What Is Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?

What is robotic process automation (RPA) and why does it matter?

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A short definition of robotic process automation is:

Using a programmable software “robot” to perform repeatable human tasks.

Examples of use cases include:

  • Filling out forms automatically
  • Automating data entry or data manipulation
  • Processing of documentation, such as registering customer information or claims processing

Virtually any repeatable task can be automated, as long as it involves no decision-making or judgement calls (although the introduction of intelligent automation is set to change this in coming years).

There are numerous benefits to robotic process automation, which is why the industry has exploded in recent years.

For instance:

  • They free humans of tedious, repetitive tasks and give them time to focus on higher value work
  • Software robots can scale quickly
  • Tasks are performed much, much more rapidly
  • And they cost less than human labor

Though the technology is still new, it is making waves.

Organizations that have implemented such robots report high ROI, expedited processing times, and saved labor hours.

Employees, in many cases, welcome the support.

On the one hand, robotic process automation takes over the most boring aspects of a job.

On the other, employees are freed up to do higher-value, more interesting work.

Job displacement has been raised as a concern by some. But so far organizations that implement robots have simply refocused employee efforts elsewhere.

As with any new technology, robotic process automation has certain limitations. And it comes with a learning curve.

For instance, until intelligent automation becomes technologically feasible, software robots can only be used with repeatable tasks on structured data.

Additionally, organizations should recognize that integration will take time and effort. Nothing happens overnight.

However, with the right planning, the benefits make it well worth it.

In the coming years, expect to hear much more about this technology as it gains steam and becomes more widespread.

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