What is RPA and Why You Need It Now!

Published by Daniel Shuart on

What is RPA?

Growth in workflow automation

RPA stands for Robotic Process Automation and it refers to a set of tools that allow you to build an automated workflow. It’s a much-needed solution for automating processes for a dispersed workforce. Efficient and manageable workflow for WFH (Work From Home) employees is now critical to stay competitive!

These tools usually consist of low-code or no-code capabilities, meaning you can click and drag predefined steps or write simple code to build more complicated workflows. If you are technically savvy you’ll able to create fairly robust processes. Digital Process Automation (DPA) is a subset of RPA. DPA allows systems to communicate with each other to complete tasks. RPA tools have a number of out-of-the-box solutions to connect popular applications. Additionally, RPA includes built-in AI (Artificial Intelligence) capabilities. You will often see RPA routines referred to as Bots.

Why is RPA an Important Technology?

We know that automating processes increases efficiency and lowers costs but at what cost to automate? RPA is often a less expensive alternative to buying or building specialized software or altering existing applications. In addition to time savings and better efficiency, RPA can delay the need for additional hires as well as elevate worker’s capabilities. RPA can increase revenue by streamlining customer engagement and marketing responses.

Additionally, the built-in AI features of RPA tools allow automation to go deeper into human decision making. This means individuals can spend more time on problems that need more complex human interaction.

Attended and Unattended RPA

RPA routines fall into two broad categories; unattended and attended.

Attended bots are not completely automated and include some level of human intervention.

Unattended RPA bots do not need human interaction and communicate directly with systems. They often use AI for any decision-making steps.

Example RPA Use Cases

WFH (Work From Home) requirements – A growing need to automate processes that now need to be done remotely with a dispersed workforce.

Customer Service – 60% to 70% of rule-based customer interactions can be automated.

Invoice Processes – RPA can automate the full invoicing lifecycle including returns and reconciliation.

Marketing and Customer Engagement – automated chatbots can respond to product and service questions, RPA can answer emails and even adjust web content as needed.

RPA Return on Investments

The challenge with calculating an ROI for automating workflow is that the benefits consist mainly of time savings or efficiency gains. One approach to calculating ROI is to use an industry average and then measure and compare your own results over time. One study showed an average of 30% to 70% improvements in efficiency by automating the workflow. You can add your own multiplier to this percentage (hourly wage, percent time spent, etc.) and come up with a starting ROI baseline.

Preliminary Steps for RPA

Some preliminary steps are important before jumping into a solution. Taking the time for pre-planning helps to ensure the achievement of the desired outcomes that will better enable the business.

The first step is to identify key workflows that need automation. Consider how critical the workflow is to the business, how labor-intensive it is, and can it be automated either whole or in part.

It also helps to create a value proposition by determining the cost, time, and resources to complete the given tasks.

Top Solutions

These are from the most recent Gartner Magic Quadrant research results. Here are some of the top contenders from that report (no particular order):

Microsoft Power Automate – Not the leader but probably will be soon. This is a great choice if you are in the Microsoft ecosystem.

Pegasystems – one of the most popular solutions. You will want to pay close attention to value and customer support.

UiPath is one of the clear leaders with a large community of support. Their pricing is a bit complicated, so it is important to keep a close eye on overall value.

Automation Anywhere – They are another strong contender with a robust library of pre-defined AI “Bots”. They have a robust “unattended” solution but not as strong in the “attended” category.

Get Great Results

As I mentioned before, it is critically important to have a strategy when automating processes. If an automated workflow costs more, takes more time, or is prone to more errors than the manual process then it’s a sign of a poor strategy. Also, choosing the appropriate kind of automation for a given workflow is a key success factor. With the right approach and the right tools, RPA is a technology solution that will have a direct, positive impact on the bottom line.

Need help in using RPA to lower costs through workflow automation? Sign up for a free consultation. We’ll recommend steps to get you started and answer your immediate questions. Not a sales pitch and no obligation.