Home » What Is Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Everything You Need To Know

What Is Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Everything You Need To Know

by Brinda Goel
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Hey everyone. Today let’s talk about RPA or robotic process automation. The definition lies more in terms of process automation and less in actual robots. But RPA is changing the software world. Much like physical robots have changed the world that we live in every day. 

For example, take a vending machine. There’s not a person standing there sorting all your money and vending the goods. It’s automated because it’s a tedious task. Now RPA is doing the same thing in the software world for tedious and repetitive tasks, but for things like IT or even business process management, RPA is not going to help. And that’s because these require more specialized skills.

Where RPA Can Assist In A Business Use Case

So where can RPA assist? Well, let’s uh, start with an example inspired by one of my favorite TV shows. Let’s say we’ve got a disgruntled employee, uh, we’re gonna call him Pete. Now, Pete has to take a number of documents that are stored digitally, and then convert them into forms that he then has to file.

So this is a very tedious task. So he has to take all of these forms, write them out manually, and then finally actually go and file them. So this process has to be done 10,000 times. That means, Pete’s gonna be pretty unhappy about this because this is a very tedious, repetitive task.

With RPA he could actually automate. So let’s see what Pete would do if he wanted to set up an automation to do this flow. So the first thing he has to do is identify what’s the data, where’s it coming from? So in this particular example, the data’s already in a computer somewhere, and let’s say that it’s coming in through email, or maybe his coworker Kelly is manually inputting them from phone calls with customers. So they take the customer forms, they put them into the computer.

Extracting Data With Optical Character Recognition

Now Pete has to extract data. So that’s gonna be the first thing that RPA can help with now. So with OCR or Optical Character Recognition along with the data that’s in the computer. Pete’s able to pull out data and what he’s gonna do is actually extract that data for further processing.

So that data can be things like the customer’s name and the info, let’s say in the customer form. It’s the complaints that make up that information. So taking that data. The next thing Pete’s gonna do is validate it to make sure that none of the data is corrupt and all of the data looks good.

Finally, he has to input it into a digital form and he sends it off to a printer. Now at this phase, all Pete really has to do is take the final forms that are printed out and then file them. And that’s gonna be a whole lot easier to do than doing this manually for all 10,000 customer complaint forms that are coming in.

So that’s where RPA can really assist with tedious, repetitive tasks that require things like clicking through user interfaces, copying and pasting data, or other things like OPR, optical character recognition where you have to extract data. So when choosing an RPA solution, that is gonna enable you to do this type of automation, I’d say there’s four major things that you really need to be looking for.

Benefits Of Having An Intelligent RPA Solution

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The first one I’m gonna start with, you wanna make sure that your RPA tool is intelligent. Now, in this particular flow, Pete used a lot of capabilities, so he used OCR and optical character recognition. In addition, he used different data manipulation techniques. This enables Pete to do things like extract input data, validate it, and finally, he even had a function to be able to print something out, and create a physical piece of paper from software-based automation.

That’s just scratching the tip of what a robot, RPA, can do today. So another thing RPA can do is things like AI or machine learning to train a model to recognize, not just, simple characters, but maybe even images. So that’s something that Pete might wanna augment this automation with in the future. That’s one thing you want to make sure is that your RPA tool is intelligent.

Benefits Of Having A Low Code Environment

RPA is really only gonna be, uh, effective if the users that are creating this automation, find that process to be easy. Otherwise, management might choose to actually just have their employees do it manually.

If creating this type of automation was too time-consuming. So a low-code RPA environment is gonna enable you to do things like drag and drop components and have minimal touch to actually get this automation created end to end.

Benefits Of Having Concurrency Support

Concurrency is gonna be the ability to run multiple robots at the same time, multiple automation tasks. So for the 10,000 customer complaint forms, say this task takes 15 seconds. That’s a lot of time. So imagine if you could launch multiple robots and divvy up that work well, you could get through the task at hand much more quickly. So an RPA solution should have concurrency support. 

Benefits Of Having RPA As A Service Solution

The last one I want to mention here is RPA as a service. Now, as a service model is gonna come with a number of advantages. For one, it’s gonna give you a shorter time to value, and that’s because Pete doesn’t have to worry about spinning up his own infrastructure, installing the software, and managing that environment. He can just log in and start building these automations right away.

That brings me to my next point: currency. So not concurrency, but currency, which is keeping up with the latest versions that are available. So RPA and the world of RPA is changing quite rapidly, and so with some of the intelligent capabilities enabled within RPA.

Say a new version of OCR comes out And he wants to use it. Well, with an RPA as a service capability, you can get updates more quickly. You’re more connected with the latest versions of software, so you get to use those latest components and maybe OCR 2.0 helps to fix some of the bugs by pulling data from customer complaint forms.

Finally, I think the last one that I want to mention here is that, uh, it allows you to collaborate. So imagine that Pete builds this automation, publishes it, and then now wants to share it with the Nashua branch of this company so that they can take advantage of the same process to automate this flow and, and file customer complaint forms.

So as a service, environments generally are multi-tenant and enable you to collaborate with your coworkers.

So this was a quick overview of RPA. RPA tools are quickly growing in popularity, and so is the scope of what RPA is able to actually automate.

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