Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Driving New Efficiencies and Rewriting the Story of Work
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is changing the software world in the same way the robots have transformed our physical spaces.
Robots serve us by reducing our manual workload and streamlining industrial processes. They toil away in factories and manufacturing units, freeing us from tedious labor that weighs us down substantially.
Similarly, RPA takes away the burden of repetitive and monotonous digital tasks off our shoulders and places them on computer software or ‘robots’.
RPA enables us as humans to concentrate better on more rewarding work, the work that requires logic and intellect and adds value to our lives.
To quote Ian Barkin, Co-founder & Head of Strategy, Symphony:
“RPA takes that which doesn’t add value out of the hands of people and automates it.”
What is RPA? Why do we need RPA? How does it work? How is it transforming workspaces? And is it going to replace humans? Let’s find out.
What is Robotic Process Automation?
According to the Institute of Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence, it is defined as:
“Robotic process automation (RPA) is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a ‘robot’ to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses, and communicating with other digital systems.”
It may sound complex but in simpler terms, RPA is just a software bot used for automating well-defined digital tasks otherwise performed by people. It saves a lot of valuable time by eliminating the need to perform repetitious, boring, and tedious tasks.
These software robots are well-versed in taking instructions, understanding the contents appearing on the screen, inputting the appropriate keystrokes, steering through systems, and identifying and mining data of interest along with several other explicit actions.
They can do whatever they are programmed for faster and more efficiently than humans without any breaks or stretches.
Why do we need Robotic Process Automation?
The business world today is extremely competitive, it demands everything to be faster, better, and more accurate. Therefore, the digitalization of business processes alone is not sufficient enough to stay ahead of your competitors and keep up with the growing expectations of clients.
What we need is an intelligent solution like Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to make effective use of resources and time, resulting in the efficient management of complicated business processes.
However Robotic Automation is not new, it has been excessively applied in the production sector to enhance speed and accuracy. What new is its area of application, it is now being applied at the software level to streamline mentally strenuous processes.
Usually, employees get caught up in work that is repetitive and makes them robotic. For example, data entry, data transfer, data monitoring, MS Excel worksheets, or data collection from different systems for reports, etc. This kind of work is most easily prone to errors and often results in burnout.
“Automation of various activities can improve the performance of almost any business process. Beyond enabling a reduction in labor costs, automation can raise throughput, increase reliability, and improve quality, among other performance gains”.
-McKinsey Global Institute
Thus RPA, a backend employee out of the cloud, can be a much-needed substitute in this case.
How is RPA Technology Transforming Workspaces?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a transmutative technology powered by software bots managing high-volume, repetitive work like transferring files, moving folders, sending emails, and extracting data. It effortlessly simplifies business workflows and processes enabling corporate workers to become more productive.
More and more companies are adopting Robotic Process Automation to reduce costs and eliminate tedious tasks that make their workers robotic.
RPA offers human workers the gift of time and energy, freeing them up to do things they love most, like collaborating with clients and working on inventive business projects and innovative ideas.
Businesses leveraging RPA can automate their routine tasks and rule-based operations, allowing the employees to concentrate on more productive tasks- the ones requiring human intellect and creativity.
What are the Benefits of Using Robotic Process Automation for your Business?
- Cost savings:
RPA software is a powerful solution to execute manual, time consuming office-based tasks more effectively at lower costs than any other automation tool.
According to PwC about 45% of the current office activities can be automated by RPA, saving about $2 trillion in global workforce costs.
- Improved Productivity and ROI:
Mind-numbing tasks like copy-pasting information across systems normally result in exhaustion and decreased efficiency across the board.
When employees have to spend hours doing labor-intensive manual work, they don’t have the time and energy for work that demands their creative skills.
But with RPA, humans are allowed to be more human at work, they can focus more on the intellectual work as the robot take care of tasks that get in the way. RPA bots can increase team productivity by 35% to 50% when configured properly.
RPA can transform enterprises from a labor-centric operating model to a technology-powered operating model. With a digital workforce capable of working 24/7 for your organization, employees can shift their attention towards more strategic work, like business development, etc.
- Reliability, Consistency, and Improved Quality:
Human errors in accounts payable are the most common reason for real and unplanned losses for businesses. Such critically sensitive business processes can be automated by RPA to make them 100% error-free.
- Advanced Data Security:
Data breaches and leaks are common and the main reason for them are human mismanagement. However, this can be avoided by using RPA software robots as they provide advanced data protection while the execution of business processes with higher accuracy and reliability.
- Economic Benefits:
Implementing RPA solutions into your enterprise can reduce operational costs and can help you achieve higher returns on investments faster than traditional ERP deployment. There are 2 reasons for that:
- RPA solutions are faster and easier to deploy.
- RPA has lesser integration needs.
“Besides the cost and efficiency advantages, a couple of RPA’s greatest benefits are often overlooked: its ease of deployment and the speed and agility it confers on the enterprise”.
–PwC White Paper: Organize your future with robotic process automation
How does RPA work?
Broadly speaking, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) needs two main steps function:
- Defining and instructing the software bot in detail about what actions it should take and when should they proceed.
- Followed by RPA software configuring the bot to perform the task.
But more precisely the RPA cycle comprises 4 phases:
The first step of the RPA life cycle is analysis. For this a business analyst and an RPA developer coordinate together to find out where RPA is needed and how can it be useful to them. They formulate a strategy to automate as much tasks as possible to minimize tedious workload. After appropriate documentation, development process begins.
- Development Phase
After having a thorough analysis the development team prepares for the requirements of task automation. Depending on the automation there might be coding or no coding, normally coding isn’t needed.
- Testing Phase
After that the automation developed is tested either by a designated team or the developers, similar to regular software testing.
- Deployment and Maintenance Phase
Finally after successful testing of the bot software, it is ready for deployment. If there’s any bug after deployment, it again goes under testing and maintenance. This keeps on repeating until it’s fully operational.
Where can RPA be used?
RPA systems are perfect for streamlining workflows at finance, accounting, HR, and administration departments of any organization. Let’s see where these solutions are being applied currently:
Will RPA Replace Humans?
RPA is undoubtedly the next disruptive technology that has the potential to revolutionize our business operations and how the world gets work done.
In the upcoming years RPA might even make some of present day jobs obsolete when combined Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).
But it is important to note that RPA software bots are not:
- Humanoid Robots
- They are not present physically.
- They do not have a brain of their own.
So, is RPA replacing people? Of course not.
Robotics and automation are here to make work easier for us and make people more productive, it is not a threat to our jobs whatsoever. Human intelligence is not that easily replaceable.
“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”