An Overview of Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Types, Definition, and Benefits

Posted On June 14, 2024

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Robotic process automation (RPA) occurs when basic tasks are automated through software or hardware systems that function across a variety of applications, just as human workers do. This can greatly reduce labor costs and increase efficiency by speeding things up and greatly minimizing human error.

The software or robot can be taught a workflow with multiple steps and applications, such as taking received forms, sending a receipt message, checking the form for completeness, filing the form in a folder, and updating a spreadsheet with the name of the form, the date filed, and so on. RPA software is designed to reduce the burden for employees of completing repetitive, simple tasks.


What is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a software technology that makes it easy to build, deploy, and manage software robots that emulate humans’ actions interacting with digital systems and software. Just like people, software robots can do things like understand what’s on a screen, complete the right keystrokes, navigate systems, identify and extract data, and perform a wide range of defined actions. But software robots can do it faster and more consistently than people, without the need to get up and stretch or take a coffee break.


What are the business benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

Robotic process automation streamlines workflows, which makes organizations more profitable, flexible, and responsive. It also increases employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity by removing mundane tasks from their workdays.

RPA is non-invasive and can be rapidly implemented to accelerate digital transformation. And it’s ideal for automating workflows that involve legacy systems that lack APIs, virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs), or database access.


Two kinds of Robotic Process Automation: Attended and unattended

When exploring RPA as a workflow automation solution, it’s helpful to consider the two different categories—attended and unattended automation—before deciding which is right for your organisation.


Attended automation

Attended automation allows you to focus on more high-value work across your organisation. It does this by automating repetitive, manual, front-office activities and mimics actions you perform on your desktop or browser, like mouse clicks, by recording and playing back these actions in real time.


Unattended automation

By contrast, as its name suggests, unattended automation doesn’t require someone to be at their computer. Instead, unattended bots do the work by themselves recording and playing back actions. Because they can use triggers and schedule automated events, they’re ideal for accelerating the automation of high-volume tasks across your organisation.


The advantages of using Robotic Process Automation

As anyone who’s ever been tasked with cutting and pasting the contents of one massive spreadsheet to another can attest, repetitive, tedious tasks aren’t really the best use of a human’s cognitive abilities. Not only is it boring for the person performing the job, but the end result is much more likely to contain errors. It’s probably also going to take much longer than if that task were performed by a bot.

Herein lies two of the biggest advantages of using RPA: increased productivity and accuracy. Workers are freed up to perform higher-value tasks, which elevates the nature of work they do. And when robots are programmed once, they follow the rules every single time. They never get tired or bored and they don’t make mistakes; their results are consistent and reliable.

Bots also make it simple for organisations to quickly scale up or down, so seasonal workflows and/or surges—across business units, locations, and from desktop to cloud—can be easily accommodated.


Why use Robotic Process Automation?

  • Workers are freed-up to perform higher-value tasks
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased accuracy
  • It’s faster and easier to scale up or scale down as needed


Features to look for when choosing Robotic Process Automation software

Plenty of options exist when it comes to finding the RPA solution that’s right for your company. Like so many business decisions, finding one that’s a good fit is critical, so look for one that’s:

  • Easy to use: Anyone within your organisation should be able to build and use bots. They should also be able to collect data that empowers leaders to make business decisions.
  • Scalable: Opt for an RPA platform that can be centrally managed and scaled to as many different locations as necessary.
  • Reliable: Since you’ll be automating hundreds or thousands of tasks, it goes without saying reliability—and built-in monitoring with analytics—are all critical.
  • Fast: The best solution will let you design and test new robotic processes in a matter of hours and quickly optimise the bots.
  • Smart: The best tools support simple, task-based activities, read and write to any data source, and utilise advanced learning to improve future automations.


The benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

Unlock the transformative power of RPA—a fast and effective way to streamline workflows and automate repetitive tasks.

