Introduction to Robotic Process Automation
RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation. It is the process of automating a particular task to repeat in a cycle for a fixed number of times, without any direct human intervention. Robotic Automation involves observing the user perform tasks on a GUI and mimic the process of its execution, to reduce the human efforts and time consumption. Robotic Automation help organizations to enhance their business performance, due to increased productivity and the right use of human resources for complex and demanding tasks.
This tutorial is introduced to understand the process of RPA, its tools, implementation techniques, applications, general difference against the test automation and its advantages.
What is RPA?
RPA is an advanced technology of employing a robot or substantially a computer program, to emulate and imitate the actions of a human on a digital interface, essentially to execute a business process. These intelligent computer programs (robots), capture the activity of a human on an interface and manipulate applications in a similar way. They perform trigger actions and coordinate with other systems, to execute a vast variety of repetitive tasks; only in a better way. They also cost much less than a human counterpart.
RPA is commonly used in the automation of
- Business processes and activities
- In-house applications
- Websites and user portals, etc.
The main role of RPA in business is to carry out the repetitive tasks, which are seldom boring and hence direct human resources for better and challenging job roles.
For any growing Enterprise, change is constant. There will be endless changes happening in the business and technical processes. This is the way of evolution, which is indomitable.
The newer adaptations in say, sales, products, marketing, etc., will demand a change in the associated IT operations. More often, a typical enterprise would have multiple IT systems, which run operations in an independent way. Upon variations in the high-level business processes, these systems are not modified completely owing to the budget, time requirement and implementation complexity. This leads to a misalignment of technical processes in IT systems with that of the business processes.
To gain control over such scenarios, companies try to hire more employees and train them to handle bridging operations. As it happens, mostly the employees will be either not very compatible with the technicalities of the role or demand training to cope up with it.
Reduced production life-cycle due to the faster execution time of robots.
Cost-cutting due to reduced human hiring for nagging tasks.
Subjecting to the external factors, humans are prone to errors. However, robots are 100% error free.
A robot can perform multitasking better than a human counterpart.
The above-stated solutions are manual and expensive for the company.
Robotic Process Automation overcomes all these shortcomings and leads to a complete business transformation.
Some of the reasons contributing to the drastic improvement of an organization’s performance by implementing RPA are listed below:
- Reduced production life-cycle due to the faster execution time of robots.
- Cost-cutting due to reduced human hiring for nagging tasks.
- Subjecting to the external factors, humans are prone to errors. However, robots are 100% error free.
- A robot can perform multitasking better than a human counterpart.
To understand the efficacy of RPA in a real-time business environment, let us consider the following case:
The above image represents an enterprise working on an Invoice processing Business Process.
|Description||Can be automated using RPA?|
|To open the invoice email and get it printed||Yes|
|Barcode Scanning||Only Manual|
|Creating a new work item in the legacy software system||Yes|
|Enter PO to retrieve the invoice||Yes|
|Checking the correctness of the supplier name||Yes|
|Checking for the key invoice number, date and amount||Yes|
|Matching PO and Invoice||Yes|
|Checking for the matching amount||Yes|
|If matches, calculate the tax||Yes|
|Completing the process||Yes|
|Closing the work item||Yes|
|If the matching of the amount fails, then follow up with the supplier||Yes|
|Acceptance status from Supplier||Yes|
|If the name of the supplier is wrong, hold a pass to exception team||Yes|
|Raising the flag for exception handling||Yes|
As we can see in the above description table, most of the processes can be handled by RPA well. Human dependency on most of the obvious jobs is reduced, leading to enhanced performance.
Difference between test automation and RPA
RPA is an automation process employed in organisations with a complete different end-goal compared to normal test automation. Both are often confused for their implementation.
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Let us see the differences between them for a better understanding.
|End Goal||To reduce the test execution time||To reduce the human resource in mundane jobs|
|Task||To automate the repetitive test cases||To automate the repitive business processes|
|Coding Knowledge||Required to write the test cases||Wizard driven application and the end users do not need the coding knowledge|
|Technology||The platform support is limited. Ex: Selenium can be implemented only on web apps.||Supports diverse tech environments|
|Implementation environment||It can be run on the UAT, performance, QA and production environment.||It is usually run only on production environments.|
|Application||Can be used to automate a product||Can be used to automate a product as well as a service.|
|Role||It acts as a virtual assistant||It acts as a virtal workforce|
|AI||It can execute only what is coded||Most of the RPA tools come with AI Intelligence systems which work like a human replacement.|
What is the RPA implementation Methodology?
There is a defined process followed in implementing RPA in an organization. These steps are described below:
Planning: This is the first phase, where you need to plan on the processes you want to automate. The checklist given below will help you identify the right process that needs automation.
- The process is manual and repetitive
- The process runs as a rule-based one
- The input data is in an electronic format and is readable
- The existing system can be used as it is without any changes
[Related Page: Robotic Process Automation]
Once the basic decisions on the project are made, next steps in planning are given below:
- Setup the project team, conclude on the process flow and timelines.
