Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is the use of software with the help of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning capabilities. It is used to handle high volume, repeatable tasks generally done by the human beings in large organizations. These tasks normally include queries, calculations and manipulations of records and transactions. Robotic Process Automation software is designed to help in the routine office jobs that are generally varied in nature. Instead of creating a robot which specializes in a particular task these software’s robots are designed to take care of multiple tasks at one time. Office job generally requires a computer operator to do a number of repetitive tasks throughout the day. These tasks may be entering the data from a list to the form, sorting the data or simply copy and paste and so on. Robotic Process Automation software is basically designed to reduce this burden on the employee to do these simple, repetitive tasks.This software’s can be treated s an active virtual workforce that can follow the business processes and also interact with the system in the same manner as a human being will do.
1. Robotic Process Automation is very efficient as it is completely secure, consistent, very reliable and at the same time scalable.
2. It is not constrained to specific software and hence can implement with greater flexibility and speed.
3. It is comparatively cost effective.
4. Organization can build Robotic Process Automation software’s that have a centralized capability to implement process automation across multiple platforms and also different technologies.
5. System updates are easily available and that too without any coding. Hence it is easy to adapt to the system changes without any type of hassles.
Robotic Process Automation is getting more and more attention and recognition among the organizations these days. This is due to the much functionality that is promises to have in it. But at the same time it is important to understand the capabilities of Robotic Process Automation that is what it can actually do and what it cannot.
Generally terms like Robotic Process Automation, Artificial Intelligence(AI), machine learning and cognitive computing are used in place of one another. This creates confusion and ends up people thinking that these are one end and the same. This is not true. Hence we should know the meaning of each term clearly.
1. Robotic Process Automation
Robotic process Automation enables organizations to automate large repetitive processes that would generally be done by human operators. It is programmed to do a set of tasks with complete accuracy. But when an exception arrives, humans have to interfere because it does not have decision taking capabilities.
2. Artificial Intelligence
In Artificial Intelligence self learning is the centre point. This means to learn through experience. Here if a robot comes across the same set of exceptions again and again, Artificial Intelligence will be able to take notice of these exceptions and learn from it. Thus including this new information into its program and behaving accordingly from the next time. This is the reason why artificial intelligence is considered to be similar to human beings.
3. Machine Learning
As the name suggests “Machine Learning” refers to the various algorithm and computer system that helps a technology to learn over a period of time without being programmed to do so and thus making the technology intelligent in the real sense.
4. Cognitive Computers
Cognitive Computers are not programmed but trained with the help of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to function and behave like human brain. It is expected to do some psychological tasks like judging, sensing, predicting and even getting emotional. Cognitive computers are basically designed to work with human beings and learn from them. Then they can help them in taking decisions and giving feedbacks. This is possible with the use of speech and image recognition technology.
Hence we can see that these terms are inter-related but definitely different from each other in functionality.
Although the robots designed for Robotic Process Automation can do a set of tasks with complete perfection, they cannot be called smart since they can do only those things for which they have been programmed. They cannot react to a situation for which they have not been coded. Thus requiring human intervention.
Many people in the industry feel that Robotic Process Automation is similar to Testing Automation. But it is not so. Let’s look at the differences.
1. Although Robotic Process Automation is a concept where we can use it to automate the tedious task of testing which is done manually and is very time consuming due to its repetitive nature, we can use it across many industries like data entry is done in the bank. But testing automation can be applied only to a particular product and its features.
2. Test automation works across many environments like QA, UAT, Prod, etc. whereas Robotic Process Automation runs only in the production environment.
3. Test automation is limited to QA whereas Robotic Process Automation systems can be used by anybody in an organization from creation to product usage.
4. Robotic Process Automation can be called a Testing tool but it is more flexible and stable due to its non-coding concepts and it also does not depend on the target system.
5. The testing tools like QTP, Selenium, etc cannot be used as Robotic Process Automation tools because they need a software product to work upon. But Robotic Process Automation cannot be applied to a product.
With Robotic Process Automation getting more and more popular, people have started doubting the future of outsourcing. Most of the people are, worried that whether the current manpower doing jobs like data entry will become jobless in the future or not.
We know that smart machines with new technologies are coming and they will definitely change the scenario of outsourcing altogether from what it is today. But at the same time, it is also true that Robotic Process Automation is mostly robotic in nature and it needs human help to monitor and solve exceptional situations. It cannot work on its own. Hence replacing humans completely seems to be quite far.
Organizations that are using Robotic Process Automation for their repetitive tasks are redeploying their workforce to a different and more interesting type of works within their organization.
The processes which were outsourced by the company are the ones which can be automated. Sensing this, the outsourcing companies are coming up with their own Robotic Process Automation solutions. According to Bill Gates, most of the IT programming work will be automated in the future. This will definitely affect the global employment and economic trends. For example: In Indian outsourcing is the greatest source of employment. Although it is not clear that what type of affect Robotic Process Automation is going to cause to this industry, It is for sure that they have to develop their technologies in order to stay in the market. They will have to provide a lot of cognitive automation technologies to their clients. They will have to train their people to become process and technology experts so that they can help whenever the automated system is unable to do a job. Hence it is sure that humans are there to stay in the marketplace in some way or the other.
History of RPA
There is a common debate among the people of the automation community that whether Robotic Process Automation a new technology or just an extension and advancement of the pre-existing technologies.
