What is Robotic Process Automation?

With the growing interest and popularity of RPA, we try to give you an understanding of what it is and where it can be used

Robotic Process Automation is fast becoming one of those buzz word phrases similar to “Cloud”.

RPA is a rapidly growing market and has the potential to be big, I mean really big – we’re talking multimillion / billion dollar industry. But what exactly is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)? Well, hopefully this article will answer this and maybe some of your other questions.

Emulate Human Processes

RPA is a technology solution that allows the automation and emulation of what a human being would do on a computer. This could be something as simple as opening an email, or more likely, is a repeated business process that a company might employ a team of people to do.

Think about what tasks you or your staff do frequently; invoicing, updating records in an ERP or CRM system, opposite is some other business processes being automated by RPA:

  • Financial: Opening invoices sent to an email address in PDF, word or Excel format; ensure certain entries are present in the invoice such as purchase order; product codes; delivery address; product quantity; updating web -based accounts.
  • Healthcare: Ensuring medical records are complete; Optical Character Recognition of scanned reports; checking if document has necessary signature; processing patient claims.
  • Human Resources: Onboarding new staff; timesheet processing; creating application accounts for new starters; offboarding staff; ordering new laptops or equipment

Traditional Automation

Now automation has been around for many, many years, from BASH scripts to DOS batch files, people in the IT sector have been writing scripts to automate something they simply don’t want to do manually.

These days automation tools exist to help a company reduce manual IT tasks such as building a server, installing Operating Systems or patches. This mature and traditional automation typically will use Application Programmable Interfaces to achieve this.

I won’t go into what an API is exactly but in short, it’s a set of instructions that allows you to perform certain functions on an application.

Ok this is great, so why do we need Robotic Process Automation?

This is a good question to ask. There will be actions that a user does in an application that the API simply doesn’t allow you to perform (oh and by the way, RPA tools allow you to automate via API’s). Some applications don’t have an API for you to use, for example, a lot of older “green screen” applications don’t have an API – this is a massive use case for RPA.

Websites are another great example

RPA gives you the ability to automate logging in to websites or web portals, you can then automate clicking or navigating around the website…..maybe to update a case or upload a file?

Data extraction, or “scraping” as it’s more commonly known as, is easily done by RPA tools. It understands the structured data format held on websites. This allows you to quickly extract useful information from hundreds of websites.

Remeber, if a human can perform those actions on a computer, robotic process automation can automate it.

Why automate business processes?

Again, an excellent question. There are many benefits to using RPA, the automation provides better accuracy, it can reduce the number of errors, reduces the time to complete the task, it can run complete more of these mundane tasks.

Staff that were previously working on these mundane tasks can be upskilled into other, more beneficial areas in the business.

A huge benefit is the ability to scale the solution for peak times, if you know that you need to process more tasks in a certain time period then RPA is easily scaled to meet demand.

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