- Finalize on the solution design of the RPA process.
- Ensure to keep a check on the logging mechanism required to track concerns during the regular functioning.
- Keep the road map ready for scaling up the RPA.
Development: This is the next stage of Planning where actual implementation starts. Since the RPA deployment is wizard driven, the process is quick and easy.
Testing: Testing is done on the in-house configuration.
Support & Maintenance: Continuous support on production testing and new customer requests as a post-deployment service.
[Related Page: Getting The Work Done Using Robust Process Automation]
Best Practices of RPA Implementation
- Keep the end in mind and assess the business impact of RPA implementation on the existing business architecture.
- Define and fixate on the ROI (Return of investment)of the process, before implementation.
- Ensure to have a good code quality with proper comments and modularity. This improves the testing quality and bug detection.
- Policy compliance of RPA should be given high importance.
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General use of RPA
Some of the real-time uses of RPA are given below.
- Revenue forecasting: Revenue forecasting helps in studying the figures of the business in the current situation and predicting the future of the same in terms of finances, shares, and stature in the market. RPA has a big role to play here. RPA can automate the process of observing the numbers in the business and draw an estimated graph that would depict the future accurately and effectively.
- Data Migration: RPA has enabled data migration directly without using the traditional means like document, spreadsheets or other source data files. The automation helps in an efficient and effective data transfer, helping the business to move systems with more conviction. RPA data migration enhances the data quality, strengthens data correctness, expand data availability and enhances data consistency.
- Quality Assurance: Quality Assurance is one of the significant parts of product delivery in any IT company. The deliverables are tested for quality against industry standards. However, today's market demands more than just agile delivery and QA. Time-To-Market and service quality needs to be impeccable. This paves the way out for robotic process automation. RPA in QA adds more value to the services delivered, by reducing the time and money investment to roll our a particular product or service.
- Product management: The complete life cycle of the products right from planning, forecasting, and production within a company, constitutes for product lifecycle management (PLM). This is a set of repetitive steps that can be programmed with few variables pertaining to each product. Integration of RPA in product management automates the digital workflow and reduces the overhead of the process leading to releasing of products into the market.
- Technical Debt management: With the increase in the pace of the business adoption to newer and more number of bots, the unused, redundant, unaccounted, or improper code clogging up the enterprise increases. This leads to what is called the 'technical debt'. Automation and robotics dramatically help to ease this situation by automating the smaller tasks and improvising the re-use for many applications.
- Information validating and auditing: Validating information for its authenticity is one of the most crucial steps for data correction and processing. In a technology-driven environment, data validation is implemented through business cases, usability testing, and case models. RPA helps in data validation by reducing the time and human resource to execute the process of validation and auditing.
- Automated Report Generation: This is by far the most repetitive and manually exhausting work in an organization. Generating a precise report with exact data is the challenge. However, RPA is used in automating the data extraction to produce timely, accurate and effective reports.
- 'Virtual' System Integration: In this system, the automation system helps in data transfer btw the disparate and legacy systems by connecting them at user interface levels, instead of developing a whole infrastructure for the data.
- Perform Multiple Tasks: While humans can fail in performing multiple tasks efficiently, machines never do. In order to improve the efficiency of doing tasks and also to do many at once, automation is implemented.
- Performing high-volume repeated tasks: Robotic automation helps in conducting high-volume repeated data efficiently. A multitude of repetitive tasks can be performed with high accuracy and ease within less amount of time.
- Emulates Human Action: Replaces the human efforts in performing insignificant, repetitive tasks, that are often time and effort consuming. RPA imitates these actions once coded, very efficiently and can save a lot of time.
[Related Page: RPA Implementation Challenges]
Applications of RPA
|Manufacturing and Retail||
|Banking and Finance||
|Travel and Logistic||
[Related Page: Introduction to Blue Prism Version 6]
Robotic Process Automation Tools
Selection of Robotic Process Automation Tools is one of the challenging and interesting tasks, as there are an array of equally qualified tools available in the market. There are a couple of parameters that are to be considered while selecting an RPA tool, which helps in crossing out the ones according to our criteria. These parameters are given below:
- Ease of data reading and writing into multiple systems.
- Types of tasks handled by RPA: rule-based or process-based.
- Interoperability, where the tool can work easily across multiple platforms
- Decision making: Built-in AI support to work as a human replacement.
[Related Page: Blue Prism Certification Guide 2019]
Now that we are aware of the parameters of selection, let us look into the popular RPA tools in detail:
Blue Prism is a leading organization in providing RPA solutions for various enterprises. It is specialized in connected-RPA intelligent software, which automates the repetitive tasks with intelligent algorithms to perform the tasks better and faster. The product is designed to divert the human resources from unskilled work to more intelligent tasks so that there is the right energy distribution in the business organization.
- Reduces the manual working hours drastically, saving a lot of time.
