Robotic Process Automation Guide – Everything You Need To Know About RPA

RPA: Why is it worth your money (and our time)?

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

This revelation by the Red Queen may have perplexed teenage Alice in Through the Looking Glass, but for modern executives, these words sound painfully familiar. As the culture of speed permeates every industry, today’s businesses move at a feverish pace. They take advantage of just-in-time production, fast turnaround cycles, real-time decision-making, and instant user interactions to resonate with their customers and build a competitive edge.
RPA BridgeRPA Bridge Save money on payroll What is RPA Reduce processing time
For many companies, speed and agility are the most valuable assets. The faster information, decisions, and interactions, the shorter the time to meet market demand and turn a profit. However, certain processes are massive stumbling blocks to the sustainable efficiency of these ambitious businesses. There’s a definite number of tasks a human worker can perform within a specific time limit; low productivity directly impacts a company’s bottom line.

Embracing the need for speed with Robotic Process Automation

  • Organizations worldwide struggle with achieving the speed needed to progress at the pace they aspire to. While 9 out of 10 business stakeholders believe it’s important tobuild an organization of the future, i.e., one characterized by agility, adaptability, and speed, only 11% of them understand how to do it. Here’s where RPA steps in.
  • By eliminating time-consuming, menial work, robotic process automation adds efficiency businesses need to strike the right pace for success. This guide will walk you through basic to advanced RPA use cases, demonstrating the value of bot-based automation for various businesses and sectors. Our goal is to throw light on RPA, prove that it’s not as scary as it may seem, and encourage you to give it a try.
  • Whatever the reason brought you to us, we hope you will find the answer to all the nagging questions about automation bots and learn how they can elevate your business to a whole different level. Going through our content will help you understand robotic process automation and determine this: ‘💰Is RPA worth my money 💰?’
RPA BridgeRPA Bridge Save money on payroll What is RPA Business

What is Robotic Process Automation?

If you’ve never heard about robotic process automation, the term may seem a bit intimidating. Indeed, the technological setup underlying RPA solutions is quite elaborate. It can involve voice or image recognition, predictive analytics, cognitive decision-making, self-healing, and much more. From the business perspective, the good news is that the concept of robot-enabled automation is rather simple to grasp. It all boils down to delegating high volume, monotonous work to bots for optimized business processes, and reduced operational costs.
Any business process that is: repeatable, rules-based, high-volume, can be optimized with Robotic Process Automation
RPA technology consists of bots, or software robots, that mimic a human to perform repetitive, high volume tasks faster and with greater accuracy. For example, the bots can read and input text, assign item categories, retrieve data, perform queries, and maintain records. (Scroll down to the section ‘What does RPA do’ for specific examples).

Of course, there’s slightly more to RPA than this. But at this point, this simple definition will suffice. One more thing that’s worth realizing upfront is the distinction between attended vs. unattended automation:

  • Attended automation – As the name suggests, attended automation needs guidance and cannot function on its own. Attended bots require collaboration with humans, assisting users and employees with tasks, and interacting with them to provide support. They are typically used in front-office activities to boost productivity, eliminate human error, increase compliance, and speed up task execution.

Example: Call center automation robots that assist agents, e.g., by prompting them on the next step of the script or finding answers to a customer inquiry.

  • Unattended automation – By analogy, unattended automation is fully autonomous and runs regardless of human assistance. Unattended bots are pre-programmed to work independently, following a rules-based process. They can be triggered by specific events to take action or scheduled on a timer (see also RPA & AI: What’s the difference?). This type of robotic process automation excels at batch back-office activities.

Example: RPA bots that can extract data from multiple sources, such as invoices, bills, or bank statements, and compare them for accuracy, approve, reject, or send for further processing.

What does RPA do?

There are no limits to robotic process automation capabilities to automate unexciting, time-consuming activities that eat up time that could be better spent on high-value work. RPA can be programmed to carry out repetitive tasks, such as reading and writing data, retrieving information from applications and databases, making calculations, or providing first-line customer support.

