Want to find out non-invasive and practical ways to automate business tasks across the organization? You must learn robotic process automation or RPA.
Workflow automation based on If Then Else has been the leader of automation for a long time. However, businesses processing huge data and information in back-end offices needed more convenient, fast, and flexible automation.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is the answer to this business need. Read on to learn more about RPA, its use cases, and functional RPA tools that can help your business grow.
Automation in Business and RPA
Today, businesses mostly use workflow automation solutions. It works on conditional programming. There are many workflow automation tools like Zapier, Microsoft Flow, Integromate, etc. You must recruit an experienced conditional programmer who will first learn your business processes.
Other problems associated with workflow automation are:
- No ad-hoc customization opportunities
- You need to give access to confidential data to third parties
- You need to rely on third parties for privacy and data security
- The opportunity for flexibility and scalability are limited
To address these issues, automation experts have developed a new technology that can mimic human operators. This is robotic process automation or RPA and it will transform the way businesses process data, information, service requests, and more.
What is RPA?
Robotic process automation (RPA) is an automation process where software robots learn from human activities on a desktop or laptop.
Once the learning is complete, these digital robots can reproduce the tasks a human data operator or customer service agent does on their workstations.
The RPA process of automation utilizes multiple cognitive tools to deliver 100% reliable automation, and they are:
- Computer screen reading
- Optical character recognition
- Keystroke reading on keyboards
- Text analytics
- Handwriting identification
- Voice recognition
- Object recognition
- Sentiment analysis
- Image identification
For an RPA solution to work functionally, the task should be repetitive, manual, and rules-based. Also, the outcome of the task is predictable. Essentially, the bot copies the steps an employee does and reproduces the steps without any human intervention.
How does RPA Work?
An RPA bot uses cognitive tools to learn how to complete a repetitive and rules-based task like copy-pasting data from a database to an Excel sheet.
That is just the surface! The whole process depends on the following program modules:
Bots are programs that execute repetitive tasks. They can automatically process service requests, create invoices, send marketing emails, fill up online forms, enter data in spreadsheet apps, organize data in a database, submit customer data in CRMs, etc.
A software bot consists of the following programming instructions:
- Working with data variables like Yes/No values, names, files, numbers, file formats, etc.
- Conditions to create branched scenarios like If/Then, If/Else, etc.
- Loop instructions so that the bot keeps repeating the tasks until it delivers a satisfactory condition.
A Studio to Design Bots
An RPA Studio is an interface where you can configure bots, train them, and execute automated tasks. Most studios come with no-code or low-code programming of bots. Furthermore, there are drag-and-drop scenario editors for convenience.
Studios offer you actions that can add to your boots. Some of the actions are:
- Opening or closing applications
- Selecting elements or clicking on those
- Input data
- Accessing, writing, reading, and updating spreadsheets
- Unzipping and zipping files
The RPA Orchestrator is the main console that manages and controls all the bots, server connections, and desktop apps, that facilitate the whole automation. It offers the following services or functionalities:
- Save automation scenarios
- Launch bots
- Integrate bots with 3rd-party apps
- Monitor bot performance
- Audit automation scenarios
Different Types of RPA
Such RPA solutions are supervised by their human operators and work in the front end of a business. For example, customer service bots, ticketing bots, Excel bots, content annotation bots, etc.
These RPA bots are simply virtual assistants that can perform work faster by integrating with business apps.
Back-end RPA bots are mainly unattended and come with a great level of intelligence than front-end RPA bots.
You just need to program them once. The bots will become active when your business operations trigger a preprogrammed event.
Database maintenance, frequent security checks of storage silos, backing up restore points automatically, etc., are some examples of back-end RPA bots.
You need to program these bots on an RPA Studio by adding rules, events, triggers, and so on. Once programmed, the bots will only respond to a specific business scenario.
Intelligent RPA solutions utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence to learn processes, analyze novel datasets, organize data, and make business decisions.
These RPA bots can discover patterns from unstructured data. While the usual RPA solution simply replicates human actions, AI RPAs are here to simulate human intelligence.
- RPA comes with the least technical barriers. Employees using an RPA Studio for a few months can deploy automation scenarios without coding any scripts.
- When you automate business operations via RPA, you ensure that your business delivers 100% accuracy.
- You can always comply with all the regulatory compliance requirements when you use RPA bots. Hence, the healthcare and finance industries are the first movers in the case of RPA solutions.
- RPA bots can run throughout the year without interrupting the business process.
- RPAs are non-invasive and do not require a complete upgradation of your IT infrastructure.
- The overall productivity of your business operations increases multifold.
Choose an RPA Software
- The RPA software should offer a no-code approach for solutions designing, deploying, and managing.
- It is best if you can get an RPA tool that offers pre-built automation scenarios that you can instantly apply.
- The tool should offer you exception windows where a human supervisor can review the tasks to ensure quality and compliance.
- The ideal RPA tool will allow you to integrate existing business applications with bots and orchestrators.
- The tool should offer scalability and flexibility solutions.
- Not to mention, you must prefer an RPA tool that offers both attended and unattended RPA bots.
- To stay future-proof, go for an RPA software that also offers AI and ML-based training of RPA bots.
