RPA and the Future of Business Automation
We’ve all heard the saying, “robots are coming to take our jobs.” RPA is one of the many emerging technologies that has been contributing to this. RPA, or robotic process automation, is a type of software that takes over tasks from humans to increase efficiency and lower costs.
As one can tell by its name, RPA is all about automating business processes – be it automating customer service workflows, delivering customer satisfaction surveys, or data entry. Automating tasks saves time and frees up employees to do more important things in business. That’s exactly why RPA is on the rise.
RPA’s popularity has been gradual but steady as more businesses begin turning towards technology and away from human labor to cut costs while increasing productivity. In this article, we’ll go through what RPA is, how it works, and why you should consider implementing it if your business doesn’t already.
What is RPA?
Robotic process automation is a type of software that takes over tasks from humans to increase efficiency and lower costs. RPA automates business processes such as customer service workflows, delivering customer satisfaction surveys, or data entry.
Consider the question – who can do a thousand entries on a spreadsheet and verify that they match from the data source, a computer or a human? Clearly, our robot friend has the upper hand.
All it’s doing is using its basic programming skills to understand how to navigate through files and send keystrokes. It can handle enormous amounts of data without needing to stretch, sleep, or having a coffee break.
Having presented that example, it’s now easy to understand what RPA is and what’s its purpose. In simple terms, RPA is a software robot that can mimic how humans interact with digital systems, except much faster.
For example, it can understand which keystrokes to make when, how to navigate systems and extract data, and even understand what’s on the computer screen. However, RPA is not exactly AI because it’s not capable of developing its own logic like an AI. Don’t expect RPA to think like a human because it only acts based on the input commands you give.
Difference between RPA and AI
RPA isn’t AI. It’s more like a computer program that’s instructed to behave like a human, but not act on its own. RPA can’t think for itself and make decisions based on what it observes or learns. All RPA does is follow your instructions.
That being said, RPA can be very powerful if programmed correctly with rules of thumb for decision making, as long as those rules don’t change. Let’s take an example where your company wants its customer service team to close out tickets by asking customers how satisfied they were after interacting with them over email and phone calls.
RPA could do this task automatically without any need for employees’ input because there are specific criteria in place when figuring out who qualifies as ‘satisfied’. For example, the RPA would ignore customers who use profane language because it’ll have a pre-programmed criterion to not entertain such queries.
On the other hand, AI is a bit more advanced than RPA. It’s capable of making its own decisions based on input data. AI automates tasks such as making predictions about the stock market and learns to develop its own logic to solve problems that otherwise would take far too long for humans to solve.
While RPA uses predictive analytics, structured inputs, and pre-fed logic, an AI has unstructured inputs and can develop its own logic to form its own conclusions in line with the initial parameters. In other words, an AI can think and act on its own whereas, with RPA you’ll have to do the thinking bit.
What’s the Catch?
Before going all head over heels for RPA, one should know its limitations. For starters, RPA can perform repetitive tasks with high accuracy and efficiency but lack a human touch.
That’s because an automation program lacks flexibility. It won’t perfectly know how to handle a customer complaint because it can’t think on its metaphorical feet. If anything deviates from the pre-fed logic, the RPA wouldn’t even be able to scramble for answers.
This is why RPA can’t entirely replace human labor. You’ll need employees to monitor the RPA and detect faults. Without an employee, the RPA will keep running the same repetitive faulty task without a hitch.
Benefits of RPA
Enough doom and gloom – let’s talk about the benefits RPA offers after we’ve done away with all the said limitations.
Efficiency and Reduced Human Error
When it comes to automating repetitive tasks, RPA is probably anyone’s best bet. A bot can’t be distracted. It just does what it’s programmed to do. This means higher accuracy. This is especially true if an enterprise deals with huge piles of data every day.
RPA also delivers consistent results because it’s super accurate and never gets tired. It’ll continue performing tasks until completed without any need for breaks.
In addition, RPA allows businesses to save time on training new employees since there are no errors from RPA bots as long as they follow instructions set out beforehand. Efficiency and reduced human error are RPA’s biggest benefits.
Reduced Labor Costs
In a world where people are not always available, technology can go above and beyond in solving complex and cumbersome tasks in business. If one has piles of data to analyze, there’s no better option than to have a bot do the job quickly and accurately.
RPA provides organizations the ability to reduce labor costs by carrying out simple no-brainer tasks such as repetitive data entry to free up humans from this burden.
David Schatsky of Deloitte LP mentioned the success of RPA when a bank deployed 85 bots that handled a total of 1.5 million requests that year. To put it into perspective, that’s like hiring 200 staff for a year.