Let’s study the main technologies that developed after 1990’s and can be called the predecessors of Robotic Process automation. These are:
1. Screen Scraping Software
It was developed even before the invention of the internet. Now a day it is being used to extract data from the internet on the presentation layer. This software has a limitation because it’s compatibility with one the other applications varies. Its dependence on HTML code of the websites makes it more difficult to handle. Hence users required more versatile and easily adaptable technologies.
2. Workflow Automation and Management Tools
Workflow Automation Software can help in process where there is a need of capturing curtain fields of data and then transferring them into the company’s database. For example:- in order processing, where data like customer name, address, contact detail, can be captured by this software. This eliminates the need for manual data entry resulting in increased speed, efficiency, and accuracy.
3. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial I machines have the capability of completing tasks that previously required human brains for decision making power like strategic and financial planning or fraud detection, etc.
Although this technology is expensive, it is highly beneficial due to its high accuracy and replacement of manpower from the tedious and time-consuming tasks to more productive tasks.
Robotic Process Automation has the capability of improving and combining these technologies and making optimum use of them. This makes Robotic process automation so popular in recent times.
The term “Robotic Process Automation” can be dated to do early 2000. It is a developing technology as it is still depended on its previous technologies. RPA is now enhancing the capabilities of its previous technologies and using them in the IT industry in a better way.
Unlike its preceding technologies, it is not dependent on coding. Rather it allows the user to use its drag and drop features to create automation software’s and manages them. This gives the user a flexibility of managing the software even without any coding knowledge.
Many of the Robotic Process Automation software make use of optical character recognition (OCR) technology to understand the changing websites. This eliminates the need for human intervention.
The future of Robotic Process Automation is very bright as it transforms the business activities and streamlines the process of many big companies.
According to McKinsey, automation technologies such as Robotic Process Automation will have an economic impact of nearly $6.7trillion by 2025. With these statistics, it’s definite that Robotic Process Automation is growing rapidly and is going to become one of the leading technological platforms for a positive business outcome.
Industry analysts expect that Robotic Process Automation software’s will be combined with technologies machine learning and cognitive computing to provide better solutions to the industry. This has great potential to make organizations more active and productive, which is very important in today’s global and competitive marketplaces.
For a smooth and successful implementation of Robotic Process Automation, it is necessary that a through selection of the process to be automated is done. At the same time, it is very essential that all the people of the business, IT and Robotic Process Automation work as a team. Here is a list of certain important things that should be kept in mind, while going for Robotic Process Automation, in order to make it successful.
1. Analyze And Choose The Correct Process For Automation
For an effective Robotic Process Automation, such processes should be chosen which are repetitive, rule-based, high in volume and that don’t require human intervention for making decisions. This can be a challenging task in itself because choosing an inefficient process to automate will only speed up the inefficiency.
2. Get The Support Of Your Stakeholders:-
The idea Robotic Process Automation adoption does not come from inside the organization but from outside business units like the consultants. Hence, for this idea to be successful, it is necessary that support must be gained from the stakeholders inside the organization like the CEO, IT head, etc. This is so because none of the Robotic Process Automation software will be able to run without the permission and help of the IT department. Since no robot can work without a PC, a user account or access to an application. The entire infrastructure has to be provided by the IT department. So keep these people in confidence and also try to communicate the benefits that the IT department is likely to get from this technology. Sharing success stories through regular communication helps in creating enthusiasm among the people.
3. Communicate Regularly With IT Department
Communicating with the IT department should be on a regular basis.This will help the Robotic Process Automation team in delivering the new Robotic Process Automation process. The IT team can provide real support to them at various stages of development. For example: – they can provide access to test environment, help in giving permissions within an application, etc. Staying in contact with the IT development is very important in order to ensure smooth delivery of the new Robotic Process Automation process.
4. Prepare A Clear Strategy For The Usage Of Robotic Process Automation Within The Company.
There is always a risk of failure if there is no clear strategy regarding how Robotic Process Automation is going to be deployed and utilized. One should have a clear vision about the use of Robotic Process Automation so that the correct Robotic Process Automation software is chosen to fulfill the needs of many departments. The software should also fully integrate into the existing It infrastructure and solutions so that there is no conflict of technologies.
5. Keep The Expectation Realistic
Robotic Process Automation is only a tool and not a magic solution to every business problem. Still there are situations where there is a need of human interventions in order to manage the problem. So thinking that RPA software implementation can take the place of human beings completely is a farfetched dream. Hence we should keep our expectations regarding Robotic Process Automation.
6. Calculate The Hidden Costs Of Robotic Process Automation
There is always an initial expenditure while implementing Robotic Process Automation and keeping it operational. Hence make budget for each of its stages. Also make provisions for the IT infrastructure like databases, machines, etc and IT resource time to implement Robotic Process Automation. Include additional consultancy costs, if any, from partner companies. You have to also take into account the salary cost of any additional post created due to Robotic Process Automation implementation. All of this needs to be included in the cost for implementation of RPA. If all this is within the budget of the company then only it should proceed for Robotic Process Automation implementation or not.
With the emergence of Artificial Intelligence and RPA, new job profiles will be created. People should not worry and think that jobs will be on the decline due to automation rather on the contrary these will open doors for re-skilling of manpower. Now people have to focus more on super specialization in their particular field of work in order to succeed.