In particular, robotic process automation bots can:

R

Log into applications

RPA bots can log into websites, systems, and applications
R

Communicate with APIs

RPA robots ‘talk’ and exchange information with other systems via APIs
R

Understand text

One of the most commonly used RPA’s ability is to read texts in different formats
R

Search for images

Automation bots can be programmed to recognize and process images
R

Validate and retrieve data

RPA bots can connect to a database to perform data queries and validation
R

Compile reports

Finance and accounting use RPA to collect data and compile it into custom reports
R

Forward simple queries

Service robots forward emails and tickets to human operators and customers
R

Install tools and plugins

With RPA, it takes a single click to run installations of complex software systems
R

Input information

Apart from retrieving data, bots can add information to various systems and apps

R

Classify products

Automation bots eliminate the manual effort of assigning product categories
R

Schedule meetings

RPA bots help automate and simplify process scheduling and management
R

Send alerts & notifications

Automated notification systems help you keep your finger on the pulse

Benefits of Robotic Process Automation solutions

Whether running on a desktop or a server, RPA provides companies of all sizes with numerous benefits, from improved productivity, better quality and accuracy, to lower processing costs. What’s more, it brings a level of advancement to automation that is much more evolved than the previously available technologies. At the same time, robotic process automation is easier to use and faster to deploy than, e.g., sophisticated AI algorithms; therefore, quite often, it becomes a quick, low-risk starting point for streamlining work and optimizing profits through digitization. These factors account for an intensifying interest in RPA solutions.

“While we see RPA as a huge driver of improved performance and efficiency, the impact correlates back to accuracy and customer experience.”

Prakash Mall
Senior Director at RPA, Target

The advantages of RPA for business are as follows:

.01

Increased speed and productivity

By removing repetitive effort and reducing the overall processing time for basic jobs, RPA significantly increases the productivity output per employee.

.02

Improved processes

Process optimization is the foremost goal of RPA. By applying automation, companies can streamline their workflows, eliminate errors and disruptions, and complete projects fast.

.03

Reduced operating costs

Deployed with a minimal upfront investment, low-maintenance automation bots bring immediate ROI and enable reduced operational costs — all of that leads to significant savings.

Measuring RPA ROI

Given the relatively low cost and efficiency-boosting capabilities of robotic process automation, the technology helps businesses realize ROI in a matter of days. Or minutes, as it was the case of this US bank.

A leading American lending institution saw over a 300,000% return on investment with a simple RPA solution that streamlines the submission of applications for a national loan program.

.04

Fewer errors

Robotic automation solutions are 100% accurate, which leaves your data clean and well-organized, productivity intact, and service quality — flawless.

.05

Empowered workforce

As they reduce routine grunt work, software bots take the burden of tedious tasks off your employees’ shoulders and empower them to unleash their full potential.

.06

Impeccable customer experience

24/7 availability, immediate response, and ultra-fast processing of user queries — attended RPA robots make all of this possible by freeing up agents’ time to deepen customer relationships.

.07

Enhanced decision-making

Strategic decision-making relies on actionable insights. By organizing key data and providing quick access to crucial information, RPA helps leaders make timely, informed decisions.

.08

Regulatory compliance

RPA solutions keep a record of every operation and reliably follow the established rules, providing businesses with traceability and full oversight of their data and processes.

38% of US executives believe RPA is becoming the most valuable technology to power financial planning and decision-making

Source: State of Process Mining and RPA

Do RPA bots dream of killing our jobs?

OK, so robotic process automation bots never sleep and don’t make clerical errors. They don’t get paid, remain alert and productive 24/7, and complete tasks a great deal faster than human workers. Considering these facts, it seems reasonable to ask this: If RPA adds so much value and asks almost nothing in return, won’t it threaten our jobs?

The key to answering this question is to understand that the RPA’s role is transformation, not annihilation.

Robotic automation takes over routine tasks to release the power of human creativity, problem-solving, and inventiveness, and redirect employees to do purposeful work (while reducing costs). The technology is poised to transform the way we work, yet it is intended to impact specific tasks rather than entire professions. The doom and gloom scenario of automation bots displacing all human workers is highly implausible. And here’s why:

 

  • Robots do robot jobs. They’ve been created to perform specific, repetitive, and tedious tasks that don’t require a creative spark or human ingenuity.
  • The technology is meant to support and not replace humans at work. RPA bots are there to free us from routine work and give us more time to focus on value-added activities.
  • Robotic automation solutions are pre-programmed; they need clear objectives and cannot plan, organize, and prioritize work independently.
  • Some tasks cannot be automated, while others require human interaction or guidance.
  • RPA means more volume, better customer service, and more business. More business equals growth. And ultimately, growth creates more jobs.
  • Finally, dedicated, adaptable employees with a strong work ethic are extremely hard to find. No one in their right mind would want to lay them off on account of automation.

