Introduction

In our previous topic, we discussed how Service Automation is the concept of delivering concepts through smart technology. It is an area of rapid growing interest for a majority of businesses and organisations because it enables greater efficiencies, improved customer relations, and a streamlined business process. Companies have proven that delivering 100% automated services can lead to rapid growth and strong competitive advantages.

But what about automating other things?

Robotic Process Automatic (RPA) is another branch of automation that concerns the automation of routine digital tasks through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. With Robotic Process Automation, you can automate your routine tasks quickly and cost effectively – leading to all-around benefits for the organisation.

In this article, we’re going to give an introduction to Robotic Process Automation, covering the fundamentals and detailing some applications of RPA.

“Going beyond automating everyday repetitive tasks, RPA combined with traditional content services and business process management technologies can help organisations reach even greater potentials and make the most of their of automation strategies.”

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Although the name might suggest so, RPA isn’t about industrial automation. It automates mundane, often time-consuming and repeatable tasks in order to improve efficiency and the reliability of work outcomes. Robotic Process Automation involves the use of software with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities to handle high-volume and repeatable tasks. It is mainly used for tasks that were previously only done by humans such as calculations, maintenance of documents, transactions, records, queries, etc.

Robotic Process Automation technology comprises of software robots that can mimic a human worker.  These software robots can log into applications, enter required data, perform calculations, complete tasks, and operate as long as they are instructed to do so.

Robotic Process Automation

This technology leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to automate these tasks quickly and efficiently without and internal or external changes to system infrastructure. In order to help differentiate the different categories of RPA, the technology can be split into three groups:

  • Probots are the basic bots that follow simple rules to process and calculate information
  • Knowbots are the kind of robots that will search the internet to gather information
  • Chatbots are AI-driven agents that can respond to customers in real-time.

With artificial intelligence being rapidly developed into real-world applications, businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that machines could automate and perform almost any function that were previously thought to be limited to humans. Today, there is a still widespread societal belief that artificial intelligence and automation will replace and put many people out of work. However, it should be noted that with the introduction of new technologies comes the creation of jobs that didn’t exist before. After dotcom bubble took off, thousands of new jobs were created and many new opportunities were to be explored.

Robotic Process Automation has grown rapidly over the last few years, increasing employee satisfaction and decreasing the probability of error in repetitive tasks.

RPA technology encompasses a variety of techniques that fix routine, time-consuming problems, which allows workers to spend their valuable time performing more productive tasks. To illustrate, some organisations have made use of advanced document imaging to accelerate and automate invoice processing. This is a very time-saving process as invoices usually vary by supplier, often containing hand-written information that is important to take note of. Having artificial intelligence software that can pre-process documents improves time to completion and reduces the likelihood of errors.

The Benefits of Robotic Process Automation

There are many benefits to implementing Robotic Process Automation in an organisation. It enhances the digital transformation process and improves the general business model of an organisation. Here are some of the benefits in addition to the above diagram:

  • Enabling better customer service.
  • Ensuring business operations and processes comply with regulations and standards.
  • Allowing processes to be completed much more rapidly.
  • Providing improved efficiency by digitizing and auditing process data.
  • Creating cost savings for manual and repetitive tasks.
  • Enabling employees to be more productive.
  • Machine learning allows bots to recognise and learn from patterns over time. This means that when a process requires a human worker to intervene, the bot will learn from the newly acquired data and will act autonomously the next time the situation occurs.
  • RPA enables higher scalability. This is because the robots are virtual and do not tire out as humans do.
  • Technical skills not mandatory. Programming skills aren’t required to set up RPA technology. Any non-technical person can follow the steps to setup RPA and automate tasks for an organisation.
Figure 1: The benefits of Robotic Process Automation (source Laserfiche)

The Applications of Robotic Process Automation

  • Human resources: RPA can automate HR tasks, including on-boarding and off-boarding, updating employee information and timesheet submission processes.
  • Financial services: Companies in the financial services industry can use RPA for foreign exchange payments, automating account openings and closings, managing audit requests and processing insurance claims.
  • Customer service: RPA can aid companies offer better customer service by automating contact centre tasks, including verifying e-signatures, uploading scanned documents and verifying information for automatic approvals or rejections.
  • Accounting: Organisations can use RPA for general accounting, operational accounting, transactional reporting and budgeting.
  • Healthcare: Medical organisations can use RPA for handling patient records, claims, customer support, account management, billing, reporting and analytics.
  • Supply chain management: RPA can be used for procurement, automating order processing and payments, monitoring inventory levels and tracking shipments.

Hyperautomation

Although Robotic Process Automation is still a very new technique, another technique has already been created and it is a subset of RPA; Hyperautomation.

“RPA alone is not Hyperautomation. Hyperautomation requires a combination of tools to help support replicating pieces of where the human is involved in a task.”

Hyperautomation is the application of advanced technologies like Robotic Process Automatic, Artificial Intelligence, Machine learning, and Process Mining to augment workers and automate processes in ways that are significantly more different and impactful than traditional automation capabilities. It is the combination of different automation tools to deliver output.