  • Increase productivity: Speed up and streamline workflows with greater reliability and precision.
  • Save money: Boost efficiency across the organization, reducing costs and providing quick ROI.
  • Integrate seamlessly: Eliminate technology silos and achieve enterprise-wide efficiencies and collaboration.
  • Boost employee morale: Free up employees to focus on rewarding, fulfilling, and valuable work.
  • Improve adaptability: Scale with complete adherence to security and compliance requirements.


Where can Robotic Process Automation (RPA) be used?

Today, RPA is driving new efficiencies and freeing people from repetitive tedium across a broad swath of industries and processes. Enterprises in industries ranging from financial services to healthcare to manufacturing to the public sector to retail and far beyond have implemented RPA in areas as diverse as finance, compliance, legal, customer service, operations, and IT. And that’s just for starters.

RPA has become so widespread because it is broadly applicable. Virtually any high-volume, business-rules-driven, repeatable process is a great candidate for automation—and increasingly so are cognitive processes that require higher-order AI skills.


How does enterprise Robotic Process Automation RPA work?

Robotic process automation is software that gets work done using the same digital skillset as people—and then some. Think of RPA as a digital workforce that can interact with any system or application to perform repetitive digital tasks—things like copy-pasting, scraping web data, making calculations, opening and moving files, parsing emails, logging into programs, and connecting to APIs. Despite its extensive capabilities, setting up automations is surprisingly simple and user-friendly, akin to recording and sharing a video on your smartphone.

While just as straightforward and intuitive to use, enterprise-level RPA is also designed for the security, systems integration, scale, and compliance requirements of large organizations. Robust and resilient, enterprise RPA is capable of orchestrating thousands of automations at the same time while ensuring high availability and performance across enterprise operations. Enterprise RPA is part of the end-to-end Intelligent Automation strategy necessary for organizations to automate effectively.

  • Rule-based and adaptive: Enterprise RPA not only follows pre-defined rules but also learns from data patterns to swiftly adapt to new information.
  • High-fidelity at high-volume: Enterprise RPA delivers consistent, compliant performance for repetitive yet business-critical operations involving thousands of automations.
  • Defined data input/output: While RPA on its own is limited to structured data, enterprise RPA seamlessly integrates with AI tools that harness unstructured data.


Why is RPA the fastest-growing enterprise software in the world?

When you combine RPA’s quantifiable value with its ease of implementation relative to other enterprise technology, it’s easy to see why RPA adoption has been accelerating worldwide.

  • RPA can help many different types of industries address their specific operational issues in new and powerful ways.
  • Leaders of functional areas from finance to customer service to marketing to human resources and beyond find that RPA improves many processes, yielding higher capacity, faster throughput, and fewer errors for key processes.
  • From a CFO’s perspective, an investment in RPA technology delivers rapid ROI and requires minimal upfront spending compared to other enterprise technology.
  • IT executives find that RPA can be implemented with little disruption. And because software robots can easily access and work within legacy systems, RPA has become a key enabler for digital transformation. And modern RPA technology offers scalable, enterprise-ready platforms.
  • Employees find that it’s easy to adopt robotic assistants into their workdays, and that RPA’s low-code approach lets them become citizen developers who can build their own simple automations.


What’s the Difference Between RPA and Intelligent Automation?

Let’s with the question, “Is RPA software a type of cognitive technology?” In short, no. Not on its own. RPA software is not the same as artificial intelligence (AI). However, RPA is a component of intelligent automation (IA), also called business process automation (BPA).

IA is about evolving software robots by combining RPA with AI and business process management (BPM).

RPA performs repetitive actions using structured digital data. Meanwhile, IA turns unstructured data into structured data. This data can then be used by RPA to complete the processes.


Why should you implement intelligent automation?

RPA and AI are now being deployed together as intelligent automation (IA). IA brings together your end-to-end business processes, streamlining your work and making it more efficient by reducing bottlenecks and repetitive tasks holding back your employees. It takes RPA one step further by using AI and BPM.