Over one-third of businesses expect to extend their workforce for new roles by 2022. Worldwide, the number of new jobs will offset the impact of automation.

Source: WeForum

RPA BridgeAutomations Business Process Automation RPA Robotics Happy Business Team Image

Are Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Business Process Management (BPM) the same?

Because both RPA and BPM enable business process improvement, sometimes it may be confusing to distinguish between the two technologies. While some of their aspects overlap, robotic process automation and business process management are distinct and should be seen as complementary pieces of business transformation and optimization.

What’s the difference between RPA and BPM?

Robotic Process Automation deals with optimizing specific tasks to be more efficient.
Software technology
RPA is concerned with software bots focused primarily on task automation, although it is possible to enhance them with AI or ML capabilities
Specific tasks
Automation bots are configured to enhance particular tasks, and they cannot resolve complex workflows on their own
Manual processes
The primary goal of RPA is to automate monotonous, routine, manual work and relieve personnel from repetitive, data-heavy tasks
Fast deployment
RPA tools seamlessly work with the existing infrastructure, and they usually don’t require complex, timely software development
Immediate returns
Because of its narrow focus, RPA delivers results fasts, although on a much smaller scale than all-embracing BPM solutions
Business Process Management takes a holistic approach to business transformation.
Management approach
BPM encompasses a wide variety of software tools, methods, and techniques, including big data analytics, reporting, workflow management, or AI algorithms
End-to-end optimization
BPM systems efficiently coordinate business processes from start to finish, e.g., through analysis, monitoring, and feedback
Any job or process
BPM streamlines end-to-end business processes and removes bottlenecks, allowing entire companies to become more efficient, agile, and adaptable
Complex implementation
Comprehensive BPM solutions entail a company-wide transformation, so the cost and effort of deploying them are quite high
Long-term impact
BPM focuses on ongoing improvement and long-term transformation, so its value may seem much more volatile

RPA or BPM — which one to choose?

As you can see, RPA and BPM solutions fall into entirely different categories. BPM platforms are a core component of business development and transformation. They are deeply transformative and geared towards achieving enterprise-wide gains in agility, productivity, cost efficiency, and compliance. RPA systems work mainly by replacing tasks previously done by humans. Automation bots won’t optimize the entire workflow; neither will they disrupt the state of being in your company. Instead, they excel at optimizing non-critical tasks that do not require complex decision-making but take time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere. As BPM and RPA are complementary, the question should be not whether to choose one over another but rather how best to align these automation technologies for maximum impact.

Robotic Process Automation versus Artificial Intelligence

Distinguishing between robotic process automation and artificial intelligence is even more difficult than understanding the difference between RPA and BPM systems. Both technologies have to do with software that performs simulations to support humans in carrying out various tasks, so there’s a relationship. To make things harder, RPA and AI can come together in what is called ‘Intelligent Automation,’ or ‘hyper-automation.’ So, what’s the difference? Let’s point it out.
RPA vs. AI: Is there a difference?

A common way to differentiate between RPA and AI is by making the following analogy:

AI mimics human intelligence and augments our capabilities, while RPA mimics human actions and helps us accomplish goals faster.

Indeed, in the battle of brains versus brawn, RPA bots are the muscles. They help us by doing things we ask them to do and lack the intellectual capacity to act of their own will. And AI software acts as the brains. It can learn, analyze, improve, and predict. As AI solutions ‘learn,’ they mature and gradually become more independent.

Robotic Process Automation
  • RPA is driven by processes, and it needs to be programmed.
  • It primarily applies to repeatable, straightforward processes.
  • Its purpose is to automate grunt work and improve workflows.
  • RPA handles rule-based work and does what it’s told.
  • Thanks to its simplicity, RPA doesn’t require high CPU usage.
  • It’s purpose-built for business use and doesn’t need expert skills to control.
Robotic Process Automation
  • AI relies on high-quality data and can define tasks and goals on its own.
  • Its applications are virtually unlimited; AI can perform highly complex jobs.
  • It focuses on solving issues that would otherwise need human intelligence.
  • AI software can self-learn, continuously improving its outcomes.
  • AI systems demand massive computing power from hardware.
  • It usually takes data science expertise to operate sophisticated AI systems.
As you can see, stacking up AI against RPA is like comparing apples to oranges. It just won’t work. However, in recent years, we have witnessed a growing convergence of the two technologies across numerous applications. It happens especially when business processes require more sophisticated solutions than basic automation. Simple automation bots can, for instance, process organized data structured by AI systems, enabling organizations to automate unstructured content.
And how about machine learning?
To learn the difference between RPA and machine learning (ML), it’s essential to understand where the latter stands with respect to AI. Aside from natural language processing (NLP) and deep learning, machine learning is one of the main subsets of artificial intelligence. It refers to a software system’s ability to learn from experience and improve results based on accumulated data, without being programmed by a human. Let’s look into some day-to-day examples of ML in our lives. We can think of Spotify, Netflix, or Amazon using the information about our purchase history and item search to figure out what we like and come up with an accurate product or content recommendations. In contrast, RPA is not capable of making conclusions and learning on its own. It relies on pre-built rules and processes and needs a human to tell it what to do explicitly.

