RPA Basics for Boosting Workflow Efficiency

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is being touted as a promising new technology that could potentially replace humans in common business processes to save money and improve efficiency. However, many people still remain unclear about what robotic process automation is, much less how it can automate business processes.
This article will be our first post in a series on robotic process automation.  In this post, we’ll explore the basics of RPA—what it is, how it’s used, and it’s potential for boosting workflow efficiency.

What is RPA?

According to the Institute for Robotic Process Automation & Artificial Intelligence, RPA uses computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret applications to process a transaction and communicate with other systems. This definition probably does not go far in clearing things up. Let’s break it down.
Computer software and “robots” refer to the use of data-processing to find existing patterns and make decisions using real-time data for more intelligent automation. Robots, or “bots,” collect data from websites and applications like BPM software to make decisions and behave like human actors. RPA often works hand-in-hand with artificial intelligence to find areas where workflows can be automated. Then, companies can deploy bots to automate those areas.  
Most people have already had experience with RPA without knowing it. For example, automated private messages sometimes pop up on Facebook while a visitor is browsing a brand’s page. These messages are actually pre-programmed bots designed to answer questions in Messenger without involving human employees. This way, customers get the answers they need more quickly while human employees tackle more difficult problems. 

The Effect of RPA

RPA is capable of much more than providing customer service. Other capabilities of this technology include connecting to multiple applications to transfer information, compiling and reading data to generate reports and kick-starting processes based on customer behavior. These capabilities translate to the potential to automate almost an infinite variety of tasks. Therefore, the potential for process automation is high. Using RPA for repetitive tasks frees up staff for more challenging projects while reducing human error and boosting efficiency.  
Already RPA has reduced the costs that would otherwise come from hiring more people to complete transactional tasks. According to CIO.com, one bank used 85 bots to run 13 processes covering 1.5 million requests each year. As a result, it added approximately 200 full-time employees at roughly 30 percent of the cost of recruiting more people. “A major appeal of bots is that they are typically low-cost and easy to implement, requiring no custom software or deep systems integration,” writes Clint Boulton.

Next in the Series

This series will explore the role robotic process automation in the business process management industry. Upcoming posts discuss the differences between RPA and BPM, how RPA and BPM software work together, and the future of RPA and BPM platforms like ProcessMaker. Keep an eye on our blog so you don’t miss a single post.


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