As the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) adoption continues to skyrocket across industries and geographies, it quickly became a mainstream technology that is seen as the backbone to digital transformation.
To help cut through the noise and complexity, our automation experts have taken the lead to answer some of the most asked questions that RPA newcomers are looking to understand.
For more insights on RPA related terms, visit our RPA Glossary page.
To put it simply, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the technology that allows organizations to software robots or BOTs to perform specific tasks in an automated way.
Using a combination of user interface interaction, descriptor technologies, and cognitive processes, The RPA BOTs can be used to mimic or emulate selected tasks within an overall business or IT process. These may include manipulating data, passing data to and from different applications, triggering responses, or executing transactions. The bots can work through one or more software applications.
Graphic Source: Forbes
One of the benefits of RPA is it can be used to automate tasks in any industry, including insurance, healthcare, banking and financial services, procurement, supply chain management, and manufacturing. While many of the tasks in these industries vary in their outcomes, they also have commonalities that make them suitable for automation. You can read JOLT's 5 tips to selecting the best business processes for automation here.
Below are characteristics of business processes that can be ideal for starting your RPA journey:
Are repetitive and consistent. These activities remain fixed over time and are not variable. Robots follow rules, so the tasks for automation should consist of unambiguous steps taken in a defined manner each time. Examples include data entry and migration, payroll, accounts payable, and more general copy-paste and swivel-chair tasks.
Don’t require constant human intervention. While robots can be stopped in the middle of a process and will alert human employees when reaching an exception, the most ideal processes are those that can be entirely automated. This will lead to the most effective results, such as cost reduction and increased productivity, in the shortest possible timetable.
Are high-volume and time-consuming. Processes, such as orders and claims processing, that require a large investment of time and effort on behalf of your employees, as well as those that are the most burdensome for your organization, are ones that warrant and justify RPA implementation.
But as early adopters begin to scale their automation footprint and the RPA technology continues to mature with the addition of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) components, organizations now have the ability to automate more complex and exception heavy tasks which will help lead them towards hyperautomation.
When talking about intelligent automation the conversation goes beyond RPA and AI.
To intelligently automate means to take robotic process automation and enhance it with AI, machine learning, and other technologies that allow for a more custom and intelligent design of the process automation that can be implemented across organizations.
Yes, RPA is fully agnostic and can be used to automate and integrate data in any application (on-prem or cloud-based) and in any interface or server including Citrix.
Menial and repetitive business tasks take up a significant amount of an employee’s time. Upon automation of these processes, much of this time is freed to focus on higher value tasks that involve complex decision making, such as developing customer relationships. But what exactly about RPA allows this to happen? The most significant payoffs provided by automation include:
Reduced costs. According to the Institute for Robotic Process Automation (IRPA), RPA can reduce costs by 25-50% since robots typically cost about one-third of an offshore full-time employee and one-fifth of an onshore full-time employee.
Consistent quality. Because RPA software robots act in a consistent manner, tasks that are automated will have an increased accuracy, allowing for substantial risk mitigation. Robots will be able to streamline tasks flawlessly and execute it in the same way every time.
Increased efficiency. RPA software robots are able to work around the clock, 24/7/365. There is no need for them to take breaks during the weekend or on holidays. Coupled with increased speed and decreased cycle time, this can provide optimized back office performance in a very short amount of time.
Process mining is a set of solutions that leverage event logs that are generated by enterprise systems such as ERP, CRM, HCM, and SCM to rebuild a virtual view of the business process.
Robust process mining tools can blend data mining with AI/ML to generate data based analytics, and help organizations discover the as-is state of business processes as well as identify new opportunities for optimization and automation.
Process Mining is part of the multiples stages of the RPA lifecycle, early on to identify processes that are candidates for automation, analyze the extent to which RPA can be implemented in legacy processes and systems. And later on, it provides monitoring and analysis on RPA performance for continuous improvement. Read all about process mining and RPA here in our blog.
Business and IT leaders can use these steps as a guide to develop an RPA implementation strategy that ensures its success and future scalability.
Additionaly take a look at 6 tips to implementing RPA at your organization.
There are multiple challenges that can appear when implementing RPA in your organization, here are three of the major and most common ones:
One reason to implement RPA within your company is scalability. Order processing or accounts payable workflows, for example, can be replicated or reused across different business departments and between locations. In addition, the number of active robots can be scaled up or down quickly with little to no additional cost. Scaling your robotic workforce can be a permanent development to match the growth of your company, but robots can also be scaled temporarily to meet business demand during a specific window.
Organizations may experience increased demand for robotic workforces during peak times - holidays, end of the quarter, etc. - when more order processing is required. Temporary scalability is also useful when a more active robotic workforce can process extra transactions during new product or service release.
In fact, according to the IRPA, “Separating scalability from human resources allows a company to handle short-term demand without extra recruiting or training...management will be more effective because RPA makes it easy to maintain a scalable infrastructure. In short, it’s easier to scale software than it is people."
This is especially true when compared to maintaining employee levels to match fluctuations of business demands. Increasing or decreasing your number of robots is much more cost-effective and efficient than having to hire and release employees.
Today, robotic software is rule-based and exceptions require human intervention for resolution. But are RPA software robots capable of completing cognitive tasks? What would the collaboration between RPA and more intelligent solutions, such as artificial intelligence, entail? With the contribution of cognitive algorithms and machine learning, RPA will be able to adapt to more complex situations, independently correcting errors and applying judgment. While transactional processes are the current focus of automation technology, the convergence of RPA with AI has arrived.
According to Gartner’s list of Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020 the evolution of RPA into hyperautomation will be the #1 trend. Expanding the automation from Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to a combination of cogntivie technologies (AI, ML, NLP, OCR, AI Vision) that enable the end-to-end automation lifecycle. You can read more about RPA and Hyperautomation in our blog.
The abilities of both RPA and cognitive products will be combined into a single solution that will allow tasks to be automated in an adaptive and responsive way to maximize business outcomes. The software robots will be able to analyze elaborate activities just like a human employee in order to deliver superior performance and a more valuable customer experience.
Hyperautomation is a strategic enterprise initiative that can deliver a continuous automation journey with superior business outcomes by leveraging a combination of technologies that complement the core Robotic Process Automation (RPA) adoption.
Take a look at our Hyperautomation Hub and learn all about the evolution of RPA.
Get an in-depth end-to-end view of the hyperautomation journey, what intelligent automation is, and how to start your journey today.