Introduction to Robotic Process Automation

September 16, 2020

Robotic process automation (RPA) is technology or software that is used to mimic the actions of a human being who is interacting with digital systems. Computer software or robots are configured to work or imitate how people interact with the systems used for business processes.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Types of RPA

There are three types of Robotic Process Automation. Attended RPA, which requires minimal human intervention. Unattended RPA, which does not require human intervention and hybrid RPA which combines attended and unattended RPA. Unattended automation is the most common, it makes work easier by reducing tasks like completing data processing in the background.

Why RPA?

The importance of RPA has only increased with time as it outdoes traditional automation. One of the main advantages of RPA is that it is cheaper to automate in the long run because of the benefits realized. RPA does not interrupt the current systems within an organization. It can be employed without disrupting business processes. Benefits are also realized faster when compared to traditional automation or manual labor. Another major advantage of RPA is that it is quite scalable and adapts easily to ever-changing business environments.

Features of RPA

RPA can function with no human interaction. Unattended RPA and hybrid RPA are capable of functioning without human interaction. RPA is agile and does not modify or interrupt previous systems and infrastructure.

  • RPA requires less time and effort to implement.
  • RPA can be integrated with other applications easily and can be configured in a unique way for different users.
  • RPA is process-driven.
  • RPA does not require physical machines because users can assign tasks to virtual machines.
  • RPA software is computer coded.

Automation vs. RPA

Automation, on the other hand, is when repetitive tasks are automated. Automation is when automatic equipment is introduced to business processes. While RPA functions with no human interaction, traditional automation requires minimal human intervention. As mentioned earlier, RPA does not modify or interrupt previous systems and infrastructure. In automation, the existing systems need to be customized. For customization, APIs are required but they are limited. This makes traditional automation complex and difficult as compared to RPA. These APIs are required for the integrate the automation into the existing systems. RPA can be integrated with other applications easily and can be configured in unique ways for different users.

Traditional automation is cheaper during the first stages as compared to RPA which is a bit costly. But in the long run, automation becomes more expensive due to maintenance costs. RPA is therefore cheaper because it does not include high maintenance costs and also saves time and effort. Implementation of automation takes a longer time than the implementation of RPA. Feasibility tests, system analyses, and design are needed and takes a longer period of time.

RPA is process-driven. It focuses on improving and perfecting the processes to improve or maintain value. Because of the process driven software, RPA requires less time and effort to implement. Programming skills are required in traditional automation. Users have to understand syntax and scripting. RPA, on the other hand, does not require knowledge of programming. RPA is of two types, programmable and no code RPA. Programmable RPA requires developers and programmers who can code the instructions that will govern how the RPA will function. For no-code RPA, users only need to understand the functionality of the system. This is because it includes flow charts. RPA does not require physical machines because users can assign tasks to virtual machines. In traditional automation, programming is key for scalability and parallel execution. Physical machines are a requirement for parallel execution.

Benefits of RPA

  • Cost

RPA is quite beneficial in the long run, in terms of cost. It does not interrupt business processes and is highly scalable. RPA reduces the cost of processing about 80%. Most businesses have positive returns on their investments in less than a year.

  • Accuracy

RPA involves robots and software. The accuracy level is very high because they are not subject to tiredness or confusion. They cannot make mistakes and comply with all instructions given.

  • Reliability

They are reliable because they follow instructions and they execute according to standards and regulations. RPA relieves employees from the pressure that comes with the accumulation of tasks and tiredness.

RPA software tools

RPA software tools are the software that organizations and enterprises use to acquire RPA services. All software programs have different features and provide different services. RPA tools are of two types, programmable and no code RPA. Programmable RPA requires developers and programmers who code the instructions that govern how the RPA will function. Some examples of RPA software tools in 2020 are;

  1. OutSystems
  2. HelpSystems
  3. Automation Anywhere
  4. UiPath
  5. BluePrism
  6. Pega
  7. OpenConnect
  8. KOFAX from Lexmark
  9. G1ANT
  10. WorkFusion

RPA Services

The services offered by RPA include; data management, order processing, salaries and wages processing, email processing, connecting to system APIs, filling forms, moving files to folders, reading and writing databases, extracting structured data from documents, and website scraping.

Organizations using RPA

Organizations using RPA are

  • Banking and Finance
  • Insurance Agencies
  • IT Integration Processes
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Manufacturing
  • Human Resource
  • Healthcare
  • Customer Relationship Management(CRM)

Conclusion

Robotic Process Automation is overtaking traditional automation because it is easy to adapt to businesses needs and the lesser cost associated in the long run. RPA is very helpful to enterprises as we can see how well functions and activities are automated. Businesses have also realized returns on their RPA investments. In the future, it is likely that attended RPA will be replaced by unattended and hybrid RPA. Many enterprises are likely to adopt Robotic Process Automation because of the advantages and characteristics mentioned above.

One of the main barriers or hindrances to RPA is the way employees and people, in general, will perceive it. Because of automation, people are likely to lose their jobs. This is because the programs in RPA emulate the way human beings interact with systems therefore replacing them.

At the same time, RPA creates employment for the people who created the RPA software. In conclusion, we can say that RPA is elevating businesses and making everything easier and better for both enterprises and customers because of high returns and quality products and services, respectively.


About the author

Judy Nduati

Judy is a student pursuing Business Information Technology. She is passionate, self-motivated, and a solution-oriented technology enthusiast. She is also a front-end web developer and a web designer. She loves technical writing and contributing to open-source projects.

This article was contributed by a student member of Section's Engineering Education Program. Please report any errors or innaccuracies to enged@section.io.