Robotic process automation (RPA) is a software solution that partially or completely automates manual, rule-based, and repetitive human processes. They work by simulating the behaviors of a real person engaging with one or more software applications to do tasks such as data entry, basic transactions, and simple customer support inquiries. Indeed, the “chatbot” that has begun to appear on websites is nearly invariably a robotic process automation technology rather than a human. It can answer common questions such as “where is X on the website,” “how do I change my password,” and so on.
Robotic process automation solutions are not intended to replace core business software; rather automate human workers’ already laborious duties. They effectively look at the screens that workers look at today and fill in and update the same boxes and fields within the user interface by pulling data from the appropriate area.
This accomplishes a couple of goals:
- It helps to ensure that outputs are complete, correct, and consistent throughout tasks and between human workers by freeing humans from boring, low-value-added jobs like data entry and allowing them to focus on higher-value tasks that involve human creativity intelligence, and decision making.
- Because the robotic process automation tool can discover and complete activities faster, it helps to ensure that tasks are performed more rapidly.
Professor Leslie Willcox of the London School of Economics, a specialist on technology, work, and globalization, points out that robotic process automation increases human talents and “takes the robot out of the human.”
Robotic process automation has the advantage of not requiring any changes to existing systems or infrastructure. Many other process automation technologies communicate with systems through application programming interfaces (APIs), which necessitates the creation of code and raises concerns about quality assurance, code maintenance, and adapting to changes in the underlying applications.
All of this stated, a robotic process automation tool’s capabilities are severely limited in practice — it must be scripted/programmed to accomplish a repetitive operation. To do so, a subject matter expert (SME) who understands how the work is done manually must be employed to map out those steps.
Furthermore, the data sources and destinations must be highly structured. Constant robotic process automation technologies cannot deal with oddities, errors, exceptions, or the regular muck of human interactions.
Even with these factors in mind, robotic process automation provides actual and concrete benefits to businesses.
These technologies have begun to take on elements of business process management and artificial intelligence tools as they get more complex. This helps them become even more efficient and could eventually lead to a stage where the technology analyses the sentiment within a specific client inquiry or conversation and makes a discount recommendation.