Demystifying Intelligent and Robotic Process Automation

An Insight to Robotic and Intelligent Process Automation

In this era of Artificial Intelligence, where bots can mimic human minds and outperform humans; a new age process automation tool called RPA, “Robotic Process Automation” has been creating a lot of buzz. It is highly versatile and can be used by every industry to streamline and optimize their business processes. From data entry to claims processing to automatic payments, RPA can do it all.

According to a report by Forrester, the RPA Market will grow from $250 million in 2016 to $2.9 billion in 2021. (Clair, n.d.)

There is a huge potential for RPA and several businesses have started realizing the benefits that RPA could offer and the potential to improve their processes and reduce costs through implementing RPA.

What is RPA?

RPA uses automated systems that are governed by business logic and rules to streamline and optimize processes. They are referred to as ‘bots’, and they help with efficiently and effectively performing repeatable, rules-based tasks. The average knowledge employee employed to perform a backoffice operation process has a lot of repetitive, routine tasks that are tedious and uninteresting. RPA tool mimics the activity of a human being in carrying out a well-defined, rule-based task within a process. It can do repetitive and routine tasks quickly, accurately, and diligently than humans, so that they could perform other tasks that require human interaction with customers and entails the need for emotional intelligence, reasoning, and judgment. ROI in RPA systems can range from 30 to 200 percent in the first 12 months alone. (Leslie Willcocks, n.d.)

Why RPA?

Business processes that can benefit from RPA typically have repeatable and predictable interactions with IT applications including those that may require switching between multiple applications or screens. If not RPA, then businesses will have to redesign their processes by implementing IT-driven transformation, or Outsource their operations, but RPA “Bots” can perform such routine business processes by emulating the way humans interact with applications through a user interface and by following simple rules to make decisions. An example of a routine business process would be the retrieval of information from one system and entering the same information into another system. Other tasks such as opening emails and attachments, Data processing and Integrating with enterprise tools. RPA is faster and more accurate than any human. For example, research shows that a bot can complete a task that would take a human 15 minutes in a mere 60 seconds

How does RPA Work?

Below is a workflow model of how RPA is used by businesses to perform tasks. Process developers specify detailed instruction to Robots to perform tasks and publish this information in Robot Controller. The controller assign jobs to the bots and monitor their activities. The Bots perform the tasks and interacts with wide range of business applications. Once the tasks are performed, business users review tasks for any exceptions or escalations. (Peter Lowes, n.d.)

RPA Workflow Model

RPA Tools

Below are the three types of RPA Tools: intelligent, programmable and self-learning. With respect to Intelligent tools, the capabilities of Bots vary from product to product, but many of them utilize aspects associated with converging technologies such as optical character recognition (OCR), intelligent character recognition (ICR) screen scraping and artificial intelligence. Programmable tools give us the ability to create and run automated tasks. Developer tools can vary from product to product, and often come in the form of easy to use drag-and-drop interfaces.

 

A programmable robot is defined by set rules and instructions. Parameters need to be defined by programmers before the bot can get to work. Selflearning RPA Bots offer the ability for employees to record a process which can be translated into a workflow for the Bots to follow. Self-learning bots are better suited to perform processes involving unstructured data and fluctuating parameters.

Intelligent

  • OCR - Optical character recognition helps the bots to identify the type of document classify it, recognize characters, and perform an action based on the data.
  • ICR - Intelligent character recognition interprets handwritten and printed characters.
  • Screen scraping - Screen scraping entails the extraction of information from websites.

Programmable

  • Developer Tools - Gives the ability to create and run automated tasks.
  • Recording Tools - To record a process which can be translated into a workflow for the software robot to follow

Self-Learning

  • Bots watch recorded employee activity to learn automatable tasks. They are the easiest to deploy bots.
  • Orchestration module helps start/stop bots and analyze their activity.

Types of RPA

Below are the three types of RPA: attended, unattended and hybrid. Unattended Automation hinges on the concept of automation without human intervention or as little human intervention as possible. Actions in unattended automation are selftriggered by the automation robots and work is completed continuously in a batch-mode model that allows automation to carry out actions on a 24/7/365 basis. Attended automation solutions reside at an

 

employee’s desktop and are triggered by specific events, actions, or commands an employee engages within a specific workflow. As attended automation often involves employees moving between multiple interfaces or screens in any given transaction or context, attended automation solutions must be userfriendly in order for employees to move from platform to platform. Hybrid is a combination of both attended and unattended.

Attended

  • Bots reside on the user's machine and are invoked by the user
  • Appropriate for tasks that are triggered at
  • Programmatically hard-todetect points.
  • Embedded on the personnel screen.
  • Auto-run when certain conditions are met.

