What is RPA?
RPA stands for robotic process automation, and it’s a front-end automation tool that’s used to create specialized agents or “bots” that interact with GUI elements to complete repetitive, rules-based tasks otherwise handled by humans manually. In other words, RPA mimics the clicks and keystrokes a person would use to complete a specific manual task on a computer.
Like business process automation (BPA), RPA is a type of workflow management automation or WFM. Meaning, it automates internal work processes and workflows. RPA, in particular, operates by using a defined a set of instructions that an agent or bot can follow. For example, RPA could be used to step through a run guide, copy and paste information from one place to another, or move a file or set of files from one location to another.
Just as a human would, an RPA bot can go into a specific application, read and validate the information on a screen (or multiple screens), pull up two different sources of information—such as two forms—and compare them to determine how they’re the same or different, and make changes to those sources of information as needed. Unlike a human being, however, RPA bots can complete these types of tasks at a high volume and speed with minimal—if any—errors.
As a result, RPA solutions have several key benefits. In particular, they can:
- Improve organizational efficiency by streamlining workflows.
- Reduce errors, making the results of critical processes more accurate.
- Free up employees, so they can focus on more strategic, innovative work that adds value to the business.
- Boost employee satisfaction by removing unfulfilling, manual, time-consuming, and tedious tasks from their workload.
- Automate workflows involving legacy systems that lack APIs.
Despite their many benefits, RPA tools do have some limitations. In particular, since RPA is designed to monitor a screen and follow a rules-based set of instructions, if that screen changes in any way, that automation will break. That’s why many organizations will use RPA in conjunction with another more flexible, robust automation tool or solution, so a broad spectrum of enterprise needs can be automated.