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What is Robotic process automation (RPA)?

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What is Robotic process automation (RPA)?

The world is moving towards new building processes, fueling the absolute necessity for automation. Every organization irrespective of its volume is aiming to automate its business processes in a way that complements the manual strategies and processes remain uninterrupted. Robotic Process Automation is a new-age technological marvel that is being utilized by enterprises to automate their tasks and processes.

Let's start this RPA tutorial by first discussing what RPA is, and then move to various details that ponder around the automation techniques, advantages, and the other offerings that these tools bring to the table.

What is RPA?

RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation and is a software that uses techniques like screen scraping and others to automate the necessary clerical tasks. RPA could be understood as a business process automation technique or technology which is based on the notion of software robots. RPA is one of the branches of Artificial Intelligence where it is used extensively to automate the workflows for their legacy systems. RPA finds its use in many organizations that still rely on age-old legacy systems. Other than this, there are other opportunities where skilled labour is used, which could’ve been automated for efficient work completion.

In layman terms, if we want to understand what RPA is, it can be broken down to three levels. 

Robotic - Machines that can enact human actions on a business system (hence called a robot)

Process - A sequence of steps when followed completes an assigned business task

Automation - Something which can be done by a machine than an individual to save time and also at the same time be effective and efficient.

Now, with this understanding, Robotic Process Automation is the art by which a possibility of monotonous work done by an individual is replaced by an automated task performed by robots instead of skilled labour. In other words, enacting a series of steps to complete a meaningful task without any human interaction or supervision can be termed as Robotic Process Automation.

How does RPA work?

Now, with an initial understanding of what Robotic Process Automation is all about, let us now take a more in-depth look and understand how does RPA work. Here, we shall discuss in detail to understand all the nitty-gritty details about Robotic Process Automation (RPA) altogether. RPA bots would be transforming back offices just the same way how the industrial robots transformed the traditional factory floors. RPA bots would be doing the same things that are done manually (in a conventional way), but the difference would be that it would all be programmed well beforehand.

Why Robotic Process Automation?

With continuous change in the business environment, an enterprise must continuously change its product, marketing, and sales to progress and stay relevant according to market demands. The enterprise which often uses distributed IT systems to run several operations depends upon the workforce, as it is difficult to change the IT systems frequently due to implementation complexity issues, timing, and budget.

So, to reduce these manual operations, RPA is used to automate tasks just like a human. Robotic automation interacts with the existing IT architecture without the integration of complex systems. It’s not a replacement for the business applications but automates the manual tasks of human workers.

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Differences between Test Automation and RPA

  • The major difference between Test Automation and RPA is that the test automation lives in the test environments’ context and uses test data, while RPA works on live business data in production environments.
  • RPA tools keep track of all modifications made by users and track everything the RPA "robots" have done. 
  • Most of the automation tools are not suitable for RPA as they lack enterprise features for governance, change tracking, and audit trails while RPA projects are often kick-started with a test automation tool and offer a pragmatic way to realize business-related automation potential.
  • Most test automation tools are not perfect for RPA as they lack enterprise features of governance, audit trails, and change tracking. 

What is the RPA Implementation?

RPA being a powerful tool of transformation can improve your business as long as you take the proper steps for executing a smart implementation strategy. The purpose of RPA is transferring specific processes from humans to bots; the human capital is pivotal to a successful transition. 

The stages of RPA implementation are listed as follows:

Planning

Identifying the Process that is awaiting automation is performed in this step. The below checklist will help in identifying the right process accurately. 

  • Can the existing system be used as it is?
  • Is the input data in electronic format and is readable?
  • Is the process rule-based?
  • Is the process manual & repetitive?

After the checklist is done, now, we enter the planning phase. It is as follows.

  • Accept the solution that is being designed to perform RPA processes.
  • Finalize implementation timelines, setup project deployment team, and approach.
  • Discover logging methods that should be used in finding errors while running the bots.
  • Bright outlook should be defined to set up RPA implementation.

Development

This step begins with automation workflow development according to the solution accepted.

Testing

In this step, we test cases for in-scope automation to identify and correct the errors.

Support and Maintenance

In this step, we need to provide continuous support after launching and helps for resolution. The roles and responsibilities concerning business and IT support teams follow general maintenance guidelines.

[Related Blog: RPA Implementation Challenges]

Robotic Process Automation Tools

RPA tools are the software through which the user can configure tasks to get automated. These are widely used tools in the industry for distinct purposes and have their pros and cons.

The primary RPA tools are as follows:

  • Blue Prism
  • UiPath
  • Automation Anywhere
  • WorkFusion
  • Pega Systems 

The RPA tool trio is the leader in the market ( Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere, and UiPath).

Applications of  RPA

Most leading global companies such as Accenture, Deloitte, Capgemini, and many more use Robotic Process Automation in their day to day tasks. These companies benefit from using RPA as it provides reliable, accurate, and consistent outputs with high productivity rates.

The significant areas benefiting through RPA are as follows:

  • Healthcare: All hospitals make use of RPA for patient registration and billing purposes.
  • HR: Many industries use RPA for HR activities like new employee joining formalities, payroll process, and hiring shortlisted candidates.
  • Insurance: To claim processing and clearance of premium information.
  • Manufacturing & Retail: Bills of material and calculation of sales.
  • Telecom: Service order management and quality reporting.
  • Travel & Logistic: Ticket bookings, passenger details, and accounting.
  • Banking and Financial Services: Cards activation, frauds claims, and discovery.
  • Government: Change of address and license renewal activities are made easy.
  • Infrastructure: Issues in processing account setup and communication.

Frequently Asked RPA Interview Questions & Answers

RPA Benefits

The following are the advantages of RPA: 

  • Building a unified customer view
  • Increased employee productivity
  • More accuracy and quality
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Cost-effective
  • Up to 80% reduction in AHT (Average Handle Time)
  • Up to 90% reduction in ART (Average Resolution Time)

[Related Blog: RPA Examples]

Future Scope of RPA

In the next few years, automation will redefine itself to step into the next level of digital transformation. It will deliver a new level of customer satisfaction through higher quality experience, in-depth personalization, and faster product delivery offerings with great convenience.

Some of the major RPA predictions that are set to redefine digital transformation in the years to come are as follows.

  • Advancement in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will slowly merge with RPA to deliver integrated business value. 
  • Consumers using conversational interface (CI) continues to grow.
  • Chatbots are going to be the next target for RPA.
  • In the near future, we can witness voice-enabled products become criteria in the industry.

Conclusion

RPA utilization is gradually increasing in the market around the globe. Most of the enterprises have already started implementing the RPA technology, as it is cost-effective, optimizes the usage of other resources, and is less prone to errors.

Today, most of the enterprises are using RPA tools for testing a specific application because the old testing tools have certain limitations. For example, Selenium testing tool: It is an automation tool to test web browsers, but it is limited to a single browser. If we have to test another part of the application, Selenium has to be integrated with other tools. But, using RPA, any part of the system can be tested with a single tool.

In the near future, the RPA tools may get sophisticated and take over the characteristics of business process management tools along with AI tools. They may become more efficient in such a way that they could analyze the statement of particular customer request and recommend any discount if applicable.

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Prasanthi
About The Author

Prasanthi is an expert writer in MongoDB, and has written for various reputable online and print publications. At present, she is working for Mindmajix, and writes content not only on MongoDB, but also on Sharepoint, Uipath, AWS, and Azure.


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