Programmable

  • Complete a data processing task in the background.
  • Ideal for reducing work of back-office employees.

Hybrid

  • Attended and unattended RPA bots are combined to provide automation for both front office and back office activities.
  • Allows end-to-end automation of a process.

Use of RPA in different Industry

RPA can benefit any industry. It is a great solution for companies that use legacy systems or for businesses where a large portion of the workforce works in the Backoffice in non-tech functions. Below are few examples of where RPA can be used to streamline processes. (Applied AI blog, n.d.)

Sales -
Creating and delivering invoices, updating CRM.
Customer Service -
Automate repetitive tasks, solving customer issues, loading profiles, or getting customer data.
Technology -
Software installations
Finance -
Reconciliation, financial planning or P&L preparation.
HR -
Candidate sourcing, employee history verification, hiring and onboarding, payroll automation, expense management, employee data management.
Operations
Updating inventory records, issuing refunds.
Banking -
Loan processing, KYC.
Retail -
Product categorization.

Below is a Use Case from Healthcare Industry that displays how RPA can transform Claims Processing Process by reducing the amount of time it takes to process claims by using RPA tools.

Benefits of RPA

RPA is not just making it easier to automate repetitive and laborious tasks, but it is offering numerous other benefits to an organization making RPA an apt choice for companies to implement it as a automation solution.

Flexibility – RPA is applicable across all industries and organizations. It is easily scalable and can take on any rule based and repetitive task.

Cost effective – By implementing RPA, businesses will be able to reduce the time and money spent performing inefficient operational processes.

Productivity – RPA can lead to significant productivity enhancement. RPA products often come with a drag and drop interface which helps employees as they will not need additional training in coding or other complex fields.

Reliability – Robots can function 24/7/365. It offers speed & accuracy over human labor.

Accuracy – Irrespective of how tedious, repetitive or rule based a process is, Bots will follow the rules ensuring accuracy and reliable results. RPA is especially useful in roles that are prone to human errors.

Employee Morale – RPA can be an avenue to improved employee efficiency. It lets employees focus on value-adding tasks.

Cyber Security - Bots will not fall for common cyber-related attacks such as spear phishing, and social engineering. (Adam Muspratt, n.d.)

Challenges with implementing RPA

Even though RPA is becoming one of the important business technologies and preferred route to automate tedious and routine processes, there are questions about its implications on human jobs and some other factors to think about that warrants discussion about the future of the technology.

Needs solid Business Process Management – RPA can’t think or learn; the processes businesses want to automate with RPA need to be optimized before implementation. Ineffective processes can leave an organization vulnerable to a whole host of problems even, or especially, when they’re automated. Issues can range from cost overrun due to waste, to mistakes that adversely impact services or products.

Organizational Support – Top-down championing of operational excellence is a foundation of effective business process management. Executives buy-in is essential and they also need to promote the importance of automation in their process improvement efforts.

Technical pitfalls – Choosing a difficult-to-use RPA tool can slow down development and improvement efforts as deployment of RPA solution could take longer than expected.

What’s next for RPA?

Large IT companies are developing in-house RPA tools and are also partnering with vendors offering automation software solutions. Currently most of the RPA solutions are offering rule-based solutions, but we are slowly advancing to RPA solutions that can offer knowledge and judgement-based capabilities. More and more companies are planning to implement RPA going into 2019. As it becomes more widespread the uses for it will become more varied

 

as well. In the future, we are already seeing signs that RPA is being used beyond data input. It can be used for other time-consuming processes such as email recognition and file conversion. It will incorporate machine learning and cognitive algorithms to apply increasingly accurate judgement and learn how to perform processes at a faster rate.

RPA at a Glance

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References


Adam Muspratt. (n.d.). A guide to robotic process automation (RPA). Retrieved from https://www.processexcellencenetwork.com/rpa-artificialintelligence/articles/a-guide-to-robotic-process-automation-rpa

Applied AI blog. (n.d.). 45 RPA Use Cases/ Applications: in-Depth Guide. Retrieved from https://blog.appliedai.com/robotic-process-automation-usecases/#insurance

Clair, C. L. (n.d.). The RPA Market Will Reach $2.9 Billion By 2021. Retrieved from https://www.forrester.com/report/The+RPA+Market+Will+Reach+29+Billion+By+2021/-/E-RES137229

Leslie Willcocks. (n.d.). The value of robotic process automation. Retrieved from https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/ourinsights/the-value-of-robotic-process-automation

Peter Lowes. (n.d.). A guide to robotic process automation. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/operations/articles/a-guide-torobotic-process-automation-and-intelligent-automation.html

The Lab Consulting. (n.d.). Robotic process automation for health insurance – robotics use case in claims. Retrieved from https://thelabconsulting.com/health-insurance-rpa-use-case/

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