What is Robotic Process Automation & How Does It Work?


Paul Johndrow

Senior editor

Parul Saxena

Chief editor

Last updated: May 2, 2019

For some, robotic process automation (RPA) sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, conjuring up images of robots taking over the workplace while eliminating the need for human labor. However, tempting as it may be to entertain these futuristic notions, the reality is the digital workforce is not a total replacement for workers, but rather an added value when it comes to driving efficiencies, increasing profitability, stimulating growth, and maintaining compliance within your organization. RPA is a critical component in helping businesses in achieving digital transformation. 

What is RPA?

RPA is agile software robots (‘bots’) that mimic human actions to perform manual, repetitive, and time-consuming rules-based tasks that human employees would typically perform. Robotic process automation software automates these data-driven activities across portals, websites, and internal applications. RPA is the most efficient and fastest way to obtain, increase, and deliver information into enterprise applications. The below scenario involves multiple tasks that RPA can perform within a purchase order process. This type of procedure can be likened to many use cases across an organization including:

  • Monitoring email Inbox for emails with a particular subject or content within the email body.
  • Extracting data from an email to use in finding a transaction (i.e., PO Number).
  • Logging into a web portal and use the PO number to find the new order from a customer.
  • Downloading the related purchase order form on the portal or open a transaction screen within the portal.
  • Extracting data from the purchase order document or purchase order screen.
  • Storing the data into the ERP system via ODBC, web services, API or through a screen integration with the ERP User interface.
  • Getting additional details from the ERP to update the portal with delivery date and status.
  • Logging into a web portal and update the order with data from the ERP system and acknowledge that order is received.

By following a set of defined rules, robotic process automation software frees employees to focus on higher value tasks such as problem-solving, collaborating, and customer-focused activities. Moreover, with less tedious jobs to perform, employees may experience an increase in job satisfaction. Workers who genuinely feel that they are adding value to their organization can lead to higher employee retention and better job performance.

Benefits of Robotic Process Automation

1. Fast-Track Productivity While Reducing Errors & Costs

The speed and accuracy in which robotic process automation software can execute tasks are unparalleled to its human counterparts. RPA performs two to three times faster than humans enabling data to integrate at faster speeds. It also allows information to be rapidly sent to users in departments across the organization as well as in various business processes and workflows where it is needed. Software bots deliver 100% accuracy as opposed to humans who account for 88% of process errors—resulting in unnecessary costs for businesses. According to the Harvard Business Review, erroneous data input by humans cost $3 trillion per year in the United States alone.

The cost of a software robot and a human employee doing the same rote tasks are substantial. The Institute for Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence reports that a software robot costs about one-third the price of a full-time offshore employee and one-fifth the expense of an onshore worker. Software robots can be operational 24/7 without interruption, resulting in bringing your product to market faster at a lower cost.

2. Flexibility & Scalability

Another benefit of robotic process automation is that software bots adapt to the ever-changing needs of your organization. For example, during higher intensity periods, you have the power to deploy as many software bots when and where you need them—even reassigning bots from other tasks. Alternatively, if it is a slower phase—such as in the off-season—you can scale down the number of software bots required to fulfill specific processes.

Since robotic process automation software is both scalable and flexible, both large and small organizations can implement an RPA solution that addresses their present and future needs as well. As your business requirements evolve, robotic process automation can be introduced in stages, automating processes in days or weeks, not months.

3. Improve Regulatory Compliance

Organizations need to take regulatory compliance and any issues that arise regarding compliance seriously. Robotic process automation software provides businesses with increased visibility, ensuring that they remain compliant when it comes to adhering to policies, government regulations, and pertinent laws. Since software bots’ actions are continuously monitored with their activities logged, they can provide vital data and a continuous audit trail.

Additionally, with RPA in place, employees can take more ownership of their work while ensuring an audit trail. Robotic Process Automation software can extend to any task including contracts, for example. Having audit trails of all interactions between the involved parties is essential to ensuring the agreement is being correctly adhered to. Being able to refer to a contract even years later and recalling notes and other pertinent documentation is crucial to this practice. 

4. RPA: Global Growth by the Numbers

Globally speaking, industries from a wide range of emerging markets and business sectors including banking, insurance, transportation and logistics, manufacturing, finance, and accounting, continually implement robotic process automation solutions as part of its business processes and strategic growth strategies. Forrester reports that the RPA market, while only $250 million in 2016, will grow to $2.9 billion in 2021.

Also, according to Acumen Research and Consulting, the global robotic process automation market size is anticipated to be around 4.1 billion US dollars by 2026.

5. No Outsourcing Needed

Thanks to RPA, organizations that were once plagued with unmanageable workloads no longer have to outsource work but instead can utilize their internal resources. The ability to keep information such as company data in-house provides a level of control, not to mention privacy that you would have to relinquish if it was contracted out. Also, the cost savings with robotic process automation can go right back into the business since you will not have to hire additional outside staff or in-house employees to get the work completed.

6. Streamline Processes Without Code

Automating tasks and workflows through RPA does not require coding, complex development, or programming skills, which makes robotic process automation software an easy solution to not only implement but use. As aforementioned above, an organization can have a robotic process automation solution integrated into their ERP in a matter of just days and weeks. Also, since RPA can be incorporated into your existing business systems, there is no need to tear out core business platforms.

Additionally, the RPA software platform is built directly onto your centralized server that interacts across internal enterprise systems, websites and portals, desktop applications, and other data sources.

Summing it Up

As RPA technology continues to develop, robotic process automation software will become an even more critical and valuable component of your organization’s digital transformation initiatives. By automating your business processes, you can further your business objectives while saving your company a substantial amount of time and money.

Paul Johndrow is Owner and Vice President of Marketing and Sales at All Star Software Systems, a Connecticut-based systems integrator that sells, implements and supports information management and automation solutions. Since 2002, All Star has provided solutions that are workflow-centric and integrated with ERP and line of business applications. A former United States Air Force non-commissioned officer, Paul holds a degree in Electronics Engineering from the New England Institute of Technology.

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  1. Awesome post with lots of data regarding robotic process automation. Thanks for sharing such an informative blog. Share more ideas frequently.

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