What is Robotic Process Automation?
Currently, automation is beginning to be adopted in most sectors. However, it can take several forms. Robotic automation is not always a job performed by a physical robot, working on repetitive tasks — as they are not always options to improve workflow, either because of their cost or because of the production line setup.
In this scenario, we have Robotic Process Automation (or RPA), which allows organizations to automate processes faster, at a lower cost, in a non-invasive way, taking advantage of current infrastructure and avoiding interference in systems already in place and in production.
With RPA, it is possible to set up apps that mimic and integrate into the activities of a human being, interacting in digital systems to execute a business process. That is, RPA automates repetitive manual activities in digital processes, such as data entering, spreadsheet filling and tasks on internal business directories.
Listed on Gartner as one of 10 strategic technology trends, RPA brings different components of process automation together. It can work with advanced technologies, including Artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), to automate an increasing number of processes. RPA is also directly involved in the sophistication of automation, resulting in better employee productivity autonomy, usually leading to the creation of an automated step during a repetitive process or task.
According to a prediction made by Gartner in 2020, by 2022, integration with systems with native automated processes including RPA will have grown by around 40%. In addition, the number of software developed to be automated by external tools — giving rise to different RPA solutions — is expected to grow by up to 55%.
Benefits of using RPA
Robotic Process Automation is gaining more and more strength in companies in all sectors, which, in turn, achieve significant and tangible benefits from process automation, as it:
- Allows the team to focus on high-priority tasks while RPA performs low-priority tasks;
- Performs tasks with excellence, due to its ability to run in the background in a transparent and failsafe way;
- Ensures that the automated action has complete, correct and consistent results;
- Reduces operational costs by increasing employee productivity;
- Ensures greater compliance in processes. All steps are recorded in their own history, allowing traceability of whether the task was performed manually or automatically;
- Runs 24/7, without interruptions.
For a company looking for a smart way to scale the digital maturity curve and accelerate its digital transformation, bringing RPA to a repetitive processes can be a very effective decision.
To get the full benefits of RPA, a company must have a strategy that involves digital transformation and a development flow.
Hyperautomation uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities such as Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and computer vision to enable robots to see, read, and process information like humans. Process identification tools analyze how teams work and highlight what can be automated.
Here are the seven steps to apply hyperautomation to organizations:
- Discover: the value in automating a given task, gaining an accurate view of the need to increase performance in that task;
- Analyze: whether RPA is the best option for the task in question;
- Prototype: the diagram of possible actions in a given robot execution flow;
- Automate: development with a tool that enables an RPA to be created;
- Measure: final results of tasks performed during execution, showing productivity gain from task execution;
- Monitor: if there were failed executions and identify if the action should have had a better end result;
- Reassess: whether there is a possibility of improvement in the flow of RPA execution.
Through these steps, it is possible to identify opportunities to implement RPAs and ways to increase their efficiency. Let us consider the following scenario: a manager receives, weekly, an email from his superior with an attached file in PDF format, which must be registered in an Entreprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
Is this an activity with the potential to be automated? It seems that it is, as it is repetitive and recurrent. How long would it take for this action to be carried out? One hour, if the manager in question is not on their lunch break or solving other, more important matters — or, even, on vacation. In these cases, the task may take longer to be completed or it must be passed on to another employee.
Is there a chance of failure if this process is done manually? There is a considerable chance of mistakes happening, since the manager seeks a certain agility when it comes to entering the PDF data into the system. How could RPA assist? An RPA can analyze the email inbox, identifying the correct emails through pre-configured rules. With the emails, the RPA is able to access the PDFs as well as the online platform and register the document data on the website.
It performs these tasks in the background, without interfering with the manager’s other activities and prevents filling errors to which people are liable. Therefore, RPA can be a very interesting alternative, as it eliminates a manager’s repetitive task, increases the efficiency of the entire process and allowes said manager to use their time on activities that really require their attention.
This example illustrates the gains of using an RPA correctly. However, this technology can also be applied to a number of other tasks and uses. Other possibilities for automation using RPA that can assist process are:
Active Directory: creating or modifying a user or group;
Databases: performing queries, inserts, updates or deletes, processing procedures.
Emails: managing email inboxes, automating specific responses for each subject, sending emails;
Spreadsheets: accessing specific cell data, updating data, processing macros;
Folders and files: copying, renaming files or folders, compressing directories, printing files;
FTP/SFTP: connecting to servers, sending, deleting, renaming files or folders;
WEB browsers: accessing websites or dashboards and extracting necessary data, or registering specific information;
File encryption: creating security keys, encrypting and decrypting files .PGP;
PDF documents: extracting fields, separating or splitting documents, converting into images;
Web Services: REST Web Service, SOAP Web Service;
SAP integration: connecting in services, processing custom workflows, GUI automations;
System: lock, restart, shut down machines, simulate keyboard or mouse;
Terminal emulator: setting port, sending commands, connecting/disconnecting, waiting for answers.
Why is it important to automate repetitive tasks?
Saving time and money is of great importance to any organization. Process automation robots increase the value of a task by executing it faster and more accurately than employees, while the rest of the team performs more important jobs.
Solutions using RPA tools have evolved considerably and are increasingly present in the day-to-day life of large businesses. Process automation will become, in the coming years, an indispensable service for companies that want to remain competitive.