On top of that, RPA bots aren’t that expensive. They don’t need deep-system integration or custom software to keep them going. However, if you want to kick it up a notch, we suggest you sprinkle-toss some machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), and speech recognition into the mix.
Imagine an RPA bot collecting customer feedback from thousands of people a day, all of which are handled without a hitch. A company will have a larger and more accurate dataset than it had before. A larger dataset means the company will have the potential to make more significant strides in business.
For example, if the RPA bot collects customer feedback from thousands of customers and filters the data based on product improvements, a company’s design or manufacturing department will have access to that valuable data within no time.
On the flip side, if a human were up for this task, it might take them days or even weeks fetching the data, gathering and cleaning it, and then analyzing it to arrive at the same conclusion. With very large datasets, this could even take years and a lot of missed opportunities for a business.
With better data collection come better data analytics. RPA can be used to collect customer feedback just like the example above. Not only that, but RPA bots can also provide data about business operations.
For example, RPA bots can track a company’s inventory levels and flag when they’re running low so that production processes are automatically stopped before it’s too late or an order is placed for more product stock.
In this way, RPA helps organizations have a clearer understanding of work volume patterns, cycle times, and errors. Having these insights, a company can improve business operations both at the micro and macro levels.
For example, a dataset on productivity versus recruitment chart can inform a business how many part-time employees should it consider hiring. Meanwhile, the dataset on how long it takes the HR team to find the right candidates can help a company introduce RPA- or AI-based hiring where the program automatically filters out the right candidates, saving tons of time.
Vendors of RPA
No doubt, RPA is expanding rapidly across all business sectors. There are many vendors out there who offer customized RPA solutions to businesses. Here’s a glimpse of some of them:
UiPath is an industry leader of RPA and has R&D offices in Romania, China, India, and the United States. UiPath offers RPA solutions that are fully customizable to meet the specific needs of any business from banking to insurance companies.
The company offers a low-cost and scalable solution, which means it’s also relevant to small-scale enterprises that want to test the waters before going all in. They can purchase one bot and add as many they need.
The best thing is that one need not have a programming or coding background to have bots deployed. The user-friendly interface and the ease with which the software interacts means you’ll have the data you need in a form you’ll be easily able to understand.
Automation Anywhere is an RPA company that provides the software, expertise, and support to help organizations automate their processes.
The RPA service helps customers achieve greater scalability and efficiency in a highly competitive environment where they’re experiencing elevated demand for customer experience.
Companies across different sectors benefit from Automation Anywhere’s RPA services. Automation Anywhere has worked with clients from the telecom, banking, healthcare, technology, public, and life sciences sectors. Automation Anywhere’s RPA services will help you streamline business operations.
Another RPA solutions provider is Blue Prism. The RPA company offers RPA software that will help reduce the cost of data processing and improve efficiency as well as accuracy in customer service, financial services, retail banking sectors, or any other industry where there is a high volume of transactions to process manually with great precision.
However, Blue Prism offers an upgraded version of RPA called Intelligent Automation (IA). IA is an RPA solution that also includes artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to help businesses generate breakthroughs in innovation and customer engagement.
While UiPath offers flexibility in both front and back end, Blue Prism only specializes in back-end applications. Also, it uses Client-Server Architecture (CSA), whose main advantage is that it offers centralized control and better security. Also, CSA is a more viable option for businesses that want to expand rapidly.
Nielsen, a global market research company, wanted to digitally transform its business. Since data collection and analysis is central to the company’s operations, RPA has been its game-changer. By automating much of the manual work, Nielsen has reduced relying on manpower.
The company now focuses more time and attention on adding value for customers while also evolving its business practices to keep up with changes within the industry. After RPA, Nielsen has saved around 347,997 work hours in the last year and a half.
Similarly, an insurance company called American Fidelity also implemented RPA. The company empowers public-sector employees and teachers with ways to help them with their careers.
American Fidelity automated most of its customer-dealing processes. It started off with deploying one bot that took the data from the mainframe and exported it to a spreadsheet. The results simply outclassed human work.
Moreover, American Fidelity’s business processes were human-interactive, which means they were skeptical whether RPA would have the human touch to do the job. That’s why the company introduced machine learning and AI into the mix, and the performance went through the roof.
RPA offers a lot of benefits to businesses, but it also has its own limitations. RPA can’t do everything for you and will require some human input in certain situations. Make sure you’ve done your research before getting RPA.
However, RPA’s ability to automate tedious tasks frees up your staff so they can work on more difficult projects that need the human touch. RPA isn’t magic; there are still plenty of things humans excel at doing better than robots ever could such as judgment calls or emotional intelligence skills.
Need help with RPA? Let’s talk.