Mini Series

Tech Tuesday: Robotic Process Automation (RPA)


Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is often confused as robots in human form is one of the advanced technologies. But that is far from the truth. RPA is a software used in virtual or physical machines. When you think of robotics, the movie Transformers pops up in your mind. The dramatic depiction of robots jumping up in the air and fighting off villains, suddenly take the shape of a robot who is also your friend. However, RPA is nothing like that. While some robots can do all sorts of cool stuff, other robots are programmed to help humans carry out mundane activities. RPA looks less fancy but is a useful and efficient innovation.

What makes RPA a hero?

RPA doesn’t have a mind of its own. It is programmed by humans to perform specific tasks. How is that helpful? If this question is on your mind, let’s look at a mundane role of processing invoices. Once the accounts team receives an invoice, a person checks the invoice and captures the Excel sheet information. Details such as the invoice number, name of the company, and processing date are manually entered in Excel and sent to the reporting manager. This is a routine task that is done almost daily. Although this is a mundane task, it is essential to keep track of transactions. Any errors will lead to miscalculations which in turn will impact the decision making. To find an efficient way to process invoices, humans created bots programmed to capture the necessary information and make it error-free.

RPA uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning capabilities to handle recurring tasks with high volume earlier performed by humans. These include calculations, addressing queries, executing transactions and record maintenance. Besides, RPA cannot perform human cognitive functions as it doesn’t have a brain of its own to perform logical thinking like humans.

Salient Features of RPA

  1. RPA comes out of the box with built-in functionality that doesn’t need human coding, but it is customisable.
  2. The algorithms complete the action behind the scenes that are not visible to the user but play a critical role in smooth functioning.
  3. The activity is predefined and completes simple to complex tasks as programmed.
  4. RPA interacts with front-end applications such as Oracle, SAP, etc.
  5. The execution is done by the bots independently.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of RPA

Advantages

  1. By opting for an RPA, the employees will be free to use their skills and knowledge to complete productive work.
  2. Employees will be happier as they can take up impactful projects, and the attrition rate in organisations will drop.
  3. This software can do the work much faster than a human.
  4. Repetitive tasks that take up a lot of the time can be automated easily.
  5. As the software completes tasks, there is no room for error as it will work exactly as programmed.

Disadvantages

  1. Robots can detect details which a human may not, which may get escalated even if minuscule.
  2. The robot will only understand the patterns and issues it is programmed to understand, and hence if it faces something out of the blue, it may go undetected.
  3. As per the business needs, the RPA will need to be customised. When the organisation changes in the future, this will need to be customised according to future needs. Hence, the organisation needs to be mindful before investing heavily in RPA solutions.

Time is of the essence for organisations. They can choose to digitise and automate the routine process and use human capabilities to achieve higher goals. In a way, it can be seen as a profitable exchange. Technology is here to stay, and while it makes life more comfortable, lethargy may set in. How people use the latest technology trends to their benefit is the only way to guarantee success in the future.