What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one of the leading new categories of software today. Gartner marked RPA as the quickest-growing enterprise software category last year and there are plenty of other statistics to showcase its growth.
The definition of RPA from UiPath, the leading RPA provider, is, “software robots that mimic and integrate human actions within digital systems to optimize business processes. RPA automation captures data, run applications, trigger responses, and communicate with other systems to perform a variety of tasks.”
Once the RPA software is instructed on how to perform automated operations, its objective is to take over repetitive, high volume, and back-office type of work tasks. RPA automates operations such as data manipulation, processing transactions and facilitating communication with other systems.
RPA has its foundations in artificial intelligence, but should not be confused with AI, which is based on machines adapting from their surroundings to broadly replicate human intelligence, RPA is geared towards machines taking over repetitive, arduous processes with swiftness and precision.
Alex Bentley of Blue Prism, another global market leader for RPA explains,
“AI technologies tend to be applied in addressing very specific problems, and the technology itself evolves very quickly. That makes it very expensive to integrate – and hence difficult. RPA changes all that. It means you can very quickly integrate AI tools and applications. And different AI technologies can be switched out with far greater ease than ever before. One way to think about it is that RPA provides the ‘arms and legs’ for cognitive AI technologies that can think and make decisions, but on their own can’t act.”
The Value of RPA
USD $846 million was spent on RPA globally in 2018, an increase of 63 percent over the previous year.
The growth has not slowed down. Aaron Bultman, the director of product at Nintex said,
“The RPA market will continue its rapid growth in 2020 as more enterprises come to understand both the power of process automation overall and the number of legacy processes for which RPA is an effective answer.”
Gartner Inc. predicts that it will increase to $2.4 billion by 2022 and $3.11 billion by 2025.
How RPA can benefit your company
There is no wonder why RPA is growing so fast, manual processes are prone to error and are time-consuming in comparison. Errors are typically accounted for in operating costs. With RPA, you can eliminate errors and reduce the required time and money required to manually fix errors.
Robots will be able to work without breaks, 24/7. Unlike humans, they don’t require any downtime other than for the occasional upgrades and tests. Also, their processing time is faster and the number of projects that can be undertaken is increased.
Employee retention & satisfaction
Employee turnover and the on-boarding and training process is expensive and exhaustive. MarketWatch explains that jobs with the most monotonous and repetitive tasks have the highest rates of employee turnover. RPA can decrease employee retention by reducing the labour that is more probable to lead to turnover. Automating manually processed work is also more likely to lead to higher employee satisfaction.
Organizations seek to reduce the costs and time associated with repetitive tasks through outsourcing, off-shoring and sharing services with other companies. Instead, RPA offers in-house software-based solutions. RPA brings about greater cost efficiency through the replacement of human labour and the reduction of processing time in high-frequency tasks.
Will RPA replace human labour?
The goal of RPA is not to replace human workers, instead, it is meant to make their work more efficient, leaving them more time to do work only humans can accomplish. Humans and robots can complement and collaborate each other.
RPA can be thought of as similar to outsourcing. In each case, you no longer need to hire in-house employees to do certain work that you can outsource or automate. Instead of hiring overseas or at other outsourcing firms, you can create jobs within your organization. Someone will need to maintain the robots, run and control the software and handle customer service for your RPA supplier, thus, you are creating jobs in the RPA industry.
Frank Casale, founder and chairman emeritus of the Institute for Robotic Process Automation (IRPA) claims that RPA is simply making jobs easier to do, not taking them away. With IT as an example, Casale states that
"The average IT professional spends 80 percent of his time keeping the lights on and 20 percent [focusing] on critical work," Casale says. When using “RPA the bulk of the mundane work gets done by software -- freeing team members to focus on innovation."
Additionally, if your company is looking to downsize, RPA can assist with that. Outsourcing an RPA company to handle and maintain certain facets of your business can assist in downsizing your company.
Some things that RPA can help your business with are: perform many tasks simultaneously, enable communication with legacy and novelty systems, quality assurance, cross-verify and validate data, reduce gaps between systems, perform revenue forecasting and data migration.
UiPath’s chief evangelist, Guy Kirkwood says,
“With RPA, there is no limit to where it can spread; there is no part of any business that cannot benefit. RPA is therefore right at the start of its life. Ultimately, we believe that every person will have their own robot,” said UiPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere are considered the pioneers in the world of RPA.
Industry Uses of RPA
RPA is being used and applied in various industries. For instance, the insurance industry uses it to detect insurance fraud and assess risk to predict outcomes. It can also be used to direct the development of innovative products, detect risks, perform damage assessment and recognize billing errors.
In the financial sector, RPA can gather pertinent financial information from a database and quickly formulate a credit score of a client by connecting to a web-based platform. The robot could calculate the score and send the information back to an agent and enter the event operation into its systems.
Accountants deal with a constant flow of work and the pressure to process data precisely. RPA can manage more repetitive tasks and leave the accountants to handle the critical thinking. Or moving data from a legacy accounting application to a new software solution can be a slow and error-prone but RPA will handle the data that cannot be miscalculated with accuracy.
Some more examples on how RPA can be implemented:
Financial and Banking Sector
Manufacturing and Retail