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What is RPA (robotic process automation)?

In factories and manufacturing organizations, robots are nothing new. For decades, they’ve been improving productivity and freeing up workers to focus on other, higher-level tasks. And now that same level of productivity increase is coming to companies where employees perform high-volume business, IT support, and workflow processes—thanks to RPA.

Introduction

By using RPA tools as part of a larger business process automation strategy, software “robots” can easily be configured to trigger responses, manipulate data, and communicate with other digital systems. Examples range from things as simple as generating an auto-reply message to an email that deploys thousands of bots, each of which are pre-programmed to automate ERP tasks.

Two kinds of RPA: Attended and unattended

When exploring RPA as a workflow automation solution, it’s helpful to consider the two different categories—attended and unattended automation—before deciding which is right for your organization.

Attended automation

Attended automation allows you to focus on more high-value work across your organization. It does this by automating repetitive, manual, front-office activities and mimics actions you perform on your desktop or browser, like mouse clicks, by recording and playing back these actions in real time.

Unattended automation

By contrast, as its name suggests, unattended automation doesn’t require someone to be at their computer. Instead, unattended bots do the work by themselves recording and playing back actions. Because they can use triggers and schedule automated events, they’re ideal for accelerating the automation of high-volume tasks across your organization.

The advantages of using RPA

As anyone who’s ever been tasked with cutting and pasting the contents of one massive spreadsheet to another can attest, repetitive, tedious tasks aren’t really the best use of a human’s cognitive abilities. Not only is it boring for the person performing the job, but the end result is much more likely to contain errors. It’s probably also going to take much longer than if that task were performed by a bot.

Herein lies two of the biggest advantages of using RPA: Increased productivity and accuracy. Workers are freed up to perform higher-value tasks, which elevates the nature of work they do. And when robots are programmed once, they follow the rules every single time. They never get tired or bored and they don’t make mistakes; their results are consistent and reliable.

Bots also make it simple for organizations to quickly scale up or down, so seasonal workflows and/or surges—across business units, locations, and from desktop to cloud—can be easily be accommodated.

Why use RPA?

  • Workers are freed-up to perform higher-value tasks
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased accuracy
  • It’s faster and easier to scale up or scale down as needed

Faster ROI and improved compliance

Because they don’t require custom code from the development team, bots are a very low-cost solution. They’re also easy to implement quickly. As a result, ROI from implementing an RPA solution is typically achieved within weeks.

In addition, meeting—and documenting—compliance requirements is much simpler since RPA bots execute their tasks consistently and reliably. This reduces risks, eliminates the human error factor, and expedites reporting since everything is easily monitored and quantifiable.

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Determining whether your company can benefit from RPA

Organizations in a variety of different industries can benefit from implementing an RPA solution. When evaluating whether it’s right for your company, first consider whether you have “back-office” tasks that would benefit from process automation. These rule-based, non-subjective processes are typically found in areas like finance, procurement, supply chain management, healthcare, accounting, customer service, and human resources.

Companies that provide IT support and management are also prime candidates for RPA because it improves service desk operations and the monitoring of network devices. By automating processes, IT infrastructures can investigate and solve problems faster.

In addition, industries that rely on voice recognition or automated, online assistants often find RPA advantageous since recent developments now allow bots to provide answers in normal language rather than in code. This is a huge advantage for large call centers and other organizations that have a lot of interaction with customers because it helps conserve resources.

Who can take advantage of RPA?

  • Organizations with “back office” tasks that would benefit from process automation
  • Companies that provide IT support and management
  • Any firm that relies on voice recognition or automated, online assistants

Features to look for when choosing RPA software

Plenty of options exist when it comes to finding the RPA solution that’s right for your company. Like so many business decisions, finding one that’s a good fit is critical, so look for one that’s:

  • Easy to use: Anyone within your organization should be able to build and use bots. They should also be able to collect data that empowers leaders to make business decisions.
  • Scalable: Opt for an RPA platform that can be centrally managed and scaled to as many different locations as necessary.
  • Reliable: Since you’ll be automating hundreds or thousands of tasks, it goes without saying reliability—and built-in monitoring with analytics—are all critical.
  • Fast: The best solution will let you design and test new robotic processes in a matter of hours and quickly optimize the bots.
  • Smart: The best tools support simple, task-based activities, read and write to any data source, and utilize advanced learning to improve future automations.
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Consider a full-stack solution that includes hyperautomation

Like every technology, the capabilities of RPA continue to evolve at a rapid rate. Having a strong, primary, end-to-end solution in place should be any organization’s first priority. But adding additional functionality is essential as well. That’s where hyperautomation enters the equation.

By making sure you choose a full-stack solution that includes hyperautomation, your business will benefit from a technology that brings together several components of process automation to integrate tools and technologies that further expand your ability to automate tasks via APIs, AI, process mining, analytics, and other tools.

Get started with RPA

Discover a tool that streamlines repetitive tasks and paperless processes so you can focus your attention where it’s needed most. With Microsoft Power Automate you save time and effort in a single RPA solution.