Here’s how to implement RPA or IA into your business: Use SS&C | Blue Prism® Enterprise automation. Quickly and easily create and deploy a unified and robust digital workforce to reduce manual processes and create exceptional customer experiences.

There's now a dizzying array of automation solutions available. So why choose RPA?

The key reasons to implement RPA in your organization is to streamline your operations and ultimately reduce long-term costs.

At the employee level, RPA can eliminate monotonous and repetitive jobs, including many highly complex tasks. It allows you to automate a manual process so your people can focus on more strategic and creative activities.


Where to Start Your Automation Journey

So, you want to introduce intelligent automation to your organization, but you’re not sure where to start. The best way to reach your automation goals and get started quickly with RPA is to build a strategic roadmap.


5 steps for getting started on your automation journey

  1. Prepare everyone for automation and set expectations. For enterprise-wide buy-in, you’ll need to develop a convincing RPA use case. Unifying your digital workforce with your people is essential to winning over your workforce. Showcasing the benefits and potential return on investment (ROI) will help you get there.
  2. Ensure your processes are set for automation by identifying and eliminating bottlenecks and siloes. To create scalable automation across your enterprise, you’ll need to remove any obstacles in your current processes. Process intelligence, which combines process mining and task mining, monitors and maps your current business processes to determine which are ideal for automation and where you can make improvements.
  3. Establish reliable governance so your industry standards are consistently met. Implementing a CoE is a great way to get employees involved in your automation strategy and ensure compliance. A CoE will help with faster scalability as well as auditability.
  4. Find a scalable operating model that works for you. By following an operating model such as the SS&C | Blue Prism® Robotic Operating Model (ROM®), you’ll have a detailed step-by-step guide to strategically set up and scale your IA program, evolving it as you expand. The ROM also lets you track your automation maturity so you can always identify where your organization is on its automation journey.
  5. Think about the overall vision rather than focusing on small, task-based changes. It’s tempting to look at automating simple tasks with RPA, but true digital transformation comes when you look at the bigger picture of automating workflows with intelligent automation. That’s where you see real revenue and efficiency gains.


Common Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Use Cases

You know that robotic process automation (RPA) has the power to revolutionize workplace productivity and efficiency.

What you’re not sure of is if it's capable of doing so for your business or your business functions.

The good news is that RPA helps businesses with repetitive, high-volume, rule-based digital tasks. It doesn’t matter what your industry or function is as long as it has at least one manual process that can be made more efficient with RPA bots.

If you’re still not convinced, this article can help. We’re breaking down common RPA use cases by industry and function. That way you can start to imagine exactly how RPA can help you.


What are some common use cases for RPA?

RPA is used across industries to automate repetitive business tasks. Most often these use screen scraping as well as other automation techniques to move data from one system or application to another or perform an action.

Because RPA is mainly used for tedious, manual tasks — it is commonly used in roles, functions, and business units that spend significant time on these types of processes. RPA has played an essential role in the insurance, banking, and healthcare sectors, helping:

  • Reduce costs and improve the customer and employee experience.
  • Streamline customer onboarding.
  • Automate data extraction, data entry, and processing across applications, documents, and images.
  • Improve process accuracy and compliance.

RPA is most useful in organizations where employees perform a high volume of repeatable tasks and automation could free up their time to work on more value-driving tasks.

Some additional examples of RPA use cases include:

  • Manual data entry and manipulation (e.g. CRM updates)
  • Employee or partner onboarding
  • Reporting and data aggregation
  • Document generation
  • Payroll processing
  • User configurations
  • Invoice and payment processing
  • Order processing and shipping notifications
  • Resume and candidate verification
  • Expense management
  • Loan, claims, and appeals processes
  • Inventory and supply management


How do RPA and API-led connectivity relate?

