What is robotic process automation?
Robotic process automation (RPA) is an application of technology, governed by business logic and structured inputs, aimed at automating business processes. Using RPA tools, a company can configure software, or a “robot,” to capture and interpret applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses, and communicating with other digital systems. RPA scenarios range from generating an automatic response to an email to deploying thousands of bots, each programmed to automate jobs in an ERP system.
Many CIOs are turning to RPA to streamline enterprise operations and reduce costs. Businesses can automate mundane rules-based business processes, enabling business users to devote more time to serving customers or other higher-value work. Others see RPA as a stopgap en route to intelligent automation (IA) via machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) tools, which can be trained to make judgments about future outputs.
What are the benefits of RPA?
RPA provides organizations with the ability to reduce staffing costs and human error. Intelligent automation specialist Kofax says the principle is simple: Let human employees work on what humans excel at while using robots to handle tasks that get in the way.
Bots are typically low-cost and easy to implement, requiring no custom software or deep systems integration. Such characteristics are crucial as organizations pursue growth without adding significant expenditures or friction among workers.
When properly configured, software robots can increase a team’s capacity for work by 35% to 50%, according to Kofax. For example, simple, repetitive tasks such as copying and pasting information between business systems can be accelerated by 30% to 50% when completed using robots. Automating such tasks can also improve accuracy by eliminating opportunities for human error, such as transposing numbers during data entry.
Enterprises can also supercharge their automation efforts by injecting RPA with cognitive technologies such as ML, speech recognition, and natural language processing, automating higher-order tasks that in the past required the perceptual and judgment capabilities of humans.
Such RPA implementations, in which upwards of 15 to 20 steps may be automated, are part of a value chain known as intelligent automation (IA).
For a deeper look at the benefits of RPA, see “Why bots are poised to disrupt the enterprise” and “Robotic process automation is a killer app for cognitive computing.”
What are the top RPA tools?
The RPA market consists of a mix of new, purpose-built tools and older tools that have added new features to support automation. Some were originally business process management (BPM) tools. Some vendors position their tools as “workflow automation” or “work process management.” Overall, the RPA software market is expected to grow from $2.4 billion in 2021 to $6.5 billion by 2025, according to Forrester research.CIO