Robotic process automation (RPA) :What it is, how it works and its benefits

As organizations and operations are adapting to the new normal, the scope of automation and dependency on technology is expanding. Enterprises are exploring adopting a digital workforce to ensure resilience and business continuity during challenging times. While hyper automation solutions continue to be implemented across industries enabling organizations to function around the clock increasing productivity, profitability, and speed-to-solutions, it also transforms the way the human workforce functions improving the quality of work and job satisfaction.

The introduction of robotic process automation (RPA) became a game-changer across industries delivering outstanding results while offering reliable solutions. RPA is a configurable software tool or a software robot that runs a sequence of actions based on defined business specifications or rules. The robot interacts with the computer similar to how a human does and completes the defined set of procedures in an automated manner for a set of applications. 

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Eventually, any action performed by a human on a computer system using a keyboard and mouse or even voice can be achieved by the software robot. The typical examples, include opening an application, logging into the application, performing an action (like sending an email, copying/ pasting any information, data parsing), and more. 

How it works:

The general use of RPA is to perform mundane, repetitive tasks which are transactional in nature. Since the software robots cannot mimic the human brain, their transcendental qualities are limited, and hence the bots cannot understand, observe, or speak. However, they could perform exactly as configured to provide error-free and speedy processing. 

RPA can be deployed to perform automation where the first is assisted and the second is unattended or unassisted automation. Attended automation usually runs on users’ systems and works in line with the person. For instance, a typical credit card support center agent would need to open 4 to 6 multiple applications while responding to a customer’s query. It is a tedious and time-consuming process to open each application and look for the customer’s name, card, or phone number which can consume 15 to 25% of the total call time. RPA or attended automation assists in opening these applications based on customer details. When the call is completed, the agent has to document the activities or the action items to be performed and the RPA can help record the actions taken by the agent to provide a better service to the customer.

However, unattended or unassisted automation has no or minimal interaction with the user or in this scenario with the call center agent. The software robot works in the background 24/7 and is hence able to achieve massive productivity and scale. For example, in the case of a customer onboarding process, the objective of the onboarding process is to collect and assess customer data to provide better service and manage risk, here RPA can support performing repetitive rule-based tasks and processes such as data reconciliation and verification and sending emails (e.g., sending email requests of missing documents). 

RPA programs are easy to configure and are quite user-friendly. Simple automation or configurations can also be done by a business user who we also call “citizen developers” and it may need just a couple of weeks of training to acquire the RPA skills. There are other functionalities/features available in RPA, and one of them is called “Task recorder”. The Task Recorder program will record the tasks/steps executed/performed by the user on the computer and RPA uses this recording to program/configure the software robot, this feature helps to speed the development cycle as it generates about 20 to 30% off code automatically.

Benefits of RPA:

The major advantage of RPA is that the unattended/automated processes can run 24/7 providing huge benefits/ROI for the businesses; the onboarding time and cost of a software robot are low when compared to onboarding a human. Few other technical benefits are the integration of data between legacy systems (e.g., those where APIs (application programming interface)) are not available and addressing certain non-standard requirements (like customer onboarding scenarios), etc. However, lack of integrations amongst the system has its own downsides, for example, it is less reliable, data integrity is weaker, and is less flexible to process changes, if a part of an RPA program fails, it has the potential to stop the entire program flow.

In the upcoming years, due to the nature of repetitive tasks in many organizations, RPA volume is seeing a huge surge, and given that RPA is easier to implement and its advantages in cost and time savings, RPA will remain a major focus area for many enterprises as well as mid-sized organizations. Technologies like low-code platforms, intelligent document processing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, process mining, and analytics complement RPA which helps to build smart and intelligent workflows resulting in a new breed of automation also known as hyperautomation.



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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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Robotic process automation (RPA) :What it is, how it works and its benefits

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