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the automation glossary

Terms you need to know around RPA

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As automation and cognitive technology expand beyond the manufacturing world and into the office space of knowledge workers, the terminology that company leaders must know increases.

The automation glossary

The Robotic Process Automation (RPA) industry uses many terms that are used in more traditional, physical robotics applications—think robots that help in assembly lines and manufacture other goods—these terms often don’t mean the same thing when transferred to the office setting.

This all-around guide will help you go from RPA newcomer to understanding the value vendors offer your organization as you navigate your RPA journey.

Still have some unanswered questions? Check our RPA FAQ page or contact us to talk to one of our automation experts.

terms you need to know

Software robots that mimic and integrate human actions within digital systems to optimize business processes. RPA automation captures data, run applications, trigger responses, and communicate with other systems to perform a variety of tasks.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

Technology intended to respond to and learn from stimulation in a similar way to human responses with a level of understanding and judgement that's normally only found in human expertise.

PRocess Mining

Process mining is defined as 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. It helps organizations discover the as-is state of business processes as well as identify new opportunities for optimization and automation. Discover how process mining and RPA go hand in hand in our blog.

intelligent automation

Intelligent automation is to take Robotic Process Automation (RPA) 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.

Attended RPA

Attended RPA includes scenarios where decision making and/or user input is required, such as desktop automation. These robots work at an employee's workstation and are triggered by two situations: a user's command and instances were robots need input from the user to continue a task.

Automation design

The plan for how RPA will be rolled out in an organization. As part of this plan, organizations identify a list of processes that are the best candidates for automation. The design can be developed as a short or long term plan.

"Automation first" era

An era of technology where people think to apply RPA to as many processes as possible for enhanced productivity and embraces the vision having one Robot for each employee.

Business intelligence

A system of technologies, practices, and applications that help companies collect, analyze, and present information related to business operations.

Business process management (BPM)

The practice of using modeling, automation, and data insights to optimize business activities, enterprise goals, and employee operations.

RPA Center of Excellence (CoE)

A department within a company created early on in the RPA journey to support the implementation and ongoing deployment of RPA. The CoE team uses RPA tools and technical expertise to identify and manage ongoing RPA implementations. The RPA Center of Excellence

Cognitive automation

Automation that goes beyond regular RPA that can work on semi-structured and structured data alike, leveraging cognitive capabilities.

Command-line interface (CLI)

A way of interacting with a software package by triggering actions with lines of text (command lines) directly to a program.

Computer vision

The cognitive technology that allows automation software to recognize and interact with information from images or multi-dimensional sources that can be used for Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and pattern recognition.

Deep learning

A pattern-based processing method that is a type of Machine Learning (ML). Deep learning allows automation robots to mimic human tasks like identifying images on a screen, recognizing language, or predicting outcomes.

Enterprise resource planning (ERP)

A system that allows organizations to manage operations like accounting, project management, and procurement through software packages that enables enterprises to gain insight through a single database of shared information.

Enterprise RPA

An RPA scenario where an organization aims to automate and optimize the execution and rollout of RPA robots, not just the creation of them. This includes a strategy for how the robots are deployed in relation to human teams throughout the organization, supported by a flexible process flow.

Full-time equivalent (FTE)

The amount of work a full-time employee does in a department, on a certain project, or on a certain task.

Graphical user interface (GUI)

A form of  human-computer interaction that allows users to trigger program actions with windows, icons, and menus.

Hot-seating scenario

Working spaces where employees do not have fixed machines and they are free to use any machine in the working space. This situation applies in contact centers or other offices where people work in shifts. JOLT can help you implement a floating automation solution for scenarios like this.

Hyperautomation is the expansion of automation as we know it, going beyond the simple, repetitive task oriented automation to AI-based advanced automation which enables organizations to automate highly complex business processes from end-to-end with a robust toolset that compliments the standard capabilities of the RPA technology.

The application of advanced technologies like AI, Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), intelligent Object Character Recognition (OCR), and process mining augments workers and automates processes in ways that are much more impactful that traditional automation capabilities. 

Learn more about hyperautomation in our Hyperautomation Hub

Processes that are unique to a specific industry, such as fraud claims discovery in banking, claims processing in insurance, or bills of material (BOM) generation in manufacturing. See how JOLT has implemented RPA in each one of these industries.

Machine learning (ML)

The process that allows software robots and AI to learn new processes through pattern recognition rather than needing to be individually and precisely programmed for each new situation.

Natural language processing (NLP)

A part of artificial intelligence, NLP allows computers to understand, interpret, and mimic human languages.

Non-persistent VDI

A generic Virtual Desktop Infrastructure that doesn't save shortcuts or file settings that the user makes, instead reverting back to a uniform desktop each time a user logs out.

Optical character recognition (OCR)

Software that singles out letters and symbols in PDFs files, images, and paper documents that enables users to edit the content of the documents digitally.

Pilot program

A test of the automation that follows the initi al proof-of-concept phase to see if the robot will perform as expected in more advanced, complicated conditions.

Proof of concept (POC)

A test run of the automation to discover its limitations and help ensure that the robot will work as intended. Learn how PoC is part of JOLT's 360° RPA services.

Robotic Operations Center (ROC)

A robotics department which specializes in rapid automation and high-quality, low-cost change management. Where a CoE supports early RPA implementation and roll-out, the ROC supports existing robots, automates new processes, manages RPA-related security, and performs compliance functions for more mature RPA models. It is a structured department with a defined budget and operational service-level agreements (SLAs).

RPA roadmap

A plan that comes after the automation design phase and provides companies with guidelines to meet their RPA goals. This includes a cost-benefit analysis of the processes selected for automation.

Role-based access control (RBAC)

Security parameters that restrict employees to only have access to information that is required to do their unique jobs, preventing them from reading documents or sensitive materials that are not relevant to their day-to-day work.

RPA environment

The combined processes that have been automated in a company, usually within a singular department.


Allows a company to schedule, manage, and monitor all robots in one secure place. An Orchestrator lets companies deploy and scale their RPA solutions as well as audit and monitor both robots' and users' activities.

Automation Operating Model

A model for how RPA will be designed and rolled out. This model often involves process architects, technology experts/advisors, and ongoing maintenance and support staff. The model changes slightly based on company and industry to best suit their automation goals.

Screen scraping

Copying data from one application to another using a computer program.

Software robots

Software robots are robots that interact with applications and systems through a graphical user interface (GUI) or command-line interface (CLI) to carry out routine tasks.

RPA Multi-tenancy

An architecture where single instance of software application can be used by multiple teams/departments. The UiPath Platform offers multi-tenancy so that a tenant can be formed for each department within an organization. Multi-tenancy facilitates convenient scaling and collaboration while maintaining privacy.

Unattended RPA

Software robots that need little—or no—human intervention to carry out actions on a 24/7/365 basis when triggered. These robots complete work continuously in a batch-mode model that allows for around the clock automation. These robots can be accessed remotely by different interfaces and platforms, and administrators can view, analyze, and deploy scheduling, reporting, auditing, monitoring, and modification functions in real-time from a centralized hub.

Unstructured data

Information that isn’t organized in a defined way and is often filled with text, dates, and numbers in an unorganized system.

Workflow automation

Using RPA technology to automate steps in manual or routine business tasks to improve day-to-day practices, make employees more efficient, and allow humans to focus on higher return work.

Virtual environment

The system created by automation software and programs that manage an organization’s processes from within a company’s existing IT setup. This environment is controlled by the company and creates a central software hub for administrators and users.


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