- The cost-cutting on human power will happen by a large percentage.
- It is an adaptive software. The application is easy to use.
- It supports multiple languages, helping users from diverse geography.
- It provides multi-layer security in order to deal with sensitive data.
- It is scalable from the on-premises environment to cloud platforms.
[Related Page: Blue Prism Process Studio]
- Blue Prism can be integrated into the following industry sector for RPA.
- Public Sector - citizen-centric platforms
- Finance sector
- Communications and media
- Industrial manufacturing
- Health and Life sciences
- Education sector
This is one of the quality RPA software, which is built for enterprises looking for a digital workforce made of software bots that complete business processes end-to-end.
- It is configured using traditional RPA with cognitive elements such as natural language processing and reading unstructured data.
- Reduces human efforts and hence workforce in an enterprise.
- Reduces the overall budget for human resource selection and training for the repetitive and unskilled job.
- Improves overall business intelligence and performance efficiency.
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[Related Page: Robotic Process Automation Impact Business]
- Travel Business
- Finance sector
- Social platforms
- Energy sector
UiPath is a pioneering RPA provider, which is extensively focused on improvement in the robotics and automation for enhancing the performance-edge of enterprises. It has the largest RPA community, which is committed to continuous innovation and excellence.
The advantages of UiPath as an RPA provider are listed below:
- It is an open platform with extensible features that can be customized and integrated with BPM, ERP and AI technologies.
- The tasks are performed with higher precision with rapid results.
- It is built in with NLP services from Microsoft, integrated with intelligent OCR, Google and Watson and deep learning to lower the maintenance.
- Highly scalable with complex processes.
- Defense-level security with completely encrypted data everywhere.
- Finance and Banking
- Retail and CPG
- Public Sector
[Related Page: RPA Implementation Methodology]
OpenSpan is an Atlanta based enterprise acquired by Pegasystems Inc in 2016. It is an RPA solution provider, which aims at providing intelligent automation to aid the customer service representatives (CSR).
- Eases the load off the CSR by automating the routine desktop applications.
- Increases the productivity of the employees by automating the repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
- Reduces operational costs.
- Financial Services
- Healthcare and Life science services
- Energy and Utilities
[Related Page: Top 10 Reasons To Learn Robotics Process Automation]
Benefits of RPA
Below are some of the most significant benefits of using RPA:
- Higher Accuracy: Human errors are inherent and unavoidable. However careful an employee is, there will be the plausibility of the errors appearing. Summate the errors made by the number of employees working on the repetitive, routine tasks in an organization; It is certainly a high-risk. As an alternative, RPA is adopted, which eliminates the dull, monotonous tasks with automation. The intelligent algorithms of RPA ensure zero errors along with high-speed and ever-alert (no-sleep) features.
- Cost Reduction: Machine programming and RPA deployment is a one-time investment. There is no training cost and the cost of investment in hiring human resources will be cut down.
- Reduced life cycle: It generally takes a long time for a human to perform a particular task, however less complex the task may seem. This generally makes the life cycle of a process longer when compared to a robot. A robot can perform the same task in a fraction of time impulse and reduce the life cycle by a few folds.
- Enhanced Productivity: Employees are empowered to work on a more skillful job that requires higher human attention and intelligence. The time-killing, mundane routine tasks will now be consumed by the automation. This increases the overall productivity of the business both technically and otherwise.
- Higher Scalability: When human power is involved, there comes a huge financial and work overhead during scalability The increased workforce directly augments the hiring, training, and maintenance cost. RPA enforces cost-cutting in these scenarios. The scalability becomes easier and flexible for the enterprise.
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Myths of RPA
Like any other software in the market, RPA has an equal share of Myths. They are listed below:
- The need for Coding knowledge: In order to use the RPA tool, one need not know how to code. The RPA interface is user-friendly and has tools that help the end-user manage the tasks effectively.
- RPA Software does not need Human Supervision: Initially while deploying RPA, a human specialist has to code the bot and feed it with instructions. This is essential for RPA to start operating on the tasks in the organization. Hence human supervision is needed.
- Only big shot companies can afford RPA: This is untrue, as RPA is built keeping in mind diverse range of tasks that are common to many small-medium sized organizations too. The initial investment might seem substantial on the financial balance of the company, however, it can be recovered soon.
- RPA is mainly for software-based industries: RPA automates the tasks that are as simple as telephonic service, automated bills, invoice generation, report generation, etc., which are quite generic to all organizations irrespective of the software exposure. It is designed to enhance the business drastically across a number of industry verticals.
RPA is designed essentially to nullify the high-volume dull and manual jobs that are repetitive and time-consuming for an organization, with robotic automation. It reduces the back office work dramatically, to improve the ROI along with an increase in accuracy and customer satisfaction.
Robots are slowly consuming the low-end jobs in the industry. In no time, the robotic influence can control the complex jobs. Companies are expected to adapt to the growing business transformations faster, to deliver the industry-expected returns.
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