Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a software technology that enables the automation of digital tasks. With RPA, firms can create digital robots, or ‘bots’, that can learn, mimic, and then execute rules-based business processes. RPA automation enables users to create bots by observing human digital actions. The process is incredibly simple; you simply show your bots what to do, and then let them do the work. RPA software can interact with any application or system the same way people do – except that RPA bots can operate around the clock, nonstop, much faster and with 100% reliability and precision. However, the gap in AI education means that several misconceptions remain about RPA. Critically, it is important for knowledge workers to understand that Robotic Process Automation is unable to replace humans due to the lack of conscious reasoning. Simply put, it does not have a mind of its own. Therefore it is unable to perform logical or critical thinking the way humans do.
Consider a legal operations team searching for a better method of understanding and managing the business intelligence related to their interactions with outside counsel, legal services vendors, and other departments within the enterprise. The legal ops team handles a variety of data. This can relate to invoicing, monetary transactions, liability, and numerous other items handled by knowledge workers every day. One example could be the copying of relevant data points such as the name of vendors/counsel, invoicing ID’s, and their relevant dates into a spreadsheet and then email the spreadsheet, along with other financial details to management and/or the accounting department by the end of the day.
Over a period, this process will reveal itself to be time consuming and repetitive. Frustrated, companies with an eye on the increasing size and types of data will look for a way to reduce the time and effort required for completing the task. This is where Robotic Process Automation enters the picture. Using RPA organizations can develop simple bots that extract the relevant information from multiple invoices into a spreadsheet, attach all relevant financial/legal records, and then send them over to management at a specific time every day. This is the process of using software with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities to handle high volume repetitive tasks that would have previously required humans to perform. Tasks may include addressing queries, making calculations, maintenance records, and performing transactions.
The working of RPA includes four crucial phases:
- Planning: typically involves gathering the processes to be automated, identifying the test objects, and finalizing the implementation approach.
- Development: includes the agreement of automation workflows as per the agreed plan in phase one.
- Deployment and testing: uncover any unexpected outages and ensures a bug-free product.
- Support and maintenance: ensure the product is continuously updated with smooth deployment across the user base.
To meet the objectives of RPA a variety of tools are used. These are software applications that can configure tasks and automate them. Popular examples include UiPath, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, Work Fusion, PEGA, and Redwood (among others). When it comes to quality, RPA ensure consistent error-free output that leads to reduced operational risk. This improves operational performance and ultimately customer satisfaction. In the area of delivery, RPA can help reduce the average handling time, enhancing the customer experience and ensuring 24/7 business continuity. With respect to cost, domestic businesses can expect to reduce the cost by up to 65% through RPA. It offers a higher ROI by driving positive returns within quarters and opposed to years. Other advantages include reduced training costs, minimal utilization of IT resources, and easier software migration.
Today, many domains and industries, like banking and finance, IT integration processes, human resources, insurance agencies, marketing and sales, and customer relationship management readily deploy RPA. This services option has shown tremendous growth since 2016 and will continue to increase beyond 2021. According to McKinsey, knowledge and work automation will have an economic impact of $5-7 trillion by 2025. This is set to impact more than 230 million knowledge workers, constituting around 9% of the total workforce. Any company which is labor intensive where people are performing high volume, high transaction functions, stand to benefit the most with RPA. This will boost their capabilities, save money, and save time.
Ultimately RPA offers the ability to automate business processes quickly and easily. It helps pave the way for digital transformation by placing automation tools at the user’s disposal.
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