Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Streamline your workflows with a scalable, digital workforce

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. 

Four Ways to RPA

Learn more about RPA and explore the different types of robotic process automation in our free white paper


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 Robots

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. 

Unattended Robots

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. 

Automate Integrations

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.

Common RPA Challenges & How to Avoid Them

Once you’ve committed to implementing RPA, don’t forget to invest in the team that will implement and manage it. We strongly recommend that IT is involved in the project to avoid technology siloes and to ensure high application performance and robust security.

Other skillsets are also needed for a successful enterprise-wide automation project. First is the business analyst. This someone with a talent for visualizing process improvements to document existing processes and redesign them for optimal automation. Second, is a developer who will work with the process documentation to build automated workflows. Depending on the needs of your organization and the capabilities of your automation solution, the developer may not have to be an actual programmer.

You should also make sure to have an operations specialist involved in your RPA implementation. The operations team is key to managing your automation once it’s up and running across the business, so they should be represented on the core team from the start. Finally, you’ll need executive sponsorship. 

Start your RPA implementation with a pilot project or proof of concept. This should be a process that’s not too complex but delivers measurable value for the company. 

Once you’re ready to scale your automation throughout the organization, take into consideration a variety of factors when prioritizing processes to automate. Your automation project team can use a weighted matrix that assesses each automation candidate based on criteria like criticality to the business, potential time savings, effort to automate, and any other factors that may be important to you. The team should also regularly review existing automation to see what’s adding the most value to the company.

Get the RPA Toolkit to prioritize RPA projects and optimize workflows 

Automating a process as-is is quick and easy—just what you need to demonstrate the value of the software without putting in too much effort. It’s also a good choice for low-volume processes or those that aren’t mission-critical. However, GUI automation isn’t the fastest or most reliable method of automating.

If you have a process that involves multiple people and is fairly high-frequency, you should consider optimizing your automated workflows. Go through the process steps and make note of where you can automate via the backend. You may end up with a combination of as-is and optimized automation, or you may completely redesign the workflow according to workflow best pratices.

Automation isn’t just something you set and forget—it’s a project in its own right. Too often, the automation pilot project is executed with limited resources and no ability to scale. It’s not clear who is managing the project, investment in the automation doesn’t increase beyond a single process or department, and the right infrastructure isn’t in place to support your robotic process automation implementation.

Learn more about building an Automation Center of Excellence.

Your executive sponsor is likely to be focused on how your automation solution will help the bottom line. When you initially discuss the potential ROI of robotic process automation, make sure you cover areas of savings, like increased uptime, decreased errors, and fewer hours spent on custom scripting, as well as new costs, including user training and software maintenance. Once you’ve obtained approval to purchase RPA software, don’t get too complacent—you’re going to need to maintain that executive support as you implement automation throughout your organization.

As you go forward, it’s helpful to have someone on the executive team sitting on the steering committee for your automation project. Make sure that any automation success story from within your company is shared widely—this will generate enthusiasm for robotic process automation from the C-suite down.

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:


Data Management Connector

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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.

Browse 200+ automation connectors that are preconfigured and available for free download on the Automation Connector Hub.


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.

Assess Automation Opportunities

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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 > 

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.

Learn More About Hyperautomation

Frequently Asked Questions About RPA

Bots are agents that interpret and execute tasks on a human’s behalf to handle repetitive tasks. Bots can run based on triggers, schedules, or work nonstop. Attended bots go into action when a user commands them to run and unattended bots work behind the scenes and are triggered by an action. Learn More >

RPA software can transform virtually any business or IT process—the possibilities are endless! Common use cases include automating data scraping and extraction, report generation and distribution, web browser tasks, batch processing, and much more. Learn More >

No! Look for RPA tools with a screen recorder that converts user interactions like keystrokes, mouse clicks, and more, into automation. Pre-built automation actions and pre-configured bots can also help you quickly and easily build automation without writing any code. Learn More >

RPA is a technology where robots manipulate and communicate with business systems and applications on the user-interface level. While business process automation (BPA) automates the steps of an entire process and automatically triggers step-by-step to create an entire workflow. Look for solutions that provide both forms of automation to create a more robust strategy. Learn More >

With the right tools and a solid strategy, it’s easy to get started with RPA at any organization. We recommend starting small with an easy-win RPA project to start building ROI. Check out our guide to learn the 6 steps of a successful RPA implementation. Learn More >

RPA is a great foundation to kick off your digital transformation efforts. RPA transforms how people work and generates quick ROI and momentum that will propel your digital transformation efforts forward. Learn More >

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