Many people often think that RPA and APIs compete with one another — seeing as APIs allow the systems and datasets to be integrated while RPA scraps the data from one system to another. However, there are situations where an API-led approach could collaborate with RPA as a mechanism to broaden the scope of integration and enable access to more endpoints.

Where business process automation is not yet possible for an API-led approach, RPA may be used. Some examples of this are:

  • A system lacks an API, such as a legacy or on-premises application or a system that is heavily customized for the organization.
  • There is either delayed investment or lack of investment in the creation of an API for an endpoint — where RPA can be used as a stopgap for temporary access to the system.
  • There are different teams managing automation and integration.

Solutions like Oas36ty RPA enable the composable business by replacing repetitive tasks with bots that can intelligently process documents, enter data, or act on the user's behalf, all without any code. This end-to-end business automation drives innovation and collaboration, streamlines processes, increases efficiency and speed, and enables users to integrate and automate with disconnected legacy systems. With Oas36ty RPA, customers can bring together best-in-class integration, API management, and RPA capabilities to transform into a composable business.



How does RPA work?

Think of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as a digital workforce that can interact with any system or application. RPA automations are able to copy-paste, scrape web data, make calculations, open and move files, parse emails, log into programs, connect to APIs, and extract structured data.


What is RPA and how can it boost business efficiency?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) uses software “robots” to automate high-volume repetitive tasks, freeing up human workers for more valuable work and strategic decision making. It also boosts business efficiency by removing human error and speeding up workflows.


Why are companies adopting RPA technology?

Companies adopt Robotic Process Automation (RPA) automation tools to streamline operations, enhance accuracy, reduce costs, and improve customer service. It’s a fast, inexpensive way to achieve end-to-end business process automation. RPA also frees up human workers to do what they do best—solving problems, conducting analysis, and other highly valuable work.


What processes can be automated with RPA?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can automate a wide range of tasks, such as data entry, invoice processing, customer service responses, report generation, and even email management. In particular, it excels at executing manual and repetitive tasks (e.g. billing, coding invoices, and sending reminders).


Is RPA secure for my business?

Yes, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools follow strict security protocols. Businesses can enjoy the benefits of RPA without impacting security. In fact, RPA can be used to strengthen IT security, by deploying automations to secure sensitive data and removing risks caused by human error.


What's the cost of implementing RPA?

The cost of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) varies based on the complexity of tasks, number of automations, and chosen RPA platform. However, its ROI is often realized quickly due to efficiency gains.


How can you scale RPA across an organization?

To make Robotic Process Automation (RPA) truly scalable, automation needs to become embedded in your work culture and organization’s DNA. Create a center of excellence (CoE) dedicated to supporting and championing RPA. When it comes to ensuring sustained success and maximizing the impact of automation initiative, it will make all the difference.


Do users need to know how to code to use RPA?

No, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) does not require coding skills. Automation Anywhere offers automation technology that is always intuitive and user friendly, so that all employees can use them. If you know how to record video on your phone, you’ll be able to configure RPA automations. It's as simple as that.


Is RPA the same as Intelligent Automation?

No, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is not the same as Intelligent Automation, though the terms are often used interchangeably in the industry. Think of RPA as the essential building block within wider, dynamic architecture of Intelligent Automation. RPA focuses on automating rule-based, repetitive tasks by mimicking human interactions with digital systems. It’s incredibly effective at increasing efficiency and reducing errors in well-defined processes. Intelligent Automation, however, extends beyond these capabilities by integrating advanced technologies, in particular artificial intelligence (AI) tools, to not only automate tasks but also optimize entire workflows, make data-driven decisions, and turn routine operations into flexible and strategic assets that drive growth and innovation.


What are examples of robotic process automation?

Here are some RPA examples we're starting to see that you need to be aware of.

  • Data Transfers
  • Processing Payroll
  • Onboarding
  • System Setup
  • Call Centre Operations
  • Website Scraping
  • Processing Orders on eCommerce Sites
  • Customer Complaints
  • Credit Card Applications
  • Compliance Reporting

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