Leading RPA solutions you can use to boost productivity

Robotic Process Automation solutions are fairly simple, which makes them very attractive for many companies seeking business optimization, especially if they launch with little capital. In addition to being relatively easy to deploy and handle, automation bots are also quite affordable.

Open and subscription-based RPA platforms enable quick automation of business processes without significant software investment. We use them at Flobotics to build custom implementations that allow our clients to ramp up productivity and unleash revenue potential.

The RPA value: RPA examples across industries

RPA first emerged in the early 2000s, but it wasn’t until around 2015 when the technology entered the mainstream. In the beginning, robotic automation predominantly helped optimize processes in the BPO, banking, and finance sectors.

Gradually, RPA vendors started focusing more on industry-specific processes in other verticals, such as healthcare, retail, energy & utilities, and manufacturing. As a result of rapid expansion, today, the global robotic process automation market is growing at an impressive rate. With a 22.3% CAGR, it is projected to reach $6.81 billion by the end of 2026. This is hardly surprising. RPA solutions provide huge cost and productivity benefits across all industries, as we will prove in this section.

RPA BridgeAutomations Business Process Automation What is Robotic Process Automation Image

#1 RPA in BPO

As BPO is all about business optimization, the industry is a perfect match for RPA solutions. By replacing repetitive tasks, enhancing workforce capabilities, and reducing operating costs, robotic automation presents new opportunities for BPOs to manage their global operations. The automation technology is particularly useful for streamlining back-office processes and eliminating inefficiencies inherent in critical business systems, such as ERP, CMS, and CRM. The bots can take over mundane tasks such as data entry, validation, and classification, report generation, file and document manipulation, data reconciliation, and many more. This way, they allow outsourcing teams to get busy with value-added work, driving enhanced productivity, and reducing error to achieve greater work consistency and SLA compliance. Highly scalable on-demand bots enable BPO companies to achieve economies of scale. They make it possible for outsourcers to minimize costs by assigning a smaller, agile workforce and reducing bench times for their resource pools. Higher quality of work and faster execution times provide BPOs with the possibility to offer differentiated high-value solutions to end customers.
RPA BridgeAutomations Business Process Automation What is Robotic Process Automation 2 Image

#2 RPA in telecommunications

Automation bots present an immense opportunity for the competitive telecom sector to reshape front and back-office processes. The technology supports service providers in various use cases, allowing telecoms to deal with ever-increasing amounts of data, expanding ranges of products and services, and relentless competition. Fully programmed to replicate human actions and interact with essential systems, RPA solutions take care of any non-strategic activities, freeing up resources to take care of more advanced tasks. Telecom companies integrate RPA solutions into their systems and workflows to boost services, downsize overhead expenses, and enhance customer satisfaction. RPA systems automate billing records, invoicing, and reconciliation across all channels and departments. They can also support human workers in network diagnostics and management, for example, by automating incident reporting and transfer. Another common area where telecoms leverage the power of automation is customer service. Bots support human workers by solving simple customer and partner queries, replying to emails, and improving first call resolution rates. They can also help with porting customer phone numbers, handling billing discrepancies, and facilitating dispute resolution. With their automated data collection, reporting, and analysis capabilities, RPA solutions provide strategic insights into customer needs and the competitive and pricing landscapes.
The impact of hyper-automation on telecom

One of the leading global communications providers gained the following benefits by deploying RPA bots to automate time-consuming tasks:

  • Over two million financial transactions processed within the first six months after the rollout
  • 25% improvement in cycle time across several key processes
  • An additional capacity of more than 80 FTE freed by automating grunt work
  • Eliminated need to hire temporary workers to fill in fluctuations in work volume