Robotic Process Automation (RPA) provides a practical, non-invasive way to automate processes across the enterprise. Using software robots, which mimic screen-based human actions to perform everyday tasks, you can boost productivity while keeping your underlying applications and IT infrastructure intact. Robots interact with applications and systems just like people do. But – they are faster, more accurate, highly secure, and never sleep. They save time. They cut costs. And they free human employees to focus on more important things.
What can RPA automate?
RPA automates processes across departments and industries. Use cases range from banking to accounting, telecom to retail, healthcare to HR, IT and more.
What projects align with RPA?
Tasks that are repetitive, error-prone, time-consuming, high-volume, and rules-based are ideal for RPA. Employees spend enormous amounts of time on these tasks – logging in and out of legacy and web apps; copying and pasting data; filling out forms; opening emails and attachments; moving files and folders; and preparing, manipulating, or merging data from multiple sources. Robots can perform these tasks quickly and accurately – around the clock – freeing up human employees to do higher-value work.
RPA can be tailored for an endless number of specific needs. Here are some examples of RPA use cases:
- Banking. A financial services company automates credit dispute reporting and prioritization. A robot navigates a legacy application, sorts through thousands of records, prioritizes the cases, and emails a report – just like a human would. When analysts arrive in the morning, the to-do report is ready for their review. Secure and compliant, RPA encrypts sensitive data and helps meet time-to-resolution regulatory deadlines.
- Accounting. An RPA process runs every day to update central bank rates. A robot accesses financial markets data, downloads the data, and uploads the latest currencies in the company ERP system. Saving valuable financial analyst time, especially at critical month end, the process instills confidence with a clear audit trail.
- Telecom. Robots monitor competitor websites for mobile plans and phone prices. Equipped with competitive insights, robots automatically update the company’s offerings – a complex matrix of tariffs and devices. The company saves many hours of skilled analysts’ time and enjoys a revenue boost by giving customers the best prices.
- Retail. RPA automates the transfer of remote cash desk data from worldwide stores into the company’s CRM and BI applications. Robots load the data and generate the reports overnight, which means analysts no longer have to wait long hours to evaluate and optimize store sales.
- Healthcare. A hospital uses robots to enter patient data from the hospital’s database into a national database. RPA maintains a detailed audit trail, a mandatory requirement when patient records are moved. Robots eliminate duplicate data entry, so doctors can spend more time on patient care.
- HR. An HR specialist initiates RPA to onboard new employees. New accounts are created, laptops are ordered, and hiring managers are notified. With a single click, the end-to-end automation is complete in a matter of minutes.
- IT. RPA automates the changing of passwords for vulnerability scanning tools, some of which have no APIs. A robot logs into applications with no APIs, updates the passwords, and cascades the changes across the IT ecosystem. The passwords are securely stored in a credential vault, and no person ever has to know them. The company can rotate its passwords not just every quarter, but every month, for tighter security.
How does RPA work?
RPA consists of four logical components:
- A recorder to record UI-based human actions.
- A designer to develop and debug RPA workflows.
- An orchestrator to manage, run, and monitor RPA workflows and coordinate the work of multiple robots.
- Robots that interact with applications and data to complete tasks.
An RPA workflow may consist of both UI and API automation steps, allowing for the design of highly capable robots with advanced workflow logic for decision making, parallel processing, and error handling. RPA workflows are published to the orchestrator repository. The orchestrator assigns jobs to robots and monitors their activities.
An RPA solution with a visual low-code/no-code interface can make it possible for you to do all your work in one screen – record screen actions, drag-and-wire API and UI automation steps, and parameterize input variables. The tool can also give you the option to work with code and insert Python operations in RPA workflows.
Does RPA work with mainframes?
RPA helps integrate mainframe computers with other systems to automate entire business processes. Many enterprises rely on mainframes for their core operations. One challenge they face with legacy applications is integration. Looking for modernization strategies, they are choosing to retain and transform, not to rip and replace. That's where RPA steps in. RPA extends automation to legacy interfaces with difficult or no APIs. Robust enterprise RPA solutions support mainframe and other hybrid IT environments through a range of automation technologies that include terminal emulation and connectors.
How is RPA different from traditional automation?
RPA uses software robots to mimic UI-based human actions. RPA orchestrates entire business processes by automating UI steps and then combining them with IT automation steps.
In contrast, traditional automation, called IT Process Automation (ITPA) or runbook automation, cannot automate human actions. This type of automation coordinates, integrates, and automates IT processes using APIs and scripts.
When do you need RPA?
- When you don’t have an easy way to integrate with applications that lack APIs or have difficult APIs. Even if an application is API-enabled, the API may take a long time to understand or may require domain expertise. But with RPA, you can effortlessly record screen actions and then easily insert those recordings into RPA workflows.
- When you want to automate processes without changing existing systems and applications.
- When you want to automate quickly.
How can you launch a successful RPA project?
Implement the following RPA best practices:
- Pick the right process to automate and understand it well.
- Set realistic ROI expectations by starting small and scaling up.
- Ensure business-IT alignment – for example, by creating a joint team of subject matter and IT automation experts.
- Make sure RPA is part of your digital transformation strategy.
- Get C-level buy-in.
Learn about Operations Orchestration for RPA
Operations Orchestration combines screen automation with IT operation steps to automate entire processes in a single workflow. Now you can put RPA robots to work on difficult-to-automate applications across the web, Windows, and SAP. RPA robots mimic screen-based human actions to perform repetitive tasks and automate interfaces with difficult or no APIs. They’re perfect for processes that require human intervention.