An introduction to Robotic Process Automation
In the everyday work of companies, repetitive tasks are often part of the daily routine. Employees lose valuable time when they execute complex processes manually. With Robotic Process Automation, structured business processes can be automated using software robots. The digital robots independently take over tasks that would otherwise be performed by a human operator – and thus help to make individual processes significantly faster as well as more economical and effective.
What is RPA and how does it work?
Robotic Process Automation is an innovative technology that automates manual, recurring processes. Unlike a physical robot in industry, RPA does not use machines, but so-called software bots. They do not perform physical work but control digital processes by imitating work steps on a user interface. Like human employees, RPA bots log into various applications and systems and can then perform rule-based routine operations: They fill out forms, move files or extract data from documents and can fully automate entire business processes. Capacities freed up by this robot-controlled process automation can be used by the staff for more value-adding activities.
A major advantage is the simple implementation of this automation. Robotic Process Automation can be implemented as a standalone product in an existing system – without costly adjustments to the software or changes to an enterprise's IT infrastructure. RPA bots can be used in different systems, interact with other software systems, and are not limited to specific applications.
When is a process suitable for automation?
In order for a software robot to know which processes it should execute and how, structured data must be available in advance. Rule-based and standardized work sequences are suitable processes for automation by RPA. They always follow the same instructions for action and vary little or not at all. Activities with long runtimes that require time-consuming manual processing by users and are therefore particularly likely to result in errors offer enormous potential for Robotic Process Automation as well. A specific sequence provides the robot with the respective process sequences. These are often created in flowcharts and serve as specifications for the RPA system's activities. Since the software bot always follows the same decision rules, each process step must be specified in the flowchart.
If all the required information is available to the bot in a structured form, it can act on the basis of the previously defined workflow and execute the tasks automatically at high speed. When certain steps are missing or the data is incomplete, the digital robot will arrive at an incorrect result. Processes that change frequently or do not have clear decision criteria are therefore less suitable for automation. If there are changes to the specifications of already defined process flows, they can be adapted flexibly at any time.
The advantages of RPA
If time-consuming tasks are taken over by robots, employees' motivation increases: Instead of investing a lot of time in routine work, they can use their free capacities for more demanding and value-adding tasks that require human intervention and emotional intelligence.
Higher customer satisfaction
Capacities gained through automation help to further expand a company's customer service. This is particularly pleasing for customers: Their satisfaction increases when contact persons respond more quickly to their inquiries and wishes and have more time for detailed consulting.
Very user friendly
As Robotic Process Automation imitates human behavior on a user interface, the organization does not need to program an application interface. In addition, employees do not need any programming skills and can therefore automate the processes independently.
Improved business processes
RPA robots automate several manual activities. The result: data and process quality rise and the processing speed of individual tasks increases. The tool's ability to be combined with other automation solutions creates additional process efficiencies.
The intelligent automation can be implemented without expensive investments in already existing IT systems. In addition, a robot works around the clock 365 days a year. Repetitive activities can thus be completed more quickly, and costs can be saved.
Advanced compliance and security
The distinct rules defined in advance for the software bots ensure a high level of quality assurance. Continuous data collection increases compliance, gives the organization detailed insight into the development of ongoing business and allows it to make faster decisions based on the reliable information.
For which application areas is RPA useful?
The innovative RPA solution can be used in many industries and for a wide variety of business units. Wherever repetitive tasks can be handled by an artificial intelligence, the technology helps with process automation. Depending on the industry, robotics can provide an enormous advantage over the competition or even be indispensable for the economic success of the enterprise.
Typical use cases in the respective industries are, for example:
- automated processing of customer inquiries
- easy customer data management
- quick document review
- digital billing management
- easy changes to the master data in payroll accounting
- automated transaction reporting processes
- easy management of examination requests
- simple account maintenance
- automated processing of incoming and outgoing invoices
- simple processing of patient files
- fast data transfer from subsystems
- automatic billing and analysis processes
- structured on- and offboarding
- fast updating of employee data
- simple preparation of employment contracts
Sales & Marketing
- uncomplicated report creation
- fast quotation
- automatic newsletter sending
Things to keep in mind when implementing RPA
Besides the right software it is particularly important to select the appropriate structured processes for automation, in order to use artificial intelligence sensibly. Complex processes that change frequently are less suitable for RPA. An analysis of current business processes identifies areas with tasks that need to be performed frequently, which the organization can then partially or fully automate with the use of RPA bots. Instead of a separate project, it is therefore a good idea to examine the workflows in advance as part of the RPA implementation and, if necessary, make optimizations to the back-office processes. This gives companies the opportunity to combine the introduction of RPA technology with general process optimization.
To ensure that the changeover to process automation is accepted quickly and used sensibly, employees should be involved in the digital transformation at an early stage so that any concerns or questions can be addressed in advance. In addition, their feedback can be incorporated into process optimizations and thus increase user satisfaction.
Robotic process optimization in the future
With an RPA solution, enterprises have the long-term opportunity to develop strategically and increase their value. This offers them a unique opportunity to set themselves apart from the competition. As the smart technology is easily scalable and can be deployed across all industries regardless of process, more and more companies are turning to an RPA tool to boost their performance. Experts predict that the increasing adoption of software bots will strongly drive the growth of the RPA market in the coming years.
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