What is robotic process automation?
Robotic process automation (RPA) helps companies to make their business processes more efficient at a software level. Robots allow companies to completely automate manual tasks. This can include certain tasks like contract terminations and order processing.
- What’s behind RPA technology?
- What are the benefits of RPA?
- What are typical RPA use cases?
- Summary: RPA is worthwhile for companies who have sound data management
What’s behind RPA technology?
RPA describes the automation of business processes using software robots.
In this area of automation, robots carry out repetitive steps of processes previously undertaken by humans. Such steps are often time-consuming and liable to errors. Such tasks include, for example, data entry and data transfer in the back office.
For this type of work, software bots, or robots, are used. These are able to access and use system components via an interface as well as operate application software. This means bots can carry out tasks in a similar manner to humans within a process landscape.
RPA not only optimizes human interactions through the user interfaces of software systems, it also gradually digitalizes interaction paths. In practice, individual tasks or even complete processes are recorded and then carried over in individual software scripts or complete script chains.
The technology combines different interfaces (such as APIs) with interactions with the user interface to carry out repetitive tasks.
The scripts can be deployed and executed in different lengths or runtimes. The corresponding runtime file is called Bot, which is where the name robotic process automation came from.
How is robotic process automation different from AI?
RPA is often falsely compared to and confused with artificial intelligence (AI). These technologies are different, but, in some ways, they do complement each other. The difference between the two lies in their practical implementation and how they are used:
- AI is data based
- RPA is a process application
RPA bots follow set routines that have been developed by programmers. On the other hand, artificial intelligence relies on existing data. Through machine learning, for example, it can restructure existing data patterns or recognize and learn from patterns in unstructured data sets.
Together RPA and AI mutually benefit each other. Some tasks within RPA routines can be completely automated using AI. AI also makes more complex tasks possible. Bots, on the other hand, can support AI, by eliminating the need for manual implementations.
When carrying out its tasks, RPA works autonomously so that activities on software systems can be carried out independently.
When talking about artificial intelligence, you’ll often hear the term algorithm. In the broadest sense, an algorithm can be understood as a predefined process that completes different tasks in a certain order. A good example of this is when you search for something on Google.
What are the benefits of RPA?
Firstly, robotic process automation is there to optimize current processes and make them more cost-effective and efficient. Designed to consolidate resource-heavy processes in the back office, bots are used to carry out rule-based tasks so that other resources are freed up for more complex projects.
This leads to a better, long-term return on investment and quicker digitalization for companies that have invested in RPA-based processes. Another effect of increased automation is a decrease in workload.
RPA not only enables individual employees to become more productive by letting them focus on work that adds value, it also helps to continuously increase employees’ level of job satisfaction. Additionally, employees can be given more complex tasks, for example, those which require human intervention.
Advantages of RPA inside and outside of the company
- Less need for programmers: You don’t necessarily need developers to use RPA. Drag and drop makes configuring the software easy, even for those employees without IT expertise.
- Fewer errors: Bots carry out repetitive tasks based on scripts within the system. This means that, over time, human mistakes can be avoided. This includes tasks that require a lot of accuracy, such as compliance.
- Improved monitoring: By using RPA, you can also carry out monitoring and audits in a standardized way, meaning that you can continuously optimize scripts without the need for much work.
- Retention of functionality: If you use RPA, you don’t need any additional systems and can avoid integrating APIs. Since bots work on the presentation layer of the system, your current processes won’t be affected by them.
- Improved customer satisfaction: Bots aren’t tied to your customer service times and are able to work on customer requests outside of these hours. This means that your company will be able to work 24/7 on improving customer satisfaction.
- Improved employee satisfaction: By getting rid of highly repetitive tasks, not only are employees more efficient and able to focus on more complex tasks, they also value their work more and are happier with their jobs.
Companies that are planning to introduce robotic process automation should fulfill a range of basic requirements. This is because this technology can only bring about an increase in efficiency if high-quality data is available and there is a clear commitment to fact-based data management.
What are typical RPA use cases?
RPA tasks are particularly suited to replicating standard processes that occur in day-to-day work. This includes tasks that are carried out daily in most trading and service companies. Some real-world examples include:
- Order processes
- Customer request processing
- Document creation
- Accounting processing and general data management in business areas
RPA has many benefits, especially when it comes to customer communication. In fact, this is one of the areas where RPA is heavily used. This is due to the fact that many customers expect quick, if not immediate, answers to their requests.
The positive effects of automation can quickly be seen when customers receive quick answers to their requests, and there is a reduction in errors when processing incoming letters or emails.
Using RPA also has a cost benefit since the reduction in errors results in less time being spent redoing work. With an increase in customer satisfaction comes improved customer loyalty.
Automation leads to big increases in efficiency in many other areas as well, for example, proactive customer outreach. Marketing automation can help to supply potential customers with relevant information that can help them make purchasing decisions.
Automated form entry
One of the most common customer processes is contract cancellation, which can be quite a cumbersome task for humans. You can automate this by using RPA, allowing you to receive the cancellation request, check it, and then cancel it automatically.
This means that employees will no longer need to personally fill out the forms required for canceling a contract. Instead, the bots will complete them and send them out, saving you and your team time.
Process orders automatically
When an order is placed, a range of documents are produced, which belong to a standardized document pool. This normally includes an order confirmation, followed by a payment request. Following this, a packing slip needs to be created and printed out along with an invoice.
This order process is perfect for RPA since the processes to create documents as well as the data needed to do so are standardized and can be put into a script and then recalled over and over.
Process mining can help with the implementation of RPA by analyzing and improving processes before they are automated. This gives companies a unique advantage.
Summary: RPA is worthwhile for companies who have sound data management
By using RPA, you can improve your customer communication which, in turn, can increase your customer satisfaction and provide you with cost savings. In addition to being an important factor for companies who want to stay competitive, it also has an effect on employee satisfaction and loyalty. RPA can take over manual and time-intensive tasks, freeing up your employees’ time for more complex and exciting tasks. This can have a positive effect on their working environment and improve employee motivation.
However, RPA is not the perfect solution to everything. The key factor in this is having quality data as well as being knowledgeable about data management. Without having this in place, it will be difficult to efficiently and effectively automate your processes.
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