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Robotic process automation is often sold as the ultimate finance and accounting automation solution, but is it really? Here's why you need workload automation, too.
Banks are discovering that they need more robust process automation to complement RPA.
Robotic process automation, or RPA, is becoming a bit of a buzzword in business tech writing these days. There are plenty of techy articles out there that describe robotic process automation, or RPA, as the next big thing in the AI business revolution. And it is a handy tool when used correctly.
But is robotic process automation the right solution for every automation problem facing financial institutions? Is robotic process automation in finance and accounting the end-all, be-all solution?
No, it’s not.
More and more, we see RPA oversold as the solution to every obstacle. Sales personnel position it as the solution to problems that it doesn’t solve efficiently. We want to show you a better way to solve more complex business challenges.
First, let’s take a look at what RPA is and what it does well.
Robotic Process Automation: What It Is
Robotic process automation is using computer-based technology (that’s the “robotic” part) to create automated workflows for a variety of tasks and events (processes). It’s a powerful, promising technology because computers can complete repetitive tasks far faster and with far greater accuracy than humans can.
Here’s a simple example.
An Example of Robotic Process Automation Done Well
Imagine that your business deals with a particular form. Every time you receive this form, you need to copy information from specific fields into specific databases. This is an exceedingly menial task, and frankly, it’s one that humans aren’t great at. All it takes to cause a very significant problem is transposing two digits in one field or copying information from the wrong line.
You can implement Robotic process automation to train a computer on how to read a scanned document, extract the relevant entries, and input those entries into the proper database fields. Once you implement it, a computer can process a stack of forms as fast as the scanner can pull them through. The process saves significant time and gains considerable quality.
RPA has seen an enormous increase in the last several years, thanks to the power of artificial intelligence. Where computers used to require stringent parameters to automate tasks, AI offers a great deal more ability. RPA is now possible using incomplete data sets or multiple databases with overlapping information. For example, in a set of forms where the data is not always in the same location, an AI-powered RPA could detect which fields are likely to be addressed.
To sum up, robotic process automation is a powerful force in handling simple automation tasks. It functions well right out of the box and can create significant efficiencies for you when you have many users with similar needs.
The Limitations of Robotic Process Automation
Robotic process automation in finance and accounting certainly has a role to play. There are plenty of simple scenarios, like the one described above that occur in these industries. But there are significant limitations as well.
First, RPA is limited in terms of full process automation. Out of the box, its functionality is more limited. And while it is possible with the right know-how and finesse to program in more profound, more sophisticated automation, it is not simple to do so.
RPA, then, is not particularly scalable, and there are real limits to the complexity of tasks it handles well. RPA solutions work best in tandem with human operators utilizing workflow software.
Workload Automation Software (WLA): The Key to Powerful Automation
RPA isn’t an ineffective tool. It’s just that people use it in situations where it’s not efficient, kind of like using a screwdriver where a power drill is the better choice.
If RPA is the screwdriver, workload automation software (WLA) is the power drill. It shines in more complex environments, such as designing, scheduling, monitoring, and managing scripts and executables across the enterprise.
WLA is not a competitor to or replacement of RPA. Instead, these two technologies are complementary. They work in tandem to accomplish much more than RPA can do alone.
It may be helpful to contrast the two technologies. Think of RPA as, more or less, replacing an average person sitting at a computer: it can engage in activities that mimic simple human behaviors, like basic data entry. You can also think of it as frontend focused.
WLA, on the other hand, handles a much more complex set of behaviors, the ones your IT staff handle on the backend. With WLA, you can automate disaster recovery operations, event-triggered automation, and far more complicated workflows utilizing connectors and API calls.
WLA does require a bit more setup effort and cost, and implementation is more complicated. But the scalability and sheer power are much higher. In the long run, you’ll save considerably overusing RPA alone.
For a deeper dive into the differences between RPA and WLA, and why you need both, check out our comparison chart.
OpCon: Your Quality WLA Solution
With a quality WLA solution like OpCon, your business can engage much more quickly in more complex automation more easily than it can by relying on RPA alone. Interested in scheduling a demo? Get in touch right now!
Want to learn more about automation? Schedule a demo of OpCon!
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