What is RPA? I’ll be brief – it’s a way to save your time and money.
That’s probably not the answer you’ve been looking for, but if it has made you stay on this page, continue reading about what is RPA acronym (Robotic Process Automation) – I’ll make the short story longer but concise. Also, I’ll tell how robotic technology is applied in different cases, show you the RPA benefits, and you’ll find out about free RPA training for non-technical people – below is everything you need to get started with RPA.
What is RPA (Robotic Process Automation)?
RPA acronym stands for Robotic Process Automation. According to Merriam-Webster, we can define robotics as, “technology dealing with the design, construction, and operation of robots in automation.” In turn, RPA is an application of technology aimed at automating business processes in terms of business logic and structured inputs. Using robotic process automation, a company can configure software – a “robot” – to capture and transmit programs for handling transactions, managing data, triggering responses and interacting with other digital systems. RPA automation applications range from something as simple as generating an automatic response to a message to deploying thousands of bots, each designed to automate tasks in a business company.
How does it work?
What image first comes to your mind when you think of robots? I believe the majority of people think of artificial intelligence and robots like Sophia or industrial robots. When we talk about RPA in terms of business process automation, like with industrial robots transformed factories, RPA bots transform offices. RPA bots replicate one’s actions, like opening files, entering data, and copy pasting elements in an automated way. They communicate with different systems via integrations and screen scraping, thus bots perform actions like a white-collar employee.
A bot is the most fundamental element and there are already free RPA bots providing free trials (offered by Pega, Kofax) or limited functionality (Workfusion RPA Express and UiPath Community Edition). Robots can be run from the cloud or on desktops. The key features of RPA bots include integrations and programming interfaces. Integrations are necessary for your bot to communicate with the applications you use in your organization. It is also possible for the bot to screen scrape and still perform tasks, however, it is more reliable to have app integration compared to screen scraping as the latter tends to have a higher risk of causing errors. Most bots in the market integrate with legacy applications, web programs, desktop software, and other major enterprise tools. Programming interfaces are needed as long as bots need to be programmed. RPA programming is relatively simple compared to other types of programming, and for non-technical people, there are code-free ways to program RPA bots (check out WinAutomation, Ayehu).
As for bots and processes management console, or orchestrator, it allows users to start/stop or schedule tasks for bots and analyze their activity. Orchestrators show issues that the bots encounter and provide a dashboard for the processes that are managed by robotics process automation (for example, UiPath Orchestrator). Among its key features are business exception handling, different user access levels, and analytics capabilities.
Watch a video below from Deloitte UK to see what is RPA and how it works with a simple example that shows the bot extracting and processing data from an email:
Robotic automation benefits many businesses, and as I’ve mentioned, RPA automation is a way to save businesses time and money. According to a 2019 report by AI Multiple, robotic process automation brings certain RPA benefits including overall business benefits and its specific benefits to customer satisfaction, analytics, HR, IT and compliance – see the image below:
RPA technology: Applications & industries
With the growth of modern technology, many business analysts, CEOs, and other professionals related to business process optimization are eager to know how the latest innovations can help them. Indeed, robotics process automation comes to the rescue when it’s needed to improve certain business processes while saving the time and money currently spent on them. Let’s go through several examples of RPA automation application in different business activities:
Every company needs to sell its products and services and make related customer experience perfect. Issues in sales operations can result in customer complaints or selling at reduced prices due to clerical errors or delays. The automation of basic sales operations eliminates these errors and provides fast service to your customers. Correspondingly, customers receive their invoices earlier which leads to earlier payments and improved cash flow. This can also be one of the simplest processes to automate since it mostly relies on the company’s structured data to generate invoices to be sent to customers.
Most B2C and many B2B businesses have a customer onboarding process that is critical to reduce churn and get customers to start using the product extensively. Using RPA automation, most customer onboarding actions can be completed instantaneously even in companies that rely on legacy systems, greatly improving customer experience. According to Workfusion’s case study, owing to robotic technology, a major bank’s customer onboarding process achieved Straight Through Processing (STP) and reduced onboarding time – it’s hard to believe – from 20 days to 5 minutes!
Data entry & migration
Many critical functions in business organizations are still completed by legacy systems. In these cases, employees manually enter and migrate data and this routine work takes up a lot of their work time. For this reason, some companies prefer to hire freelancers for data entry to keep their full-time employees busy with more important and creative tasks. Robotics process automation can eliminate such manual labor and the potential clerical errors it brings. Furthermore, such systems that keep data up to date promote optimized analysis and decision making.
Many departments, which exist in every enterprise – such as HR, customer service, and marketing – routinely have to update employee/customer data as it constantly changes. With RPA, automation is oriented at setting up bots for auto-updating relevant data from forms or emails to ensure that employees have access to fresh and correct information without a need to update manually.
Most data validation means can be implemented in databases. Still, there are data validation tasks like cross-checking data against publicly-available data, for which RPA automation is more suitable than other solutions. Moreover, it will bring certain RPA benefits, such as minimization of error risk and efficiency in terms of time and money.
If employees frequently need to extract data from PDFs, scanned documents, and other formats, it takes a lot of their work time. yet negatively influences their productivity. Screen scraping, OCR, and basic pattern recognition technology within robotics process automation enable data extraction from almost any format, decreasing the need for inputting data manually and saving employee time = thereby saving the company money.
Report preparation and distribution
Every business requires regular reports to inform managers and the team about their progress, current performance, needs, and challenges. Constructing such reports and distributing them every week or month is not labor intensive, yet it diverts employees from more important tasks. Robotic technology can easily auto-generate reports, analyze their content, and according to said content, email them to corresponding stakeholders. In turn, RPA bots can analyze reports to categorize recipients according to provided criteria.
Mass emails generation
Mass emails based on data from multiple systems are painful to create manually: employees need to take into consideration data from different systems to make sure emails contain the appropriate info and are sent to the correct addresses. Robotic technology is especially effective if employees are sending them frequently – consider automating the process to make it much faster and easier.
These are just several examples of how robotic process automation (RPA) can help companies save their costs significantly. If you’re still wondering what is RPA within the framework of your business case, read below to learn where you can get free RPA training to discover which processes are applicable for automation in your situation.
The last thing I’d like to share is great RPA training created specifically for non-technical people. Since the RPA market is growing, companies providing solutions engaging RPA automation tend to offer free RPA training on robotics process automation awareness to let non-technical people know what is RPA and what it is all about. One of the best RPA training is provided by UiPath Academy. In fact, I like two of their courses: RPA Awareness Training and Business Analyst Training on robotic process automation. These will explain all you need to know about robotic technology, including the RPA basics and eligible processes. In terms of business analysis, you’ll discover how to choose which processes to automate, calculate ROI, and analyze bots productivity.