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Robotic Process Automation: What it is and what it means for your business

 | 3 min read
Robotic Process Automation: What it is and what it means for your business

The data science world today is filled with so many terms that promise to facilitate digital transformation—robotic process automation (RPA) being one of them. Like related technologies, it is associated with optimized business processes and cost control, but how exactly does it accomplish these and what other opportunities does it provide your industry?

Let’s explore this capability further.

RPA, explained

Businesses are usually bogged down by high-volume, repetitive tasks that are tedious, time-consuming, and prone to human error. You can expect these activities to scale as the organization grows as well, increasing the need for manpower and resources.

For example, let’s consider the accounting department. They’re responsible for a myriad of administrative work: creating invoices, filling out forms, maintaining records, and even sending out email communications. As the organization scales, so do these responsibilities. Not only will it be hard for the team to keep up with demand, it will also take their focus away from more strategic projects. Plus, the alternative (an increased headcount) can quickly become expensive and inefficient.

This is where robotic process automation comes in. The tech aims to automate these manual processes and workflows with bots. And no, these aren’t the science fiction robots that often pervade pop culture. These are software programs that interact with digital systems like a person would do and are integrated with other applications to complete a variety of tasks: copying and pasting data, moving files and folders, completing customer orders, processing transactions, etc.

Enterprise robotic process automation tools are broadly categorized into:

  1. Probots that process data,
  2. Knowbots that scour the internet to search and store data, and
  3. Chatbots that reply to customers and clients in real time.

In a nutshell, how robotic process automation works is exactly how it sounds. Bots emulate human digital activities to execute and automate business processes—any task that’s rule-based, trigger-driven, and repeatable.

The role RPA plays

According to a Forrester Research report, there will be over 4 million bots doing administrative and related work by 2021. Investment in the technology is growing, and that’s not surprising. RPA introduces a multitude of opportunities that can change how a business operates. To name a few:

1. Efficient and effective work processes

Business process triggers like ticketing, work order, and invoicing can be digitized and offloaded to RPA tools. This enables faster, more accurate workflows that can be accomplished 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

2. Reduced human error

In the US, erroneous data input costs $3 trillion annually, according to the Harvard Business Review. RPA can mitigate this risk through bots that are programmed to follow rules, leaving no room for error.

3. A delightful customer experience

Chatbots allow organizations to go the extra mile in terms of customer service. These virtual assistants can efficiently pull up data and respond to queries—making customers feel valued and important.

4. Improved employee satisfaction

Remember the accounting department? With their manual tasks automated, the team can focus on high-value, strategic, and engaging work that will definitely give a boost to employee satisfaction.

5. Better business outcomes

The combination of streamlined operations, increased productivity, and higher employee morale will most likely result in better performance and reduced costs—giving you that competitive edge in the marketplace.

Automation taken a step further

Robotic Process Automation involves breaking down repetitive tasks performed by a user and instructing machines to execute them. But what if you want to go beyond the mundane?

RPA is only one part of the digital transformation process. While the benefits of RPA are substantial, the tech only excels in repetitive rule-based applications. Combining it with the cognitive power of artificial intelligence will create fully automated business processes that can be performed with human-like accuracy.

What does more sophisticated automation look like? Well, when artificial intelligence comes into the picture, these tools will have the capability to accomplish more complex, cognitive tasks: image and speech recognition, data manipulation, and pattern recognition, to name a few. For example, not only will a RPA bot be able to respond to a customer query, they will also be able to analyze the sentiment and respond accordingly, and possibly even recommend an offer or discount.

This is an entirely new level of automation—intelligent automation—and just goes to show how an end-to-end approach in technological adoption can make a huge impact. Use robotic process automation in conjunction with other technologies (artificial intelligence, machine learning, and deep learning) to scale your organization and help it reach greater heights. The faster you benefit from robots, the more competitive edge you gain for your business.

About the author

Fiona Villamor

Fiona Villamor

Fiona Villamor is the lead writer for Sryas, a global technology company that delivers powerful insights and business transformations at scale. In the past 10 years, she has written about big data, advanced analytics, and other transformative technologies and is constantly on the lookout for great stories to tell about the space.

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