What is robotic process automation (RPA)?
Robotic process automation doesn’t include the use of a physical robot. Instead, it’s a bot that exists virtually within an existing framework. Bots can be downloaded onto computers or written into software programs in order to execute tasks that would normally require a person for completion.
Utilizing an RPA requires a user to define a set of instructions for the robot to perform. With guidance, a bot can mimic many repetitive, time-consuming tasks that once required a person to do it manually. With help from robotic process automation, these tasks no longer have to be completed by a person, which means more tasks can be completed in less time with no errors.
Similarities and differences between APIs and RPA
An API is an application programming interface, which is also used as a workflow automation tool. It utilizes scripted language by a software developer to produce a list of specific actions that are completed in a specific order.
In contrast, robotic process automation utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to watch a user perform certain tasks, then it repeats those tasks. No specific programming is needed in order to achieve the desired outcome. Instead, the user models the behavior, and the bot learns the behavior so it can be repeated.
It is important to note that RPA isn’t a true AI program. Although it can learn actions in a specific sequence, it cannot learn as it goes. For example, if a part of the process changes, the program will not be able to come up with a solution on its own. It will need guidance from a user to learn the new process.
Benefits of using robotic process automation
Using robotic process automation offers many benefits. It can:
- Free up time that can be spent on other tasks
- Complete tasks more quickly
- Complete tasks more accurately
- Complete more tasks in the same period of time
- Be adapted by many employees, thanks to its low-code approach
The biggest benefit is the ability to save money. Reclaimed time can make teams more productive, it requires minimal upfront spending compared to similar types of technologies, and it can be adapted, so there’s less need to continue spending money on new programs.
Types of tasks that can be completed
In order for robotic process automation to be successful, it must:
- Be rule-based
- Have a pre-defined trigger
- Have defined inputs and outputs
- Contain a sufficient volume
RPA is effective when managing data, as it can make receiving, process, collecting, and correcting data easier. It can make dealing with returned items much easier, it can streamline replies to customer emails, it can simplify application processes, and much more.
The future of robotic process automation
Although RPA currently requires input from a user, that will not be the case in the future. As AI continues to evolve, it will inform RPA programs, enabling processes to be run on computers without the need for a user to model the process.
Unassisted robotic process automation bots will be able to run processes and learn from changes without the need for a user to trigger the process to begin, observe its performance, make changes, or close down the automation when the task is finished. This will enable businesses to operate more smoothly and more accurately 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.