Published August 16, 2022

What is Robotic Process Automation ?


Robotic process automation (RPA) is currently receiving a lot of attention and rightly so. Organizations are driving considerable value by streamlining enterprise processes and reducing cost.

Forrester predicts that the RPA industry will be worth around US$2.9 billion by 2021. The research firm also estimates that by 2021, more than 4 million robots will come into existence and will perform administrative and office work as well as sales and related jobs.

Presently, the RPA market is dominated by North America and the Asia-Pacific region is adopting the technology rapidly in areas such as healthcare, BFSI, IT, retail, and telecommunications.

John Cryan, CEO of Deutsche Bank summed up the signal changes brought about by technologies like RPA with his statement, “In our bank we have people doing work like robots. Tomorrow we will have robots behaving like people. It doesn’t matter if we as a bank will participate in these changes or not, it is going to happen.”

What is robotic process automation (RPA)?

Robotic process automation (RPA) refers to the use of software driven by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to automate high-volume, repetitive tasks of a business process.
Just like humans, RPA robots utilize the user interface to manipulate applications and capture data. They communicate with other systems and interpret messages and send responses to perform a wide variety of tasks.

However, RPA robots cost much less than an employee, never take sick days, never sleep, and make absolutely no errors. Thus, RPA offers a competitive edge to businesses that adopt it.

How is RPA different from traditional automation?

In principle, both RPA and traditional automation integrate software to automate business processes. However, traditional automation typically achieves this on the backend. Specifically, RPA and traditional automation differ in the following ways:

  • Low technical barrier: Traditional automation involves the use of APIs and thorough knowledge of the target system. RPA robots can work at the level of the graphical user interface (GUI) and application integration is not required.
  • Vendor/Software Limitations: In traditional automation, only certain systems can be integrated due to API limitations and applications cannot be customized by users because the source code is not available. Automation of legacy systems is a challenge because it requires through knowledge of software. RPA does not have these limitations as it works on the GUI.
  • Customization: Traditional automation does not lend itself to customization to the user’s platforms in the manner in which RPA does.
  • Audience: Skilled software developers are required to deploy traditional automation applications, whereas RPA requires techno-functional SMEs to train robots.

Why should organizations consider RPA implementation?

RPA is the most cost-effective and efficient way to automate modern office tasks. Today, employees use a greater number of tools than they did in the past. It is simply not feasible any longer to automate all these tools and interactions using macros.

Implementation of RPA offers several benefits to organizations:

  • Highly scalable and flexible: RPA has the ability to perform a wide variety and volume of tasks across business units and geographies in parallel. Extra robots can be deployed to deal with fluctuations in volume at minimal cost.
  • Greater accuracy, improved compliance: RPA robots are trained to work according to the rules of a program. They work with greater precision and accuracy than humans. They never make mistakes and never get tired; thus, they are compliant and consistent.
  • Identify workflow inefficiencies: Business processes become streamlined after deployment of RPA. Businesses may also discover ways to reduce inefficiencies by simplifying existing workflows and eliminating needless processes.
  • Better security: RPA robots are immune to cyber attacks like social engineering and spear phishing, thus making the system safer than if humans were operating it.
  • Improved productivity: RPA takes over repetitive tasks from humans and allows them to focus on value-added tasks. This helps improve employee productivity significantly.
  • Cost savings: RPA has been found to reduce processing costs by up to 80%. Most enterprises receive a positive ROI in less than 12 months. According to McKinsey, RPA has the potential to offer a 30%-200% ROI in the first year of deployment.
  • Non-invasive: RPA robots do not require custom software or deep systems integration and can be easily trained. Thus, organizations using legacy infrastructure can also implement RPA. This also often makes RPA cheaper to implement than traditional automation since there is no need for infrastructure remodelling, offshore/onshore manual processing, or outsourcing.

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