Let’s find out what the basic principles of RPA are, and how it can help your company accelerate digital transformation.
RPA is an automation technology that allows you to get rid of repetitive tasks in a digital environment. To do so, it employs bots, software programs that are trained to mimic human employees’ actions to perform various assignments. These can be data entry in CRM systems, automated invoicing, text recognition, and more.
The key elements of RPA can be found in the abbreviation.
A special algorithm, or a software bot, executes a task. Like an industrial robot that follows a built-in script to assemble a car, an RPA bot follows a predetermined set of rules to emulate user interactions. For example, it can distribute incoming support tickets among the support team.
A user performs this sequence of steps to accomplish a task. For example, a support manager must handle all incoming inquiries. They open each inquiry, label them according to the type, send premade responses to the most common ones, and assign some of them which require extra attention to the proper teammates. In the case of RPA, the sequence described above is used to create a scenario for a bot that will perform the task instead of the real person.
This implies that the tasks are carried out without the participation of a real person or with minimal interference attended and unattended robotic processes). Thanks to this, RPA can free up plenty of human resources by being able to work 24/7 and manage an enormous amount of data at lightning-fast speeds.
When done properly, RPA is a powerful technology to augment your human resources, enhance the customer experience, and boost digital transformation.
Bots are at work.
RPA bots are software robots that are often addressed as a digital workforce. From a business perspective, an RPA bot is pretty similar to a regular human employee who works behind a computer. If you use an app that is licensed by the number of seats, the bot will take one of them.
For example, ElectroNeek’s marketers use Andy, a bot that collects weekly stats from analytics systems and CRM to streamline cross-system tracking and prepare reports for executives. A live person would spend a couple of workdays on this, but it takes Andy just five minutes to prepare everything.
Still, there are some peculiarities that differentiate a bot from a regular worker:
The tasks outlined above may seem like they mainly cover clerical and administrative functions, and that's the point. Automation aims to optimize employees' efficiency and help them focus on more meaningful and exciting aspects of their jobs.
RPA and artificial intelligence (AI) aren’t the same. While a typical RPA bot is a workhorse that carries out linear tasks by mimicking human actions, AI is used to develop an intelligent system that “thinks” for itself. It analyzes huge amounts of data, detects patterns and correlations, and uses these findings to make presumptions. For example, developers of chatbots feed them tons of example dialogues to teach them to conduct lifelike communication with people.
However, as AI becomes more accessible, it’s often used in combination with RPA software. Without AI, RPA can only process structured workflows and information. But with AI, RPA becomes more efficient, since now it can process unstructured data, such as freeform correspondence, voice messages (using natural language processing), and images, just to name a few.
There are many use cases of RPA for different industries, such as finance, insurance, and healthcare. Still, it’d be wrong to limit RPA technology to a few industries, as even within a single company, different departments could benefit from business process automation. Let’s have a look at the areas where RPA tools have already proved themselves:
Sales and marketing
Your IT department can develop and implement automations without purchasing RPA software if you have enough free engineering hands. However, RPA can be a helping hand for your team, and here’s why.
Nowadays, IT is present in all spheres of life. If it hasn’t reached some fields, it’ll be there within 5–10 years. But there’s already a lack of developers in the world; they are expensive, and, to be realistic, they often prefer more challenging tasks than automating routines. Still, businesses need to solve this kind of problem all the time.
In addition to costs, there’s a common issue with communication between business people and engineering people. Say you have a company with many business processes and want to automate some of the routine tasks.
At this point, a person with a business perspective will likely describe how the process they want to automate happens step by step. For example, say you’d like to help your financial department handle expense reports from employees more easily. Then you’d probably describe the workflow somewhat like this:
Looks like that’s it, but...
Creating a good specification for an IT team is only possible for someone with an engineering background. However, a detailed description of a process like the one above is what you need for RPA automation.
RPA doesn't solve the problem of automating clicks — any developer can. RPA technology helps business-oriented people get on the automation train and understand what's happening.
Although developers can effectively implement process automation without RPA tools, it's much faster and cheaper to do it with them.