What Is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a type of automation technology that is transforming the way organizations operate. RPA relies on a scalable, digital workforce to streamline manual processes and reduce the burden on employees by giving repetitive tasks that can be performed more efficiently and more accurately to software bots.
When robotic process automation first arrived on the scene, the term was almost exclusively used to refer to the manipulation of systems and applications at the user interface-level. That’s where the “robotic” part comes in—the robot interacts with systems the same way a human user does—clicking buttons, typing login credentials into a website, reading words off a PDF, and so on. This definition of robotic process automation is still at the core of what RPA does. However, as the technology matures, it’s increasingly being presented as more of a comprehensive enterprise automation solution. One that can interact with a GUI, but also one that provides deep integrations and sophisticated, enterprise-class features.
This shift in focus also expands the benefits of robotic process automation software from shaving a few hours off a user’s desktop tasks to powering an enterprise-wide digital transformation. Opportunities for automation exist virtually anywhere throughout the business because RPA is scalable, flexible, and it integrates workflows efficiently across the entire enterprise.
What is a Software Robot?
Robots in business didn’t come out of nowhere. The truth is that this is a new name for a familiar concept. Software robots, or bots, usually refer to what most people know as agents—individual devices running the automation solution. Some RPA vendors also use the term robot to refer to an automated process, or even to each occurrence of a process, although these definitions are less common.
A robot can be installed on a PC, a physical server, or a virtual machine.
Two Types of Software Robots
While a robot can be configured for an endless variety of tasks, they can be divided into two distinct types: attended and unattended robots. RPA allows for seamless integration of attended and unattended processes.
Attended automation includes processes where humans are involved at some point in the process. This could be filling out a form, clicking a button and more. These bots take over certain tasks in the workflow, freeing up the human workforce to tackle the more rewarding work.
Robotic process automation is also a great candidate for the unattended or background processes that keep a company running. These are processes executed where no human intervention is needed. Examples include file transfers, generating reports, or monitoring systems.
What's the Difference Between RPA and AI?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are different technologies for different tasks. RPA tools use software bots to interact with systems the same way a human user does, like clicking buttons and extracting data. AI tools perform tasks that normally require human thought to complete such as data classification and categorization for intelligent process automation.
RPA is great at handling unstructured data that is organized, clearly defined, and searchable—like Excel spreadsheets and forms. AI can tackle your unstructured data that is more qualitative—like transcripts and email messages—and make that data more useable across your organization.
Many businesses are starting to combine RPA technology with AI-driven software like intelligent document processing to help maintain control of critical data with more speed and accuracy to supercharge automation efforts.
How RPA Works: Evaluating Opportunities for Front-End and Back-End Automation
Robotic process automation utilizes two approaches to streamline repetitive tasks for both IT and business users. Both approaches can be combined for complete, end-to-end automation.
1) Front-End Automation: RPA bots streamline tasks associated with interactivity, websites, and attended processes. Use it for items like screen scraping or GUI automation, among others.
2) Back-End Automation: Leverages APIs for direct access to data. Used for high-capacity, unattended processes, including file movement and database processing.
Key Benefits of RPA Solutions
Robotic process automation solutions boost productivity, improve accuracy, and help your organization grow by giving repetitive, manual workloads to software robots. With RPA software, you can:
Mimic Manual Tasks
Free up your human workforce to do more strategic work that adds value to your business.
Leverage a central automation platform without expensive hardware tools to automate integrations between systems, applications, and workflows.
Enable Innovation & Collaboration
Foster innovation between IT and business teams by centralizing automation and connecting data with detailed analytics.
Scale Your Digital Workforce
Use software robots as an easy, cost-effective way to configure and work alongside human employees to enable rapid growth.
Dive deeper into the benefits of automation with the following resources:
Popular RPA Connectors
The key to scaling your digital workforce is employing highly flexible, optimized software robots. Automate robots are enterprise-grade digital workers that offload, support, and augment existing business processes and workflows. Some of the most popular types of automation bots include:
Harness the power of big data with connectors that extract, manipulate, and utilize data from sources and applications on premise or in the cloud. Automatically write to a database, business application, or report.
Use robotic process automation to respond to common repetitive requests like password resets. Monitor systems, receive automatic, real-time notification of problems, and report on and analyze your IT services.
Software connectors bring together the various applications throughout HR, IT, payroll and other departments to streamline user provisioning and take the headaches out of onboarding new employees or handling change requests.
Let your software robots streamline each step in your claims processing workflow—processing forms, validating eligibility, notification, payment, and more. Eliminate human error with RPA.
RPA Solutions for Any Industry
Organizations across every sector and function are turning to RPA to optimize resources and maximize efficiency—from healthcare to financial services and insurance to human resources and call center automation. RPA bots can easily manage processes spanning departments, locations, and systems—on premise or in the cloud.
Could RPA Benefit Your Organization?
If you’re on the fence about whether your organization would benefit from an RPA solution, then take a short quiz to find out.
Watch RPA Videos
Begin your RPA journey with these video series.
Processes to Automate
A series of short videos demonstrating popular use cases
RPA Success Stories
A series of short videos on how various organizations use RPA
Begin Your RPA Journey
A series of videos to help you start your RPA journey
How to Implement RPA Solutions
No matter where you are in your RPA implementation process—from getting ready to implement your first software bots to increasing your competitive edge through strategic automation—we've developed a comprehensive library of resources for every step of the way. Click on an implementation step below to get started.
The key to automation success is finding the right place to start. While you may be tempted to start big and try to automate everything, it’s important to start small. Take a look at some of your most tedious, repetitive processes that take up the valuable time you could be spending on more strategic work. Learn More >
Once you understand the importance of RPA, it’s time to convince your boss. We’ve put together the resources, tools, and strategies you’ll need to make your case. Learn how to prove the ROI of RPA and find answers to overcome the common objections to RPA. Learn More >
Once you have an RPA project in mind, it’s time to prove its worth. Schedule time with our automation experts for a free, 4-hour proof of concept to go over your current process, your vision for the future, and the criteria for successful completion. Learn More >
Armed with the right first project, you’re ready to map out a plan for success. Learn the key phases to consider in your RPA roadmap and how to expand your success beyond your first project to increase the ROI of RPA. Learn More >
Explore the Future of RPA
Robotic process automation is a great first step on your overall automation journey. As the way we work has dramatically changed over the last few years, so has the need for digital transformation. As organizations look to the future, they’re looking for ways to bring automation to more people and processes. RPA enables citizen developers to take advantage of no-code solutions to boost their personal productivity. This is a great building block as hyperautomation takes center stage and allows organizations to further transform their business to be more resilient, agile, and competitive.