RPA: Use Cases
RPA bots can search and discover resolution steps from thousands of data resources in a second. Hence, advanced customer service centers team up their agents with RPA bots. When the agent understands the issue from the caller, they type in keywords in their tool. RPA bots read these keywords and show probable suggestions in a flash.
Processing eCommerce Returns
eCommerce giants save a lot of money on product returns by using RPA solutions. Customers can directly interact with a digital bot to request a return. The bot will go through the company policies and approve or deny a return.
If the bot approves a return, it will immediately send an email to the customer with return labels, instructions, etc. When the eCommerce company’s ERP triggers a receiving of the item, the RPA bot can initiate the refund, update company books, and adjust the inventory.
Pfizer uses Blue Prism’s RPA solutions to process clinical research data 88% faster than the old manual process. Also, the bots accept or reject clinical trial data automatically according to preprogrammed regulations by FDA and EMA. Using RPA, Pfizer has saved up to 500,000 billing hours.
Popular RPA Tools
Find below some leading RPA tools that startups, SMBs, and enterprises are using now:
#1. Blue Prism
Blue Prism helps you to develop resilient and highly productive digital workers or RPA bots that are intelligent enough to work side-by-side with your human workforce. Its RPA product portfolio consists of the following automation research and deployment solutions:
- Create Journeys
- Accelerate Work
- Transform Experiences
- Unify Operations
Its popular RPA products are desktop automation, document management automation, Email AI, Digital Exchange, UX Builder, Service Assist, etc.
UiPath develops RPA robots for businesses so that companies can save time and money. Its major RPA products are the followings:
- The UiPath Platform
- Automation Cloud
- Automation Suite
Using its robust RPA tools, automation developers from UiPath build intelligent and robust integrations for the following:
- Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- Microsoft 365
It currently offers a free RPA solution for personal usage. Hence, it is a good tool for those who are undertaking RPA developer courses.
Pega is a low-code development platform for RPA solutions and it also offers managed RPA services to businesses. The notable features of this RPA platform are as follows:
- Attended RPA
- Unattended RPA
- Email Bot
- X-Ray Vision
- Workforce Intelligence
You can try out Pega’s RPA tools if you want scalability, rapid innovation, and future-proof technology.
#4. Kofax RPA
Kofax RPA enables you to develop an extended workforce that is a set of digital bots and delivers repetitive tasks faster than your human back-end workforce. It offers both no-code and low-code development platforms for RPA solutions.
Furthermore, Kofax RPA utilizes cognitive capture and artificial intelligence that can source data, interpret it, and act upon business data.
#5. NICE RPA
If you are in the customer service industry and looking for automated bots to minimize costs on human agents, you can try various solutions from NICE RPA. Its RPA products are as follows:
- NEVA attended automation
- Automation Finder
- Automation Studio
- Voice Authentication
- Workforce Intelligence
NICE is popular as an employee virtual attended that works 24 by 7 365 days a year to greet every customer, logs complaints, and even solve customer issues.
#6. Power Automate
Microsoft Power Automate is a free RPA development tool that you can access on your Windows 10 or Windows 11 PC instantly. It is the right tool for beginner-level RPA developers.
To get started instantly, you can use RPA examples in the following business cases:
- Excel Automation
- Web Automation
- Desktop Automation
- Datetime Handling
- PDF Automation
- Text Manipulation
- Flow Control
RPA: The Future
The present-day RPA is more about completing repetitive tasks with 100% accuracy. Not to mention, such software bots can accomplish hundreds and more tasks complete per day than a human back-office operator. But, when there is a change in the rule or ad-hoc modifications needed such bots to stop working.
But the future of RPA is a blend of attended automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML). This new technology will be able to automate tasks that are less repetitive and rules-based.
The future technology will utilize full-scale cognitive automation where software bots can analyze an ad-hoc problem, find resolution from various apps and servers, analyze unstructured databases, and correct the course of an automated process.
My take on RPA is that it can be the next billion-dollar idea for technology startups, and SMBs.
If you are a highly-skilled RPA engineer or service provider, you can grab these outsourced jobs and make lucrative profits.
The RPA market size is growing rapidly and it is evident from the following data sourced from globally acclaimed think tanks:
- Global Newswire says that the RPA market shall become a $43.52 billion industry by 2029 from $10.01 billion in 2022.
- Grand View Research says that the RPA will lead in the software and services industry and will grow at a CAGR of 38.2% in the 2022 to 2030 period.
- Statista says that the market was valued at $2.09 billion in 2020 and should become a $23.90 billion spending industry by 2030.
Thus, it is a good time to learn the technical skills required to become an RPA developer. Alternatively, you can form a team of multiple RPA programmers and launch a startup or agency as an RPA service provider or RPA solutions researcher.
So, now you know exactly what an RPA is. This article demystifies a common notion that robotic process automation involves physical and mechanical robots.
There are hesitations among various workforce groups that such automation will reduce employment opportunities if businesses start replacing humans with robots.
However, that is not true at all. RPA allows the workforce to become more skilled in controlling software bots. Also, it enables businesses to extract more profitability from existing infrastructure and investments.