**from the July 2020 issue of AOTMP® Insights **
Guess what? You are probably familiar with Robotic Process Automation (RPA). You just may not realize it yet.
That is because RPA has existed in many shapes and forms over the years. When you place a call, are redirected to another number or voicemail, and prompted with instructions that is a form of RPA.
Using macros in Excel workbooks is another form of RPA. If you have ever created Outlook rules to automatically move junk or important incoming emails to another folder, congratulations. You created an RPA process.
What is RPA?
At its core, RPA is simply using a software tool to automate rules-based processes that previously required a human to perform. RPA can essentially mimic the same steps a human takes to complete any given process, although those steps may not always be visible when performed at computer-like speed.
Within the last several years, RPA technology has evolved to encapsulate many once-separated RPA tools, such as screen scraping, workflow designers, Machine Learning (ML), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and image recognition, into a single platform. Examples of these platforms are UiPath, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, Kofax, and Pegasystems.
Many of these RPA platforms can automate rule-based human processes that are primarily completed digitally (on computers), achieving end-to-end automation of entire business processes by integrating many different and separate systems and departmental functions.
The automation can be performed with or without traditionally required integrators such as webhooks, Software Development Kits (SDKs), or Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This is because RPA can mimic the exact click, keyboard entry, file/folder search, and data manipulation that a human would take to accomplish tasks. It just does things at a much, much faster speed and without business errors (such as data entry errors or misspellings).
Due to the flexibility, adaptability, and capabilities RPA solutions offer, it has been regularly identified as a top emerging technology to keep an eye on. According to KPMG’s 2019 Technology Innovation Survey, technology industry leaders identified RPA as being the second-most important technology to drive business forward and deliver the greatest long-term value (up from the ninth spot in 2018).
While there are a million reasons you could point to, this rise is likely attributed to technology leaders witnessing firsthand how rapidly RPA solutions can be deployed versus more traditional software development approaches.
Once a business process is identified and selected for automation, RPA Architects, Analysts, and Developers translate the process to a more a technical approach. Often, this means re-engineering the entire process to be more suitable for automation and easier to manage and maintain. Like a surgical team, every facet of the process is uncovered, documented, and scrutinized in a Process Design Document (PDD; the “As-Is” process).
Business requirements and enhancements are specified, the Average Handling Time (AHT) it takes to finish the process or an iteration of the process is measured, holes in the process are patched, quality/accuracy of data is documented, roles and responsibilities are defined, and incorrect or bad data is sanitized before the technical process, or Solution Design Document (SDD; the “To-Be” process), is created.
Finally, RPA Developers go to work and design an RPA solution that may encompass or chain together other types of automation platforms. For example, a Microsoft Power Automate (Microsoft’s RPA platform) process is triggered when a specific email arrives and completes a few automation tasks (such as an approval flow) before sending an API call to trigger a UiPath robot to start another part of the process. The impact the RPA solution has on the team, department, or company is then measured by gathering metrics such as:
- The AHT of the automated process vs. the AHT for the manual process
- The hourly rate of the people it would take to complete the process vs. the amount of time it takes a robot
- The number of employees no longer needed to perform the task
- The quality/accuracy of data outputs vs. the quality/accuracy of data outputs
- Employee satisfaction before and after mundane or tedious processes were automated
- Client satisfaction by meeting timely Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
For many CIOs, their RPA investments are outpacing their investments in other transformational technology, such as blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Internet of Things (IoT). Companies adopting RPA by investing in robotic workforces to enhance or augment their human workforce are realizing boosts to performance and cost savings, further driving the growth of RPA.
So, what will an RPA solution do for you?
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