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Robotic process
automation (RPA)
Robotic process
automation (RPA)

Robotic process automation (RPA)

RPA is a way of automating manual business processes, such as data entry, through getting software bots to complete repetitive and well-defined tasks.

RPA enables businesses to automate rules-based business processes, which means you can often lower costs and increase accuracy, allowing staff to concentrate on higher-value work.

Before embarking on RPA deployments, enterprises need to be aware of the on-going challenges presented in deploying hundreds of bots, as well as the long-term implications for its core business systems.

What is it?

The use of software bots to automate manual tasks such as data entry and processing to integration between multiple applications.

What’s in it for you?

It can improve your teams’ efficiency and get products to customers faster — boosting satisfaction. You can also reduce costs and improve accuracy through automation.

What are the trade-offs?

You may need to update your bots every time you update your applications.

How is it being used?

RPA is a good alternative to ‘swivel-chair integration’, potentially reducing costs and improving productivity, especially in call centers.

What is it?

RPA uses software bots to automate various business processes as an alternative to manual intervention. It’s commonly used where you need to transfer data from one ‘green screen’ legacy application to another system. So for instance, rather than have your call center staff retype data from a legacy claims management app into a different system, the software bot can automate that process. That potentially can result in cost savings and reduce the likelihood of errors in that copying process. 

RPA runs on the user’s laptop, or other device, and emulates the human interface side of a person-to-machine interface.

What’s in for you?

Many enterprises are still running legacy systems that they no longer wish to actively update. In such cases, RPA can provide a useful mechanism for getting data from those applications and using it in other systems. That can be a useful and low-cost way to extend the lifespan of those applications, especially where the retirement path for such systems is complex, time consuming or risky due to the lack of skills to support or make sense of the underlying code.

In such cases, RPA is often preferable to manual interventions — where staff have to retype data from a legacy app into a different system. Here, RPA can be cost effective and reduce the likelihood of errors being introduced during the copying process. This is especially true when it comes to what might be termed “super macros” — in other words, RPA enables an employee to perform a task that could have entailed multiple clicks or ‘copy and pastes’, and complete it in one shot.

What are the trade offs?

RPA is sometimes regarded as putting your infrastructure into stasis, where it has become fixed in time. As long as you don’t want to make changes to your applications, the software bots doing the automated integration will work well. But if you’re using RPA to integrate applications that change regularly, you’ll have an army of software bots that you need to update regularly too — and that means additional costs.

There’s also the danger that RPA will become another legacy system that’s weighing your business down: If you’re implementing RPA as a stop-gap swivel-chair integration solution — where staff take data from one application and input into one on a separate screen — what’s your plan to move beyond it? Today, many organizations lack the long-term planning capabilities necessary to implement RPA effectively, so that they can sunset legacy applications effectively.

How is it being used?

RPA is frequently used in organizations that have large investments in call centres — such as banking, insurance and utilities. Many of these organizations have significant legacy estates, and require customer service staff to use disconnected systems to provide callers with the answers they need.

RPA might also be useful where you're starting a legacy system conversion project, but need interim ‘scaffolding’ to help in the final modernization effort.

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