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What Is RPA or Robotic Process Automation

Let’s find out what the basic principles of RPA are, and how it can help your company accelerate digital transformation.

What is RPA?

RPA is an automation technology that allows you to get rid of repetitive tasks in a digital environment. To do so, it employs bots, automation 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 benefits of RPA can be found in the abbreviation.

R — Robotic

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.

P — Process

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 that 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.

A — Automation

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 correctly, RPA is a powerful technology to augment your human resources, enhance the customer experience, and boost digital transformation.


What’s an RPA bot and what can it do?

RPA bots are automation 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 Neek, 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 Neek just five minutes to prepare everything.

Still, there are some peculiarities that differentiate a bot from a regular worker:

  • It has a perfect memory and it never forgets anything.
  • It executes only one task at a time. You can’t get a bot to do a super-urgent task right now if it’s already busy doing something else. On the positive side, the bot will never mix anything up.
  • It’s ready to work 24/7. You can schedule night launches or ask bots to work on weekends, no problem.
  • It boasts tremendous speed. When it comes to sequences of clicks, using console commands, typing, or data entry, bots are second to none.
  • It operates with formal logic. Say you need to find a file named “Report for MMDDYY.xlsx.” Unlike a bot, a human employee would easily recognize that a file named “Report for MMDDYY Updated.xlsx” is OK too, while there’s no need to waste time on “Report for MMDDYY !!!Needs to be redone.xlsx.”

So, what can RPA bots actually do?

  • Actually, they can do almost anything if their task is rule-based. Here are some of their basic skills:
  • Manipulating files and folders;
  • Launching and terminating apps;
  • Extracting data from documents with Optical Character Recognition;
  • Querying databases;
  • Transferring data between systems;
  • Making calculations;
  • Typing text and filling in forms, and more.

The tasks outlined above may seem like they mainly cover clerical and administrative functions, and that's the point. Automation software aims to optimize employees' efficiency and help them focus on more meaningful and exciting aspects of their jobs.

Does RPA have anything to do with artificial intelligence? Are they the same?

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, an AI bot is used to develop an intelligent system that “thinks” for itself. Using machine learning 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 machine learning 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 it can now process unstructured data, such as freeform correspondence, voice messages (using natural language processing), and images, just to name a few.

Where can RPA be used?

There are many use cases of RPA for different industries, such as finance, insurance, manufacturing 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 automation software have already proved themselves:


Customer service

  • After-hours customer support
  • Handling feedback
  • Sending notifications
  • Updating client's profiles
  • Real-time updates on purchase status

Financial services

  • Extracting billing information
  • Processing financial transactions
  • Invoicing
  • Preparing data for audits
  • Accounting reconciliation

Human resources

  • Employee surveys Onboarding
  • Managing payrolls, compensations, and other benefits
  • Handling compliance
  • Time record validation


  • Backups
  • Data migration
  • Automated testing of sites and applications
  • Managing events
  • Security & compliance monitoring


  • Order validation
  • Purchase planning
  • Processing of returns
  • Managing contracts

Sales and marketing

  • Updating information in a CRM
  • Campaign management
  • Reporting
  • Quoting
  • Performing follow-ups and post-sale requests

Wait, can’t my IT department do the same? What makes RPA a game changer?

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 automation software developers in the world; they are expensive, and, to be realistic, they often prefer more challenging machine learning 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.

communication between business people and IT: expectation

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 efficiently. Then you’d probably describe the workflow somewhat like this:

  • An employee submits a receipt
  • An accountant needs to make sure there’s a business name, data, purpose of payment, and the sum
  • Then the accountant enters this data into the accounting system
  • Then the accountant submits the request for the head of finance to approve
  • When approved, the accountant executes the payment

Looks like that’s it, but...

communication between business people and IT: reality

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 software train and understand what's happening.

Although machine learning developers can effectively implement process automation without RPA tools, it's much faster and cheaper to do it with them.

the team with RPA vs. the team without RPA

Key takeaways

  • RPA is an automation software that can leverage AI bots to eliminate repetitive and mundane tasks, with an easy-to-use user interface.
  • The benefits of RPA is to optimize the efficiency of employees and help them bring more value by focusing on the most meaningful aspects of their jobs.
  • Unlike machine learning AI RPA bot will focus on automating processes that emulate a user’s actions to execute a pre-set scenario-based task.

Check out these NEW automation software use cases.

Ready to take the next step on your RPA journey?