With the recent leaps in computing power and related technological breakthroughs, automation and digitization have been key business trends across industries in recent years. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has emerged as one of the most popular options, particularly among businesses taking their first steps into the automation space.
To help you determine whether RPA could be a good fit for your organization, here are 5 things everyone should know about RPA:
- RPA doesn’t involve physical robots
Despite literally having the word “robot” in its name, RPA doesn’t actually involve anything like the robots you’d find in movies or TV shows. In fact, it doesn’t even involve the robots that staff production lines and warehouses in the real world. Instead, RPA systems utilize entirely digital “bots,” which are programmed to perform rule-based virtual tasks.
This makes RPA one of the most accessible and useful automation tools available, as it can be applied to nearly any part of the business, not just assembly or physical fabrication. RPA bots are capable of working 24/7 without sacrificing accuracy, making them ideal for handling high-volume internal tasks that may otherwise cause bottlenecks or employee burnout.
- RPA doesn’t replace jobs
One of the most common misconceptions about automation is that it is meant to replace human workers. Given that RPA bots are capable of performing tasks like data entry, data transfer, and data validation faster and more accurately than human workers, it’s not an unreasonable assumption. In reality, RPA is essentially a productivity tool designed to improve efficiency and free up time for workers to focus on more complicated, higher-value tasks. By putting these bots to work, businesses can streamline operations while keeping employees more engaged in their work and focused on their most productive functions.
- RPA has limitations
Despite being a very flexible solution, RPA isn’t necessarily the best fit for every task you may be hoping to automate. Generally, the ideal tasks to hand over to RPA are high-volume and definable by simple rules. Anything that requires reasoning or handling a large variety of exceptions may go beyond the abilities of the typical RPA system.
Whether or not RPA should be considered an Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is a matter of some debate, largely because of a key feature it lacks - iterative improvements. Most systems identified as AI implement a feature often referred to as machine learning (ML), by which the system continually gathers data as it works and optimizes its processes automatically over time. Versatile as they are, typical RPA systems are still best-suited for speeding up and increasing the accuracy of relatively simple digital tasks like report aggregation or inventory management.
- RPA isn’t all-or-nothing
One of the best things about RPA is its flexibility. Because it’s based on highly-programmable digital bots, RPA can be utilized for a wide variety of functions in nearly any part of the business. This also means organizations don’t have to make the leap to full implementation of automation all at once.
Businesses can even select specific tasks or parts of processes to turn over to RPA. Solutions that automate the more repetitive, monotonous steps in long, involved processes can go a long way towards improving efficiency and easing the workload for employees.
There are many examples in the government that would fit the bill for full or partial automation. These include the various steps in procurement (market research, vendor analysis, price analysis, RFP creation, award process, contracts closeout), finance (data entry, reconciliation, reports), Freedom of Information Act responses, analyzing data reported on forms, and data reconciliation between systems – to name a few.
- RPA is growing in popularity
In order to remain competitive, businesses need to stay ahead of the latest trends, especially when it comes to efficiency-enabling technology. In a recent report, Deloitte found that 53% of organizations had already begun utilizing some form of RPA within their business, and predicted that number would continue to increase in the coming years. Businesses still not taking advantage of the immense benefits RPA can bring to their organization in the form of greater efficiency, a more engaged and satisfied workforce, and improved accuracy, risk falling behind the competition.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, improving efficiency is going to be essential to business success. Digital solutions like RPA will be a major factor determining which organizations are able to quickly recover from this turbulent era of uncertainty brought about by the pandemic’s economic toll. Understanding how your company can best leverage RPA is an important first step in adapting to the new working environment.