More companies than ever before are looking into robotic process automation (RPA) and the many benefits it provides. Maybe they have a business colleague who has begun using RPA at their company to save time and money through more efficient execution of simple digital tasks. Or maybe they read an article describing how “software robots” are rules-based applications that do not make any of the kinds of mistakes that human workers can. Whatever the origin of their curiosity, the hunger for a clear, concise and complete description of robotic process automation is growing rapidly. Recently, I conducted a live webinar focused on answering some of the most commonly asked RPA questions. I’m happy to say that attendees found it to be an interesting and enlightening session. If you share my audience’s interest in RPA but couldn’t attend the webinar, you can view a recording of What You Need to Know about RPA. I’ve also collected some of the key points of the webinar in this blog post.
What RPA Is Not
While a webinar on robotic process automation might typically start with a description of what RPA is, I’m going to start here with a description of what RPA is not. Why? Well, with no thanks to movies like The Terminator, people today have fairly deeply rooted fear of systems that exhibit any degree of artificial intelligence (AI). Consequently, I feel it’s important to dispel some of the myths about software robots.
First, software robots are not physical devices; they are small software programs. And, while it is fair to say that they display a degree of AI, in most cases it is very limited. Generally with commercially available programs like our Buddha Botz, the actions they perform are simple, clearly defined, and unchanging. Of course, if the requirements of a task change, it’s easy to modify a bot. But typically that involves human intervention. The science fiction-inspired image of a software robot that becomes “aware” and develops a ravenous appetite for knowledge and power is exactly that — science fiction. It’s also important to note that Buddha Botz don’t “replace” humans. Instead, they handle mundane tasks that can, in some instances, consume much of a person’s workday. And in doing so, they free the person to address higher-level, more productive work.
What RPA Is
Knowing what robotic process automation is not makes it much easier to understand what it is. RPA is a way to automate the completion of simple, repetitive, data-focused tasks. The Buddha Botz that handle these tasks can work in whatever way is convenient for the organization. By that I mean that they can:
- Run manually when initiated by a human worker
- Be scheduled to run at any time of day or night
- Run sequentially, with the completion of a task by one software robot triggering the initiation of a subsequent operation by another software robot
- Be launched based on certain conditions being met
- Complete in seconds or minutes tasks that might take hours or days to be performed manually
Buddha Botz are designed to function as a digital workers that interact helpfully and relatively seamlessly with their human counterparts.
And, as I noted above, software robots are rules-based programs. As such, they never deviate from what they are designed to do. As long as the rules are defined clearly and correctly (which isn’t hard to do), Buddha Botz complete their work with 100% accuracy every time they are executed.
RPA: Universally Useful
Most business “applications” are somewhat limited in how, when and where they are useful. Software robots like Buddha Botz are an exception to that rule. They can be used in any:
- Industry. If a business accepts, generates or uses data in digital form (and what business doesn’t?), it can benefit from the use of software robots. Insurance, financial services, healthcare, oil & gas, telecom/utilities, and government are just some of the many industries where Buddha Botz are having a positive impact.
- Department. Here again, if data is produced by or moves through an operational area, there are surely related tasks that can be automated. For example, in the accounting department, RPA can be used to transfer data from one source (a spreadsheet or database for instance) to another, reconcile two data sources, etc. In the client services department, software robots can be used as the first line of customer support or to automatically send a post-interaction survey.
- Location. Anywhere that a computer can operate, a software robot can be executed. And as businesses become more cloud-based, Buddha Botz have ever-greater reach.
From “web robots” that acquire and manipulate hard-to-reach external web data, to “process robots” that integrate data sources and automate information-driven activities, to “content robots” that accelerate application consolidation and legacy application integration, these tiny bits of code are incredibly versatile and highly adaptable!
Robotic Process Automation and the Big Picture
Once they have a good feel for what software robots are and the specific things they can do, many people move from a “micro” view to thinking about the big picture. “How can my company as a whole benefit from the use of Buddha Botz?” they ask. And we’re glad they do! Software robots deliver many high-level benefits, including that they:
- Serve as a fully and easily scalable digital workforce. Ramping up and paring down a human workforce as work volumes ebb and flow is time-consuming and labor-intensive. When your business experiences a sudden surge or seasonal lift, software robots can be called into action with just a few clicks. Then, when activity slows, another few clicks and a robot “takes a break” until it is needed again. No hiring, onboarding, exit interviews or severance pay required!
- Integrate with virtually any business system. From accounting software to CRM systems, off-the-shelf packages to in-house solutions, Buddha Botz can be designed to pull data from or provide data to them all with ease.
- Drive process improvement. As you assess your business processes in the course of automating them, you frequently find that they can be simplified or consolidated, leading to faster, more efficient execution.
- Improve the customer experience. Whether your software robots are providing instantaneous responses to customer inquiries or giving human support representatives immediate access to key account information, the end result is a much more pleasant and efficient interaction for all involved.
- Reduce operational risk. Processing errors can result in anything from angry stakeholders, to a tarnished reputation, to legal action. Properly coded software robots do not make errors. What’s more, they can be designed to review and validate the work of your human staff to catch any mistakes they make.
- Help reverse the outsourcing trend. In many cases, companies that have shipped work overseas to reduce labor costs can bring those tasks back in-house and automate them for even greater savings.
And the list goes on. Suffice it to say that robotic process automation is about more than just doing simple tasks faster and more accurately!
The Future of Robotic Process Automation
So, where does RPA go from here? In a word, “up!” The use of software robots has been on the rise and, according to the experts, will continue to grow exponentially in the years ahead. The capabilities of this digital workforce will continue to expand as well. And, of course, companies that have gotten their feet wet and implemented some software robots today will be perfectly positioned to capitalize on the new “skills” of software robots in the future.
Learn What RPA can do for You
Many organizations that are capitalizing on the power of RPA today will tell you that they would have done it sooner but they weren’t sure if it was right for them and didn’t know how to determine if it was. Don’t let uncertainty stand between you and more efficient and profitable operations. Schedule a free 45-minute robotic process automation phone consultation by calling us at 303-807-6528 or visiting our Contact page. Whether you choose to pursue RPA today or not, you’ll have a better idea of what business process automation can do for you.
About the Author
Charles Weidman is the President and CTO of Buddha Logic. Charlie has over two decades of experience in the design, development and implementation of content services and business process management solutions. He is also an expert in robotic process automation. Charlie founded Buddha Logic with the idea that well-architected digital document capture and management processes are both beautifully simple and powerfully logical. Find and connect with Charlie on LinkedIn.