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What is robotic process automation (RPA) software?
Robotic process automation (RPA) software uses defined rules to automate workflows and actions that typically require a lot of repetitive manual effort. The software can self-log into systems, enter data, compute, finish a task, and then log out, with minimal or no human interference.
The benefits of RPA software
- Reduced operational risks: As the software minimizes human intervention in the processes it’s involved in, it eliminates the possibility of manual errors. This reduces operational risks in repetitive, structured tasks.
- Frees up staff for higher value tasks: By reducing human intervention, the software free up employees to focus on higher value tasks that can’t be confined within a defined set of rules. Additionally, letting employees work on more interesting tasks makes them feel more connected to their work and increases their engagement and commitment.
- Increased output: One of the main advantages of RPA is that it’s independent of constraints such as employee availability and office hours. Once initiated, the system can work round the clock, each day of the year, without any break.
Typical features of RPA software
- Business process automation: Automate business workflows using a set of rules and algorithms to improve processes, reduce costs, and optimize resources.
- AI/machine learning: Use available data to help the system analyze changes in processes and adapt its rules accordingly.
- Optical character recognition: Read and recognize printed or written text, and convert them into digital characters.
- Analytics: Examine data sets to draw conclusions and create reports on business functions.
Considerations when purchasing RPA software
- Identify the processes you want to automate: Users must identify the processes they want to automate. RPA tools work best with long-term, well-defined processes that are subject to minimal changes.
- Give preference to solutions designed for your industry: Most vendors sell generic RPA tools, while only a few sell industry-focused tools, such as RPAs for finance, insurance, IT, or marketing. It’s a good practice to give preference to RPA tools focused on your vertical as they can better understand your processes and automation needs. It's also easier to train resources on vertical-focused RPA tools as they offer familiar interface and functionalities.
- Enterprise-grade security: RPAs mimic human activities based on certain predefined and sequential algorithms. At the backend they are nothing more than a bunch of codes and scripts, which makes them an easy target for hackers. Poor security makes it easier for attackers to flood bots with a lot of irrelevant data from anonymous sources and crash its execution. Therefore, evaluate the security measures of both the solution and its vendor before making a purchase.
Relevant RPA trends
- RPA to become mainstream: According to Zinnov , enterprises spent more than $2.3 billion on RPA tools in 2019. This investment is expected to grow by 35 to 40% in the next five years, reaching approximately $11 billion.
- Cognitive RPA: According to research , over 90% of all data in enterprises will be unstructured by 2020. A simple RPA tool is not designed to handle unstructured data or work on complex and dynamic processes. Therefore, RPA solutions are now partnering with cognitive automation technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning . Embedded AI will help RPA tools work better on unstructured data and improve the output of complex and even more mission-critical workflows.