While RPA (Robotic Process Automation) is gaining momentum with companies across the world turning to it for automating business processes, it faces some resistance as decision-makers look at it as not being as valuable as human capital. However, RPA can have a positive impact on business performance by automating repetitive or dull tasks that take up precious time of the employees, thereby leaving them with more time to focus on more critical tasks.
What is RPA? What is it used for?
Robotic Process Automation refers to the software tools that can be employed to automate routine and highly repetitive tasks that are usually performed by employees. The automation of repetitive tasks saves time and money as bots perform the tasks faster and frees up the employees’ workload so they can focus on higher-value work.
Besides being a non-intrusive tool, RPA offers the benefit of leveraging the existing infrastructure without causing disruptions in the underlying systems. RPA bots can be used for almost all routine actions that a human user performs such as logging into applications, filling in forms, scraping browsers, extracting data from documents, and moving files and folders, among other tasks.
What is the difference between RPA and Automation?
RPA is highly intuitive compared to traditional automation, which relies on programming and uses APIs to link between various systems. In comparison, RPA mimics the actions of human users at the User Interface. RPA uses several types of technologies, including Machine learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to execute actions across applications.
Whereas developers needed to understand the target system before writing a program for traditional automation, RPA provides a more straightforward solution that allows business users to automate processes on their own.
Types of RPA
Assisted or attended automation implies that a bot or RPA agent is available on the user’s machine and can be invoked based on specific circumstances that usually occur based on specific actions by the user.
For instance, if a customer query requires some initial validity checks, the user’s action of copy-pasting or entering the data into a specific field could be the point that triggers the bot to perform the checks on the user’s behalf by scraping information from a database and automatically filling in the customer details in the other fields.
As the name suggests, unassisted automation refers to bots or agents that are not dependent on user actions. This type of RPA is ideal for tasks that run in the background, such as processing data to provide reports. For example, bots could process sales data at predetermined intervals – daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly – to generate reports for the marketing team.
Hybrid automation is ideal for environments that require user as well as backend processes and need inputs from both sources to be more stable and robust. Instead of processes being run solely based on algorithms, certain parts of the process can be outsourced to humans to ensure that it is working as expected.
It offers the advantage of freeing humans from mundane, routine tasks while benefiting from their lateral thinking to ensure that the automation is error-free.
A Few Advantages of RPA
- Accuracy – RPA eliminates manual errors, thereby providing more reliable and high-quality data.
- Compliance – By minimizing human contact with sensitive data, RPA tools reduce the occurrence of compliance issues and fraud and are highly recommended in financial applications.
- Cost savings – Since machines perform some of the routine tasks, it reduces wage costs as companies won’t need to hire additional resources to handle these processes.
- Employee productivity/morale – By freeing up employees from performing mundane tasks, they have more time to focus on high-value tasks, thereby boosting their productivity and morale.
- Digital transformation – By eliminating human errors while completing processes, RPA provides reliable and accurate outcomes, which lead to better customer experience.
Disadvantages of RPA/Why RPA projects fail
Underestimating human capital/improper implementation One of the main reasons that RPA fails is that it does not get the required support from businesses. Furthermore, the users who best know the processes are often excluded from the implementation, resulting in a gap between expectations and results. However, this issue can be tackled by involving users and understanding processes before implementing an RPA solution.
Security risks Since RPA processes often require the processing of sensitive data such as payroll, personal details of customers, and credit card numbers, among other data points, unauthorized access poses the risk of confidential data being misused through the privileges granted to the software robots.
Several techniques can be put in place such as segregation of data access, credentials management, and activity tracking as well as data encryption to eliminate these risks.
What types of business processes can benefit from RPA?
Robotic Process Automation is ideal for the following types of processes:
- Not dependent on human intervention – Certain repetitive processes such as payroll batching and accounting calculations that do not require too many inputs from the human user.
- Prone to human error – Mundane activities, which cause human attention to waiver, resulting in errors.
- Need for several systems to work together – Certain complex processes might require several systems to be used to retrieve various data points, which can be time-consuming. Instead, automating the process helps to free up the human user’s time.
- Well-defined rules – Since robots do not have the lateral thinking capability that humans have, processes that have clear-cut rules to follow are most suited for RPA.
In what business functions can RPA be used?
Banking and Insurance Banking and insurance processes are lengthy and require a lot of information input and exchange. RPA can simplify these processes significantly. For instance, to recommend a suitable investment solution to a client, the banker would need to study the customer’s information on the CRM system, evaluate the various products and then decide which ones to recommend.