required to detect tasks that require accuracy improvement.
- Speed should be increased while performing the task.
- Cost needs to be evaluated as per the company’s investment plan.
- Scalability of the tool i.e. the tool must be able to perform multiple tasks at a time and it must be easy to integrate the tool with new technologies.
- Architecture Understand the architecture of the tool and how it can be implemented within the process.
RPA is being used among different industries like Financial Services, Healthcare, Insurance, Telecom, etc.
Here are a few processes that can be automated across departments with RPA:
- Vendor, Customer and Employee On-boarding: The process includes finance & accounting, sales/new accounts and HR. All of these involve a lot of paperwork, investigation, and lengthy back-and-forth communication between your company and the other party. With RPA, an entirely automated on-boarding process can be designed that includes automatic status communications as well as full integration of the information with your internal systems.
- Vendor, Customer and Employee Maintenance: Parties often need to be updated, whether it’s an employee submitting a change of address form or a vendor or customer needing to re-sign a yearly contract. RPA can be used for automating processes that are triggered by another event (yearly anniversary, the due date of all partner contracts), or a process or task like employee filled out a change of address. It ensures the data is accurately updated in real-time across all systems.
- Report aggregation: This process is especially time-consuming for finance and accounting, especially at the end of a month, quarter or year. RPA can automate the gathering and aggregate of data in a fraction of the time.
- Payroll processing: RPA’s ability to collect and connect that data between multiple systems such as time tracking, providing accounting reports for taxes and various departments, HR and employee management, makes it important in automating the process.
- Customer Due Diligence: Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering is expensive and challenging. RPA automatically acquires, enhances and delivers the precise data required to comply with any internal or external source and it can check for more data points in a shorter period of time to provide a more comprehensive assessment.
- Competitive Pricing and Monitoring: RPA can monitor and alert or proactively reprice according to the specs in real-time so outdated reports are not used.
- Order Processing: The ordering process involves many time-consuming manual tasks like address verification, data entry, printing the invoice and shipping label, and updating warehouse inventory and reordering if your stock is low. RPA can automate and plan the process.
- User Setup and Configuration: While employee on-boarding, someone from IT support has to add and configure a new user so that new employees can log in to their computer, email, network etc. RPA can be used to automate the process.
As every coin has 2 sides. There are a few limitations of RPA as well. They are:
- Monetary Expense – Budgetary restrictions are among the biggest reasons why businesses opt not to implement RPA.
- Dynamic Process – Robots mimic human behavior in a static way and thus they lack a human’s ability to adapt to change. If robots are added to dynamic systems then, there will be an impact on the speed with which change can be delivered and the cost of that change. Also, if the system is broken, it could accelerate the problem.
RPA should not be used in isolation as it’s a tool in a toolbox. When these obstacles are adequately addressed, the benefits of RPA can be fully embraced and realized.
RPA puts productivity on repeat. So, human beings can focus on those tasks which require emotional intelligence, reasoning, judgment, and interactions with customers, rather than just doing repetitive time-consuming tasks.
Once advancements of RPA get fully evolved all those operations which a human does today will be automated.
RPA is the future!